NDA commercial illustration doesn't stop me from doing personal projects! Today I will share with you the process behind King Songbeard. It was fun pulling out pieces of inspiration from my favorite art history periods and cultures.
I knew I wanted a warm and spiritual vibe. I also wanted to work with a limited color palette, one that would showcase linework. A strong drawing would be necessary to pull off the end result I had in mind.
1. Starting in a brush that would mimic red pencil turned out to be a useful way to visualize the color later on. A warm grain in the background never hurts either.
2. The sketch also kept the placement light so that the drawing layer on top seemed much more like graphite to the eye. This stage feels like the character is being "pulled out" from the sketch.
3. Photoshop is very forgiving. After a helpful critique and some reflection on the concept, I knew this piece needed an upgrade. The feathers in the king's hair particularly stood out to me, so turning them into a stylized motif made sense. The next rung on the ladder was adjusting his posture and adding in swans. Swirls and curls galore!
4. To really slow down and enjoy the process, I went in primarily with the same "pencil" used in the drawing, and built up the tones gradually. This added texture that you can only find in hand-drawn work - particularly in the background, which might have been too flat otherwise. Notice that the red from the initial sketch is still showing through.
5. A base color of gold with hits of red-orange really amplified the warmth I was looking for. At this point my art history senses were tingling and I started to nerd out as similarities between my piece and artwork that I admire were revealed.
6. If I went by the book for this piece, proper reference would have been available from the start. But something was off, and I didn't want to let the drawing dictate the outcome. My sister was happy to lend a helping hand.
7. It was apparent that other colors were needed. Over the base color, I added hits of green and red. Flesh tones were also built up. Next were bits of purple to offset the heavy gold palette. All that was left afterward was refining the piece until it felt finished, which required stepping away a few times to see with a fresh pair of eyes.
As always, follow, share, and leave a comment to let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!