Monday, June 1, 2009

TJ's WIP: Tropical Fluffiness

Welcome to another WIP! Have something to eat & drink and I hope you enjoy this little sneak peek in my brain!

Step 1: Brainstorming & sketching.
Let me just say, this illustration started out on a much smaller scale. I was already toying with the idea to draw fun & colorful birds for my next header. So first sketches I did; were just about the birds. I kept toying with how I wanted to draw them and how I would place them.   
After figuring this out, something was still off. It wasn’t complete. The birds were all facing into one direction, well almost all of them hehe. So it made me wonder, what were they looking at? Then I knew it! There had to be a Tropical Lady in it as well.
Okay, in the end the illustration is still in pieces. Reason for this is that at first I was a bit too lazy to redraw it on a larger sheet of paper. Then I realized that it would be a huge pain the #$%^&% to get a good scan of it as my scanner is a piece of #$%^&amp (sorry for the swearing). Lastly, I added an extra branch as well.

Step 2: Final Sketch & Inking
I suppose, this stage speaks for itself. I just retrace the lines with black fine pens, waterproof ink of course.
Step 3: Paint, paint & paint!
Painting time!  Okay, I don’t have like a special moment where I choose my colors or brainstorm about it. All I knew at this point, that it has to have a rain forest type of feel, with colorful birds. So I started with the background and this had to be…green of course. I always start with a light wash for everything and then I build it up till I have what I want. Painting with watercolors, is just adding layers to create depth. I won’t ramble a lot, but let the pictures do most the talking.
After adding the first layer, I went over the ink lines again. I do this to emphasize certain parts of the drawing, like the branches. For some reason, I can determine better what I have to ink again after I painted it a bit.

I thought it would be cool to see the differences between the brances. The branch below only has one wash, the branch above I think 1 wash more, maybe 2. But the colour deepens a lot with a second wash. I just keep on adding washes of brown. Slightly make it a bit darker and waiting for each layer to dry. When the branches are finished, I worked on the background again. When the tree branches and the background are completely dry, I continue with the characters. I have to wait till it’s completely dry now, otherwise the background colour will flow into the birds or the other way around. So for the birds, I just go through the same process and try to add almost the same colours in them.

We are almost done!! Final steps are scanning and a bit of editing in Photoshop and then it looks like this:
While layers were drying I worked on other illustrations. I gotta use my time wisely haha. And now…we are done! The drawing in real life looks much better. Too bad the camera doesn't pick this up!  Hope you liked it and feel free to leave question, suggestions, ideas or tips.

As always lovely readers, thanks for reading!

Other Work in Progress posts:


  1. Lovely display, of course, but I had a couple of small questions.
    On what did you mount/tape your pieces? and what tape is that (standard drafting tape?)
    Also, did you wet with water your already inked pieces and let it dry before applying paint? In other words, did you prep your paper for watercolors?

    The ink, waterproof, was it a refillable pen, or one time use? which pen.
    (I have some waterproof ink to be used at a later date with this type of process in mind, but I'm debating whether its more convenient to ink with everything included and avoid the mess of an ink well.)

    How long did it take, all-together? The drying sessions themselves, how many of them for, say, the trees and backgrounds?

    I know its a rather complicated piece, and I'm curious. I'm used to little ones, that I can finish from one day to the next, and I have trouble waiting for stuff to dry LOL!!!... So I'd like to plan ahead.

    Thanks for your time TJ... this is beautiful work, and sharing the process is even more beautiful to me. :)

  2. Ciao Jose!

    You're most welcome! I love to share my process, hopefully people can learn from it or I can learn from others

    I basically tape the paper on a hard surface. Watercolor paper blocks or sketchbooks usually have a hard wooden back and this I use to tape down my paper. I know you can buy wooden board especially for this, but that would mean I have to spend extra money, while this is perfectly fine as well. Yes. I use standard drafting tape or scotch tape. It works fine, just have to be careful when I remove it haha.

    Nope, I don’t stretch my paper or do anything specific before I start painting. I tape it down, make a sketch and then I ink it with Fabe Castell Artist pens. I have the manga set with several grey tones and black in the small, medium and brush nib. I also have the Pigma Sakura pens. The only thing I dislike with pens is that after a while the nibs get clogged or something like that. Either way, the ink flow isn’t that great. I do draw a lot though, so this plays a role as well.

    A friend of mine, Claire, she started with inks and she really loves it! When I have a bit more money to spend I shall get a jar of black ink and see how it works for me. I assume that with inks you can create more flowing lines for when you draw e.g. hair. And I like flowing hair haha.

    For this piece, I worked on and off on it. I think from sketch to final version there were 3 days. But you have to see it like this. Day 1 sketching (this went rather quickly so I think 2 hours in total), day 2 ink and first wash or 2 + re-ink several lines (around 4 hours). The drawing is completely dry when I re- ink lines. Day 3 finalize painting with paint & edit in PS (around 6 hours). The digital part took a bit longer as my laptop isn’t that bright anymore hehe. The hours are very roughly as I paint other illustrations when layers dry.

    Haha! Waiting for layers to dry is difficult! I’ve still trouble with this. For the background & trees I waited perhaps 30 minutes until it was completely dry. This is for each layer. The background consists out of 3 layers. The trees also 3 layers and then with a fine brush I go over a few tree lines with a very dark brown/blackish wash.

    When I paint, I just make sure that before I stop, that I’ve added all the details and coloring I want. Especially since I work with multi colors, e.g. the birds mohawks or the Tropical lady.

    Hmm I rambled way more than I thought I would hahah!

    Hope it makes sense and feel free to ask more okay ^_^

  3. Sure it makes sense. It gave me a good idea of the time involved. I'm going to apply this approach (which should be natural) but at a smaller scale so drying times are faster. And my approach will be batch-based. Time to cut some art cards out of watercolor paper, and start designing. This will be fun.
    I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about it. I'm sure to show you some work in progress.
    Thanks again. As always, your work is truly beautiful, and inspiring.

  4. You are most welcome and thank you!

    I'm glad it made sense haha. I'm looking forward to your process and good luck with everything and most importantly...have lots of fun with it :D



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