from start to finish, Illustrating Marisol Brook

In art, thumbnails are preliminary small scale sketches where you can experiment with layout and values before you jump into the final full sized piece. But I’m an impatient, trigger happy artist and I frequently overlook this step.  I work digitally and count on that to save me if I need to back-pedal or re-arrange an illustration to a better place. That doesn’t always work. Recently, art director Jon Schindehette, wrote about the importance of thumbnails, so as I prepared to illustrate Sarah Grey’s The Ballad of Marisol Brook, I began with these:

thumbnails for Marisol Brook

Water is a repeating theme in the Grey’s story; drowning, falling into water, reborn from water, etc, and that’s the symbol I wanted to play with in the illustration. From those thumbnails, I started working this direction:

the ballad of marisol brook by sarah grey WIP1

preliminary sketch for Marisol Brook

However, after working on this piece for a while, I felt it was losing its connection to the story. It’s a cool image and I’ll keep it filed for future use, but to connect it to what Grey had written, I felt I should switch it up a bit. So I did this:

a second preliminary sketch for Marisol Brook

As this version progressed I didn’t like all the horizontals so I took the layer with the red figure, rotated it, resized it, copied multiple versions across the page and played with creating variation in the pattern. (Like Jon Schindehette noted: “…folks that work digitally are more apt to skip [thumbnails] in their process. I found that observation to be quite interesting, and wonder if it has something to do with the fact that most digital artists feel like they can always “make changes”. Yep. Guilty as charged.)

Marisol Brook in Progress

There, I’d finally found my direction. So the real work begins:

Marisol Brook in progress

This part goes on for quite some time. “Finished” is such a subjective word, a teasing balancing act between overworked and not-quite-there. At the end, finding that point usually involves ignoring the image for a while as I work on other stuff, coming back to peek at it intermittently, make more notes, make small changes, leave it again, etc, until I’m satisfied that yes, indeed, it is “finished”

Final illustration for The Ballad of Marisol Brook. Written by Sarah Grey, published at Lightspeed Magazine


So there you go. A glimpse into my process. Speaking of process, here are some notebooks and sketchbooks from famous authors, arists, and visionaries (because I love that kind of stuff).  Also, here’s some more about thumbnails by Dan Dos Santos (because I really need to work on those.)