I often receive questions about the illustration and painting process, both which I will address separately in various blogs.
I hope this blog on illustration will help to answer some of your questions and take some of the mystery away, while also showcasing the lengthly process.
I have been privileged and thrilled to be working as the illustrator for the Gustav Gloom book series, through Grosset and Dunlap / Penguin Young Readers Group.
The series is written by Adam-Troy Castro, who has a vivid imagination, and for me personally, these books have been super exciting to read.
HERE WE GO…
The initial illustration process begins with the illustrator receiving the manuscript. As I read through it, I make small doodles to capture my first visual ideas. Here you can see some of the manuscript in the lower left corner with quick sketches. I will also do character sketches to establish the look and feel of new characters introduced.
The other sketches are my first round of “thumbnail” sketches, which are loose, rough sketches, laying out the composition of each illustration. This photo is not showing all of them. I do as many thumbnails per required illustration until I feel comfortable with the results.
After approval and discussion with the Art Director, I move onto drawing the final sketches. Final sketches are closer to finished drawings, where the environment and characters are drawn with more detail and value to gain an understanding of the light source. The image below shows some examples of final sketches, but not all of them. Usually one final sketch is completed per required illustration. I like to complete my final sketches in pencil on vellum, that way I can do overlays to made adjustments in a more efficient manner.
When the final illustrations are approved, I move into painting the final illustrations that will be used in the book.
#1-I PAINT ON ILLUSTRATION BOARD, WHICH NEEDS TO BE CUT DOWN TO SIZE
Sometimes I will cut them myself as you can see below, but luckily my friends over at Talleyville Frame Shoppe and Gallery in Wilmington, DE, have been saving me the trouble, and saving my hand from the work, so they cut them for me-thanks guys!
#2-GESSO THE BOARDS
Gesso basically looks like white paint and what it does is it seals the board to prepare it for the oil painting. It provides a surface with tooth for the paint to sit on, if not, the board would soak up all the paint, and overtime, could deteriorate the board-not good!
I apply 2-3 coats of gesso, which needs to dry in between each coat application, and also require sanding in between each coat. As you can imagine this is very time consuming. I usually spend a few hours just prepping boards.
#4: TRANSFER THE ILLUSTRATION DRAWING TO BOARD
I use a projector to help me to do this, and I apply a very light drawing in pencil, which you can see on my board below.
All boards are taped down to foam core using artist tape to prevent ‘warping’. My sketch is placed next to my board for reference containing any additional notes.
YES! All of those steps above happen before the execution of the final illustration.
I paint using oils. I love the gradations you can achieve with using oils as they stay wet much longer than other paints.
The illustration below is #2 from Gustav Gloom and The Cryptic Carousel (book 4).
Here is illustration #7 from Gustav Gloom and the Four Terrors (book3), and you can see the sketch to final illustration transition.
This process is repeated for EVERY illustration. Each book features approximately 18-20 illustrations, including the cover.
This is my process, and of course, the process varies depending on the illustrator, the needs of the client, and what type of media the illustrator uses.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my blog today and have a greater understanding of how the illustration process works. Thanks for reading!
Spotting the new Gustav Gloom and the Cryptic Carousel at my local Barnes and Noble!