Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Previously Unrealized EPIC Snowball Fight OR Happy Belated Birthday to Mrs. P

     I recently completed this project and was waiting to scan all the pieces in before I could share it.  The project is a Birthday gift to Mrs. P.  It is rather belated as it took a while to work on. I'll get to why later.

     On the eve of Mrs. P's birthday this year, I asked if she would like to select something I've done to get an art print made for her. I had been doing this for close friends and family for a while now and it relieves the stress and pressure of gifts for everyone, at least I think so.  However, Mrs. P asked if I could do something custom for her this year, and since Mrs. P is Mrs. P, I could not say no. I was happy to do something special for her.  She requested I create something with 2 characters I had sketched/doodled out from my days in college.

     They were caricatures of my best friend, Sue (Mrs. P's daughter) and Lew, myself, but as we might have been if we had met as children instead of almost 20 somethings, like what actually happened.  Sue and I had dreamed about writing a picture book series outlining a variety of adventures that our 2 characters would go on.  Neither of us ever developed these hypothetical stories... yet, so I never really  developed any other sketches or fully realized illustrations with either character.  They just resided in my "Morgue," which is where all my random doodles and sketches and sketchbooks go to rest in peace,  maybe to be exhumed one day for some use... but mostly not.  And that is where the childhood likenesses of Sue and Lew lived for many may years, until now.  When Mrs. P requested them, I dug them up, bare bones and all.  To be honest, it did take me quite a while to locate them.  They were loose sketches and those get stored in a series of deep and full plastic bins in a closet, stacked and stacked and buried with so many others.

     When I finally unearthed them, I knew it was going to be a long road from digging them out, to the final illustrations.  I began by brain storming ideas for ways I could use both characters in a single art piece that would be interesting enough and worthy of their notorious unfulfilled potential.  Among a variety of ideas, I was very attracted to keeping them in their winter attire.  The sketches were originally produced after a grand conversation of a story that centered around what happens on a snow day.  Schools out and there are all kinds of things that they get into.  Among a rather precarious indecision over winter hat.  So these sketches were based on that particular story, hence their winter wear.  Also, I love drawing winter scenes and winter clothing.  I'm not so certain of why those things appeal to me so much, but they do.  I sometimes come to a conclusion that I most certainly lived in a very cold place that snowed all the time... or at least that's what I like to day dream about.

     So, I wanted to keep Sue and Lew in their winter clothes and illustrate something that might have taken place in that book.  Again, I'm foggy on the details, but I want to say that I remember a conversation about an epic snowball fight amongst the neighborhood children. Sue is the captain of one team and I the captain of the other.  Since I wanted to focus mainly on the two characters Mrs. P requested, I decided it would be best to not include the neighborhood kids or make a reference to any sort of residential area in the illustration.  That way it would be what she wanted, mostly.  After doodling thumbnail after thumbnail, throwing most of them away, as I usually do, because that's what you do with rubbish... you chuck it and forget about it. lol.  When I was an art student at college, one of my favorite professors used to say to us,"You have to get through all the bad drawing, before you can get to the good drawing."  It is a very truthful statement, and it has stuck with me all these years.

     I think about it often when I become frustrated with what I am working on.  It is very true that, similarly to preparing for a running race, you have to train and practise for it.
Well the same goes for when you begin drawing a new form or a new idea that you may have never drawn before or even if you have drawn it before, you must "re-learn" how to draw that particular form.  It's not riding a bike. Sometimes you have to circle back to the beginning and "work through" the shapes and forms of what you're working on before you really are drawing it the way you see it in your head.
Sometimes this process takes hours, sometimes days.  It really depends on the complexity of what you're trying to achieve.  Also, to make an illustration of a snowball fight dynamic and interesting I had to do quite a bit of reference research on the topic.  This is really what made the project belated.  I spent a long time deliberating over composition.

Daria Model Sheet. MTV Animation Studios.

Hades Model Sheet. Disney Animation Studios

     I had to do this with my two characters.  I haven't drawn them in well over 10 years, so I had to relearn their shapes and proportions before I could really begin "turning" them into a visual position other than a full front position.
The process of "turning" a character you create comes from the animation industry (the term and the process.) It's one of the cornerstone building blocks in character design for animation production (for those who are not familiar with it.)  What I really like to do when I begin this process is break out a few sheets of tracing paper and lay that over my character drawing/sketch.  I then will break that sketch down into the basic/simple shapes that animators and illustrators use to build figure and animal characters with.

       I also like to use this process to analyze specifically what it is about this sketch or drawing that is creating it's visual appeal. From this process of breaking the form down into simpler shapes, you can take that basic structure and "turn" your character into any visual position and action you can think of.  As an aside, when I was an animation student, I found that character design, pre-production and story development were much more exciting to me than actually animating, itself.  After all, those departments are really just Illustration departments, just with more specific purposes and parameters. This discovery is when I knew, for certain, that I really was more of an Illustrator than an animator.

Anyway... moving on...

     I then began to sketch my two characters in other positions based on the composition of my thumbnail.  It did take an evening or two before I really got something that I liked.  Most of the initial sketches, I chucked like always, but I have shared a few of the survivors here on this post. lol.
After I had the sketches I needed, I pulled an old trick/shortcut that illustrators employ form time to time.  I certainly used it a a fair few in college.  You scan the sketches in separately, then size them specifically into your composition, print that out, then lightbox them into your final sketch.  afterward you can add relevant details to the sketch but this handy dandy trick helps get you there faster without involving a lot of  extra unnecessary work.  Use the tools you have at your disposal to work smarter and not harder, I say. lol.

     Ultimately, my goal was to work in a medium I haven't worked with also for several years and I admit, I was getting rusty. I welcomed the opportunity to work with it again.  I wanted to make this a watercolor piece augmented with colored pencil, very akin to the Socks Illustration I had done before.  I thought that soft bright punchy color and unique texture would be perfect for this project.

     Once I had my final sketch I had a really interesting idea to break the single image up into a triptych that could work together or as separate pieces.  Once that was ready, I transferred my drawing onto three pieces of watercolor paper and then began the wonderful and relaxing process of painting with watercolors.  I always find it relaxing to do and it was a nice break form the digital work that my head lives in most of the time.  But watercolor work is a process that takes days sometimes weeks.  I was also working on all 3 paintings simultaneously.  You have to work on some areas then swap to the next piece, work on similar areas or like areas that use the same colors, then swap to the next piece and do the same... then.... you.... wait...  you literally are waiting for paint layers to dry fully before you can add more, as those of you that work with the medium know all too well.

     This process goes on and on until you have finished what you are wanting to complete with the paint, then you wait some more for that to dry. I usually wait a day or two before I then begin working with the colored pencil over the paint.

     And that is really the process of how these pieces came to be.  I hope that you enjoy them as much as Mrs. P will.  I bid you all a nice rest of your day and...

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.


  1. Lewis, they are wonderful! I can hardly wait to frame and hang them. I have the family drawing you did of Jennifer and Zack's wedding (in the living room) and the one you gave Harrell and me for Christmas several years ago on the wall in the kitchen. I love them all! I did not intend this to become such an involved project when I mentioned the Sue & Lew drawings, but I hope you enjoyed revisiting some of your (in my opinion) best work. Thank you so much. Love you. Mrs. P.

    1. I did very much enjoy the project. I love working with watercolor. Also, as a perfectionist, I don't ever like half doing something. So when I do it, I'm All In, no matter what. There are worse fates than spending time on something you enjoy.