Process of revisions

Stephen brought up the topic of revisions on pencil sketches, done in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet and stylus. I thought I’d share a progression for the book I’m presently working on, where this method of working on revisions as been easy and fast, and quite liberating.

The scans I’ll show are all a single page, half a spread; same page for each one. I’ll put them in the order they are done, and just make brief comments on what I did. This book has 2 visual stories going on at once: the text story that deals with Nell and her uncle Walter going out to howl to wolves, and the non-text story (that I as illustrator decided to add) that deals with what the pack of wolves are doing at the same time. Mostly what you’ll see here are the wolf story, but there are edges of the people story in the upper right part of this page.

Prior to doing any drawing, I storyboarded out the actions of what would happen on each page in brief written phrases (“dad yawns”, “2 pups wrestling”). I did separate storyboards for both the wolf and the people stories, and got them to mesh, action-and-behaviors-wise before doing any sketching.

1) This is my first fast-and-dirty sketch indicating generally what the wolves will be doing. Sent this off for basic-story OK. Good comments will be plugged in.
2) This sketch takes the same sketches as in 1 and tweaks them. I plugged text in and moved the various wolves around to get them where I think they look better. Note I’ve moved the far wolf closer; in photoshop this is just an increase in size as well as moving it; I can do both at once, and try all kinds of variations in just seconds.
3) At this point, I did separate, more detailed, pencil sketches of each of my wolf characters, getting all the wolfiness correct, as much as possible. These were done on paper, and each one scanned. There were some thing I later found still needed fixing, but I didn’t really worry about them at this point. In these drawings I was working to get proportions, behaviors, etc., correct.
4) Now I take those detailed pencil sketches and plug them in to the layout. More tweaking of position. On a bunch of the spreads, I found at this point that I had a bunch of the wolves’ necks a bit too long. This was easy to remedy by just selecting the head, moving things a bit, and making the neck right. At this point I sometimes found that I wanted the wolf facing the other direction, so I just flipped it – took less than a second. Sometimes I’d do little drawing revisions on these sketches right in photoshop. Sent this off for revised basic-story OK. Good comments will be plugged in.
5) By now, I was ready to go back to the pencil and paper, and do the polished roughs that would be my guideline for the scratchboard work of the finishes. I printed out stage 4, and put tracing paper over them to do these drawings. These pencil sketches put in the detail of fur, expression, etc. They are visual notes for me, later. You can see that I’ve eliminated the back wolf, and also moved the wrestling pups so that they don’t bleed off the bottom. I’ve worked to get the yawning wolf right, finally. And I’ve plugged in habitat around my characters. Sent this off for final OK before starting finishes.
6) This is the final polished rough (not redrawn at all, just quickly tweaked in photoshop) with the requested change of “wolves about 10% smaller, and Nell and Walter about 10% larger”. Piece of cake. Good suggestion, and easy adjustments to make very quickly. I moved the yawning wolf and wrestling pups just a bit on the page to get them where they looked right, which also got them a bit farther from the gutter.
7) I wish I had this stage to share– which would be the black and white scratchboard – and the next, the final art, painted on watercolor paper on which the scratchboard art has been printed with the Epson 2200. But I don’t, because they’re not done yet. Soon, however…. But… I do have one finished sample piece that I had to complete this past week so it could be used for promo. So although this little guy isn’t the pages I’ve taken you thru here, she does show what the final art will look like.

So, that’s it. This project has dozens of little pieces, all of which I’ve put together digitally. It’s been a lovely combination of time with my beloved pencil at the drawing table, and time at the much-respected computer, playing cut and paste. This book will be out this summer, published by Raven Productions. It’s called Wolf Song, written by Mary Bevis.


John Nez said...

Oooohhh... getting so clever here!

I like the mix of techniques... even tossing scratchboard into the mix.

I think working this way is great. It's just as organic as using old fashioned scissors and tape, only it's lots quicker.

I like that the ease of changing stuff around just lets the artist excercise the 'editorial' decision making... instead of just scrubbing away with an eraser and redrawing everything.


June said...

I too am interested in the scratchboard part. I am assuming this is what we call scraperboard in the UK? (Black finish or white finish board with a smooth white chalky surface substance that can be scraped to reveal or correct line?)
Perhaps when you finish that particular piece of art that you have shown in the sketches, you could edit this post and upload the image so we can see it?

Ellen B said...

Ooooh these are lovely! Love the scratchboard art.