Monday, June 6, 2011

The Jabberwocky: Phase 1-rough concept

Here's the first installment of a quick rundown of my process. This is a personal piece I did for an art show a little while back. The theme was 'Dragons' and my wife Brooke suggested Lewis Carols quirky creature and I decided to add a little terror to the children's poem.
Step one is rough conceptualizing and layout.  Because this is a stand-alone poster, I decide to split the image between the poem itself and the visual and select a long format to accommodate the text. I want the Jabberwocky to be scary, but also a little whimsical and non-senseical. I want it to feel like he is a creature of chaos, like he's part bird, lizard insect and plant all in one. I also want to highlight the bravery of our young protagonist by choosing a composition that shows him plunging into a roiling mass of monster.
At this stage I avoid color so I can just focus on getting a value structure down. Next I'll refine this concept into a sketch.
(1 hour total time)

The Jabberwock: Phase 2-value sketch

Here in step 2 I'm focusing on refining the forms and figuring out the values. I change the face of the Jabberwocky to make it a little more odd than my first idea, giving it round, almost surprised eyes, a block-like head, pig nose and rabbit teeth. I also want his claw to be odd and a little deformed, it helps for me to keep going back to the poem to keep my mind focused on absurdity and strangeness. I want a strong shaft of light  to illuminate the hero and highlight his might vorpal sword which will soon be going snicker-snack!
(2 hours total time)

The Jabberwocky: Phase 3-finished sketch

As you can see my 'finished sketch' is still pretty loose. Because this isn't for a client I don't need to spell everything out for clarification, just notes and ideas for later. I find if i get too tight at this phase, before i start to play with color, the finish will be too stiff and not as much fun to produce. I find if I can keep myself amused and having fun throughout the process, I'm not only happier, but i remain more engaged with the piece and less likely to get fatigued and sloppy. The last thing I want to do is spend all this time getting it to this point just to phone-in the rest and end up wasting a lot of time and energy.
Here I add an absurdly small and sickly bat wing, feathers down it's back and insect-like legs. I also decide to add a jub-jub bird to give so more specificity to the piece.
(5 hours total time)

the Jabberwock: Phase 4-rough color

In this step I add basic color behind my sketch, figuring out how i want the color beats to hit. I'm going with a dark-out-of-light composition with a 4 color split compliment grouping: blue fading to green base with red figure and yellow accents. I try to create a yellow triangle with the boy's hair, gauntlets/sword pommel and cape lining out of which points the blade leading your eye to another triangle of yellow, the creatures two eyes and mouth. I add some yellow eyes to the monsters tail and legs, putting a few more yellow accents to lead the eye up the rest of the image. The secondary red form of the scabbard flowing into the body of the Jabberwocky just gives a little positive space to create depth against the background. It looses some depth of the value sketch, which i don't like, but I plan on re-establish the light shaft and hopefully fix it.
I also finish the text in illustrator, complete with a little dragon made of gold vines, and add a bevel filter and texture in photoshop (I know it's a bit cheesy but oh well)
(7 hours total time)

The Jabberwocky: Phase 5-details and global lighting

Here's just the long rendering process of finishing all the shapes i started. I start by using a large airbrush and filling in areas of light and dark, then, after the light sources are fixed I just go from form to form and add the appropriate lighting. I also add a frimulous bandersnach with a spiral snout under the hero just as little something to add some life the forest. This part is by far the longest and I tend to put on a podcast, and just fall into a groove. Call it 'combing the flea' or 'mowing the lawn' or whatever, either way it's detail-oriented, systematic and can be a little boring if you don't have enough decisions to make, but can also be very therapeutic.
(12 hours total)

The Jabberwocky: Finished!

Here's the final image. I place the text back in, tweek the colors and rework the values a bit then i go galumphing home!