Friday, 3 February 2012

Tree House Soiree

I did a picture of a whimsical tree house.

I always rather like it when people write a post about how they created a certain image so I thought I'd give it shot and reveal all my secrets. Hopefully it'll be moderately fascinating and not just internet drivel. 
Right, so my reason for creating this piece of woodland whimsy was three fold. Firstly, I wanted a big detailed image for the first page of my own portfolio, secondly, Bologna is fast approaching and I wanted a nice big image to go on my portfolio page on the CSA MA Children's Book Illustration stall (follow them @FindUsAtBologna) and thirdly I wanted to draw a tree house, is that so wrong? 

It all starts with a bit of sketchbook scribble to have an idea of colour, composition, particular characters etc. I don't have beautiful tidy show sketchbook like some do, mine are rough and 90% of it is either rubbish or makes me seem like a crazy lady.

Then I did a full size detailed sketch of the whole thing. This involved a lot of rubbing out, redrawing and getting angry.

Next I'll use that sketch and a lightbox to make a copy of it using coloured pencils. I swear by Caran d'Ache supercolor soft but spend half my life sharpening them.

Now I step out of the real world and turn to digital witchcraft. I scan the coloured line drawing into photoshop, clean it up and start to colour in each section in a paint-by-numbers style. I've got some rather lovely photoshop brushes that give a watercolour effect and some nice scanned textures I use for applying the colours. I used to use inks in the real world but that is way is much quicker, reproduces better and much less messy. I've never spilled a pot of photoshop everywhere.

When I've got the background looking okay I'll start on the characters. It never all goes smoothly, there's always bits that look appalling and then need to be changed and a world of tweaking needs to be done.

Once I've got it all filled in it's time for some light and shadow. I do this in a really basic adhoc way by making layers of flat colour a bit see through and then rubbing out bits. Alas I do use photoshop like a caveman. After a bit of tidying up I'll usually consider it done but at this point I'll close the image and not look at it for a few hours. I'll come back after having done something completely different and decide whether it's utter rubbish and needs to be reworked or I've created genius and should be rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Kid's Books. And basically that's how I do my job, now everyone can go away and be Elys.

Here's a few details:


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  2. It's funny to see how everyone of us has different ways of working in photoshop but we all think our way is probably funny to others and if we would to let our secrets out others would prob.laugh...I have found no person who's working in photoshop is the 'normal' way so far :) lol
    Yours is interesting as well :) And love the new 'painting'!

  3. really nice post! i have always been interested to see how you create your work!

  4. Really interesting Elys. Good luck at Bologna!

  5. Thanks you for your kind words. Yeah I'm always interested in the different way people use photoshop, it can be a baffling tool. If there's a 'right' way it nobody has ever shown me and I don't think I know anyone who knows all the ins and outs of it. It's an indispensable mystery.