30 November 2014

New Art - Thanksgiving Kiki

You may remember from my Halloween post that this year I've been working on three holiday illustrations to match my household's three cats.  It's a little bit late, but this is my Thanksgiving entry!  It features Kiki, the youngest of our brood (and the only female in our home aside from myself and, perhaps, our single goldfish) which makes her the most playful and naughty of the bunch!  A lot of thought and effort went into this piece's creation; it may very well be my most intricate illustration to date.  I hope you'll enjoy seeing how it all came together~

I started this piece with a handful of thumbnail sketches to work out ideas.  I tried several different compositions and poses, but the idea of Kiki with a cornucopia kept coming to the fore.  The iconic cornucopia is inseparable from Thanksgiving in the US, making it apt for the theme.  Plus, "Kiki" (or even just "cat") and "cornucopia" have a nice bit of alliteration!  Once I decided on the thumbnail, I sketched it out at half size so I could work out the finer details.

Half-Size Sketch of Kiki in a Cornucopia
The grid was drawn in warm grey ink so it would remain even after erasing.
I did a lot of research at this stage.  I started by looking up the origin of the cornucopia, which ended up being a good idea.  I usually visualize a wickerwork horn but I discovered that those woven icons are actually meant to represent a mythical goat horn that produces endless fruit, vegetables, and flowers.  I knew about the food (that's why the horn of plenty is associated with Thanksgiving, after all) but never realized flowers were also included.  When I learned this, I did further research to find produce and flowers that arrive in autumn (I didn't want to include anything that would be out-of-season since I wanted the illustration to be as autumny as possible!) and also to see what goat horns look like in real life so my depiction would be more authentic.

Half-Size Sketch and Full-Size Illustration in Pencil
Using the grid was extremely helpful in maintaining the composition.

Once I was happy with the sketch, I started redrawing it full size.  This is where I started to lose steam and got very behind schedule.  There is so much detail in all the fruit and flowers; it was taxing not only physically (drawing tiny details takes a lot of muscular stamina, believe it or not!) but also mentally.  It felt really tedious to draw all those things again and larger!  The tedium was exacerbated later when I made myself redraw several details because they weren't looking recognizable (i.e. they were too generic).

Completed Pencil Lineart
I only included fruits and veggies that I think are yummy!
I did eventually complete the final pencil drawing after several weeks working on and off.  I thought it would be easier from this point on but I was disappointed to find inking just as difficult to stay motivated for.  I finished inking faster than penciling, but I think that was probably because Thanksgiving was fast approaching and I intended to get the illustration done in time to print and mail as greeting cards. 

Partially Inked Illustration
The flowers I included were roses, dahlias, and salvias.
Unfortunately, the pressure of my self-set deadline wasn't enough for me to finish on time.  I kept pushing every day, but I was already so far behind that I not only missed getting cards made and mailed, I couldn't even finish by Thanksgiving itself.  At least I finished before November was over.  Better late than never!

Inking Almost Complete
The salvias really were the worst part to draw...

Fully Inked Illustration
...but I persevered and completed them all!  Worth it, I think!
Finally I finished inking and was able to move onto coloring.  Again I thought, "It's all downhill from here," and again I was disappointed.  All those details just kept looming at me like an insurmountable wall.  It was during coloring that I decided to give up on deadlines and just work a decent amount every day until it was done (I lost a lot of sleep on the last day, but I managed to finish before my Thanksgiving vacation was over!).

Shadows Defined in Marker
This part was really fun!
The technique I used to start coloring is one I sometimes forget but which is really helpful when I remember.  With a light purple marker, I roughly added shadows to everything in the drawing.  Not only does this help me maintain my light source (which is easy to forget when working a larger and heavily detailed piece) the marker's color is great for adding coolness and unity to shaded areas. 
Illustration with Flat Color
Here I stopped using references, drawing upon imagination and memory.
It took me longer than I expected--again because I just couldn't find my enthusiasm--but I did eventually get the flat colors laid down throughout the drawing.  I tried to choose muted, realistic tones since I was going for an autumny feel, but my love for vibrant color still came through pretty strong.  Not that I'm disappointed!  I'm pleased with every single color choice here~

Marker Work Fully Complete
I tried to give every color a different hue, especially oranges and greens.
Once the flat color was done, I finally, finally began to get that awesome feeling of excitement which I can only describe as akin to running down a hill after a long, arduous climb to the top.  THIS is the fun part of creating art!  The closer to the finishing touches, the more everything starts visually coming together, the happier I get.  It was still a time-consuming and intricate bit of work, but seeing the illustration nearing its final look gave me the patience and energy to push hard until the end.

Sky Detailed Using a Paint Stick and Blending Marker
I didn't plan on using my paint stick but I'm glad I gave it a shot!
For the sky, I had a stroke of brilliance, if I do say so myself.  A bundle of ArtSnacks was on my worktable and I thought to use the Krink paint stick (which you may remember from this earlier post) to add variety to the sky.  As I was applying the paint, I wondered what would happen if I tried to blend it using my colorless blending marker.  (I remembered that some people use this marker to blend colored pencil and I recently saw a similar colorless marker specifically marketed as a colored pencil blender.)  I had a good feeling about it so, even though experimenting on an almost-finished piece might prove disastrous both for the artwork and the blending tool, I gave it a shot.  I'm still not sure about the state of my blending marker but the way this experimental technique panned out for the illustration was perfect!  I might even use my paint stick in this way from now on, even if I have to buy a bunch of replacement nibs for my blender, ha ha ha.

Illustration Completed with Colored Pencil and White
Highlights are always the most fun part of creating anime-inspired art.
Although I was getting very tired by this point, I was still enthusiastic enough to finish everything up.  I added a lot of details in highlighting, shading, and general definition with colored pencil first.  Once I was satisfied there, I moved on to adding white highlights.  I ended up using three different opaque white tools: an artists pen, a paint marker, and a gel pen.  They were all useful and worked together well to create the final look on paper.

That wasn't the end of my work, though.  After finishing everything in traditional media, I digitized the image and set to fine tuning in Photoshop.  I fixed a few stray marks, added a couple overlays to unify the colors, and drew in Kiki's whiskers.  This is a true multimedia work!  You can click on the image at the top of this post to see a larger version of the completed piece on deviantART.  Please let me know what you think of my process, my struggles, and my final result~