I was just planning on making time to post this illustration on Picture Bookies when your letter came, Ginger. Good timing.
I just finished this back cover illustration, titled Lost in London, for Focus on the Family's Clubhouse Magazine the other day, and I thought I would make a little step-by-step out of it for Picture Bookies. Not that creating one of these illustrations is that tricky of a process to justify a step-by-step. What's so complicated about pencil, ink, and color? The hardest part was finding the scrap (Google Image) for the background and making it work. I spent a lot of hours noodling on the background. I wanted it to be relatively monochromatic so that it wouldn't compete with the crowd. The art director wanted the setting to be in front of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in London. A Japanese family (front center) has lost some items, which are hidden in the picture. That, too, was a challenge, because how can you hide a bunch on items on a big slab of pavement. I had to get a little creative, but I managed to pull it off.
When I create a "Waldo" page, I start by doing a rough layout, so I know where I'm going and roughly where things will be placed. I don't draw in any people. I just draw the "stage". The actors come later. Once I have the general layout nailed down I start with the front row of the crowd and overlap my way to the back of the crowd. It wouldn't work, of course, to start with the back and work your way to the front. I usually establish a standard size for the characters, like one inch for the front row characters, then I reduce their standard size as they recede into the distance. If I just eyeballed the sizes of the characters, the size relationships could be totally out of whack.
As I penciled the crowd I was thinking about where I would hide everything. I didn't have everything hidden by the time I finished the sketch. I figured I would wing it as I went along. I didn't hide some of the stuff until I was well into the final art. I tend to make things up as I go along a lot. I do that with Trowbridge all the time because I can't afford to put much time into it.
My father-in-law gave me a big box of "tractor" computer paper a few years ago. I still use that for almost all of my work. It's cheap bond paper, but it seems to work okay for most everything I do. I've always drawn my Health Capsules comic on the tractor paper. In this case, I had to tape two pieces of tractor paper together. If I recall, I drew this 25% up. I do all of my inking with the same pen that most illustrators use: Micron Pigma Pens. This job required a size 1.
FYI: One of the things that the kids love when I go to the schools is when I give away one of my Pigma pens. I leave just enough ink in the pen so that the child can draw with it. I sometimes throw them into the audience. That always creates a memorable response. Sometimes after the show a child will come up to me and try to give me the pen back. They can't believe that I would actually give away my pens.
The final result is not much more than Photoshop 101. Of course I have to start with the gradated sky. Next I painted in the buildings, then the pavement, then the crowd. I used the Photoshop pencil for the base color, then various brushes for the shading of the characters. As I went along I was careful to make sure everything was cleverly hidden. It took a lot of extra time, to tone, shade and detail every character in the crowd. People look at these scenes, but they usually don't realize the hours that goes into an illustration like this. My cartoon maps are similar in complexity...that's why I have to work nights and weekends to avoid getting behind.
The title and text are not in yet, of course. This is just the art. Can you find: 10 pigeons. a wallet, an iPod, a camera, a map, a key, and a backpack? There's more hidden stuff, but that's all I can remember now.
That's it for now. Next time: I'll give you concrete proof of how much you can make doing school programs. And, for those, like Paige, Sherry (and myself) with hand problems from overuse, I'll show you how I avoid this problem with a rather unique solution that has worked well for me.