Monday, June 16, 2008

Illustrating Ron's Big Mission book cover

Steve and Sara, my editor and art director at Dutton, asked me to create the cover image last, after the interior illustrations were finished. After I submitted the interior art, Jason, the book designer, worked up a cover composition using two scanned interior paintings. He combined them into one image using Photoshop. That image couldn't be used as final art because the background wasn't completely accurate, so I worked up a new sketch based upon his comp.
Jason then laid out my sketch with text to give me an idea how the final book would look.

Once approved, I transferred my sketch to watercolor paper. Then I painted the entire image in grey tones using Paynes Grey watercolor. Then I fixed the surface with two coats of acrylic matte medium. If I use this technique again on a future project, I'll use warmer colors for the base painting. Paynes Grey is too blue.

For Ron, I used my son and a friend of his as reference. But mostly, I used myself, a large mirror and my digital camera.

Here, I began by painting the sky with opaque paint, though I did layer on darker transparent blues later.

I painted the buildings and Ron's face one transparent layer at a time, with oil paint thinned down generously with Liquin — taking about 24-hours for each layer to dry before I could continue. It was a very slow, tedious process, one I'm not sure I'll repeat in the future.

In the shadow areas of Ron's face, I used transparent browns and blues. Then I began to introduce opaque colors, especially in the highlights. Once the shadow areas had dried, I added a touch of cool purples and blues, for no reason at all, I just like purples.

This style is somewhat realistic, yet stylized enough to offer some grace where my realism is off. The thing I do like about this technique is how translucent, or as I've heard it described elsewhere, almost "jewel-like." It has a three dimensional quality because, to some degree, it is three dimensional.

The last thing I did, which is not pictured here, was to subdue the highlights. I felt they were a bit too strong, especially on Ron's nose. If I had time, and I wish I'd thought of this before, I'd have added some people in the background walking along the sidewalk.


gail said...

Thanks for sharing your process Don. There really is so much depth in your color, "jewel-like" is a great description. This technique is working very well for you. Too bad it feels slow and tedious. (Although that doesn't show in the finished piece!) But I know what you mean, I tend to leans towards slow and tedious too, but in the end I thinks all those layers are worth it.


EL GRANDE said...

Wow! I love to the see the process. Thanks for sharing:)

joe y elio

rindawriter said...

Yes, thanks very much for sharing the process. I love to read stuff like this!

k cyrus said...

Great cover! One note of caution though about using transparent layers-- they can play havoc with the scanner, depending on the medium you're using. I've been warned by an art director that the scanner may pick up mainly the top layer. I illustrated a book with oil glazes and found a few trouble spots on the proofs, altho it was mostly due to surface glare. You probably won't run into that with acrylics.