Process Post: The Fire Thief

I don’t often enter contests, but this past summer I opted to enter one with the Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. It was a new contest, called the Narrative Art Award. Disclaimer: I didn’t win.

Well. I didn’t win the contest. I did, however, work hard and quickly enough to pull off three brand new illustrations for my portfolio, each of which stretched my skills as an illustrator and storyteller.

I almost gave up before I even started. The theme was “Mystery” in celebration of Sherlock Holmes’s anniversary in 2017. I sketched and worked and wondered my way through several different ideas, none of which seemed good enough, clever enough, smart enough, or pull-off-able enough.

I finally decided to forget the whole detective theme and simply showcase three characters (a must) going through the beginning/middle/end of their story (a must) with a hint of mystery: where did the dragon’s fire go?

Now for the process photos. In the past year, I’ve become much better at the sketch/grayscale and value study/then paint process. While it seems like that might slow me down, it actually speeds me up, because I don’t lose time trying to pick colours. Once I have my values, I can pick a colour scheme and just work. The guess work is gone. I love this approach.

Here is the selection of main colours I used as my colour scheme. I use color.adobe.com to help me out.

Dragon & Hedgehog.png

Take a look:

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 9.35.48 AM
This was the original plan, after several tweaks. I wondered, though, if a different arrangement would work better, so I redrew this.
Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 8.54.43 PM
I angled the view of the hedgehog, and made the fire more prominent. I used the body of the dragon and each head as markers to form a triangle. Triangular compositions are my favourite.
Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 10.57.10 AM
Then, I tweaked a bit more. The marshmallow grew in size. I added the value study. The firelight pushed me to play with dark tones that I usually shy away from.
Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 12.03.58 PM
Midway through painting, as I colour-blocked and worked on matching the colour tones to the values.
The Fire Thief - 3.jpg
The final art. I love how the bird sticks off the page, along with the dragon’s head. The tones and textures in here are my favourite part of any illustration I have done to date.

Here are all three illustrations, in order.

The Fire Thief - 1The Fire Thief - 2The Fire Thief - 3

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