Original Sketch Size: 12x15
Copyright Notice: 2008 by Bob Giadrosich/Sharayah Press. All Rights Reserved. Photographs by their respective owners.
Sketch and Elements
Welcome to this tutorial. Over the next few weeks, I'll be explaining my working process, from the concept, through the pencils, inks, and color (using water-dyes), to finally arrive at the finished illustration and accompanying text.
Along the way, if need be, I'll be linking to other deviations in my gallery to elaborate on a point or two, and at any time you need a greater explanation about why I did or did not do something in particular, drop me a note and I'll try my best to answer any questions.
With that said, every picture that I envision starts with:
The genesis of this particular image was from 2005, when a group of us were sitting around going through a Role Playing adventure. As usual, I had my sketchbook with me, and in-between doodles of dinosaurs and other critters, I did the sketch on the left (see above) and promptly forgot about it.
A few weeks ago I was browsing thru old sketchbooks looking for ideas I could develop further to include in a book project that I'm working on of twenty original short stories (each with a full page image) and saw the sketch once again. Immediately, it caught my eye. I mused, "Who is she? What is her story?"
Since then, I've been attempting to answer those two questions, and as work has progressed on this piece, a tale has developed which will be presented with the finished deviation. Many times, the story evolves as I'm drawing the picture, but for this one, I already had some thoughts about where it was going. This led to:
For many, an idea and a concept are the same, but for me, a concept goes much deeper than the idea. The concept is where I've taken the idea and start to flesh it out, developing a timeframe, culture, history, and hierarchy of the world that the character moves in. All of this takes place mentally, and helps set the stage for believability. I don't like any of my images to take place in a vacuum, and by the time the picture is finished, I often have at least an inkling of the story behind the picture. Of course, if it is an assignment for publication, the storyline comes beforehand, but for my own work, after the character sketch, I try to develop:
The first step in the visual process was to give her an environment, without which, a character is just that: a character. Every story takes place somewhere, and if you want your drawings to pass beyond the "pin-up" stage, you must learn to place them in believable settings, for it is in these surroundings that you will establish a context for your character to move in. It doesn't necessarily have to be a "realistic" setting, just one that is germane to the hows and whys of who your character is and what gives them a purpose for existing on the page.
Every great story contains a back story; a history, if you will. Most of what Tolkien wrote about Middle-Earth was never meant to see print, but by giving the world such deep roots, the tale we know as The Lord of the Rings contains a depth and breath of unmatched quality.
Some artists consider the background a waste of time because it appears to be a difficult proposition. Yes, one must learn composition and perspective, lighting and focus, as well as devoting a lot of time to successfully blending the character and setting. Other artists consider drawing a background "boring," and while it can get tedious at times, unless all you want to do is draw page after page of floating characters, one must master the mechanics of the above mentioned disciplines if you aspire beyond the "blank page syndrome." It will pay off in the end! Remember, a background doesn't have to be complicated or detailed to be effective.
A great deal of thought goes into who these people are that I draw. When all is said and done, I will have spent most of my life with these creations, and so I explore many options in my mind before I put down a single line upon the page, often picturing the character in a variety of surroundings.
Sometimes, I'll know instantly, depending on what type of character I'm attempting to draw. I mean, if one is drawing a mermaid, it's a no-brainer that water will be involved. Other times, I have to go through my mental gymnastics before I arrive at the place where I am satisfied. Keep in mind that the type of background you put your character in can change the meaning of what you are trying to convey. An example of this would be a fantasy type character in a futuristic setting, or vise-versa. Used sparingly, juxtaposition can be a delightful vehicle to build contrast.
Back to Basics
In the initial sketch, I've drawn the character with her hand against some type of wall. I thought about changing this to a vehicle of some sort, but because I already had the seed of a storyline going, I decided to keep it as originally sketched and put a wall behind her. Next I had to determine "indoors" or "out." I decided to place her in a garden type setting, so I rummaged though mounds of reference material and selected the pieces you see here.
From top left, and moving clockwise, the photos were taken from a travel magazine, an outdoor pottery catalog, a Washington Post advertisement, an architectural auction catalogue, a photo from an article on gothic cathedral gargoyles, and finally, an article about a French garden which appeared in Victoria magazine.
I very rarely "copy" a reference verbatim, instead, I select bits and pieces of texture that I need for corresponding areas in the drawing in order to have the surface that I am attempting to duplicate right in front of me, as well as using the photograph for inspiration. I can usually manipulate perspective enough so that the reference photo doesn't necessarily have to be at the same angle, especially if I am drawing it straight on. All I need is the general idea of what I'm looking for.
I decided to name the story Within, so naturally, the illustration will be named that, also. Combining all the various elements will give the context that I'm looking for to tell the story of what and why. The who, when, and how will be left up to the viewer.
Next: Pencil Outline