Thursday, September 2, 2010

Boy Pirate Series: From sketches to plasticine illustration

I thought it would be fun to show another step-by-step tutorial on how I work. I have been working on a series of illustrations depicting a "Boy Pirate" and his "mighty ship and "crew". I hope to do 3 or 4 and include them in my portfolio to show my ability to maintain character continuity, depict different viewpoints, perspective, show a range of emotions, and tell a little story through a series of illustrations.

First, I wanted to try my hand at illustrating an extreme viewpoint. So I decided to do a "worm's eye view"  of this "boy pirate". I thought this view point would give him a majestic and grand quality, and hopefully lead the viewer to wonder what is he looking at through those binoculars? And where was he?

First I took a few reference photos by lying on the ground and shooting straight up at my models(OK I used my kiddies, they really like to pose for me).
Then I did a few sketches to work out the perspective, and tinker with the foreshortening. I broke-down the body into simpler geometric shapes and included my perspective lines for reference.

Once I was happy with that sketch, I moved on to sketching a tighter, more detailed  "boy pirate".

Then I started the background. I always smear plasticine onto illustration board first.Iin this case since I knew the sky would be above the "boy pirate", due to the worm's eye view, I didn't need to do an "under painting" and block in my colours, I could just use the sky blue I had mixed and cover the entire surface.

I wanted to give the illustration some dynamic movement and help to bring the eye back again to the central character, so I decided to depict the clouds diagonally across the background and with reflections coming off the underside of the wispy clouds to help show that we are viewing the sky from below. I actually lay down on the dock for a while to study the clouds....OK and relax a bit too. I think it works nicely to gives the piece some energy, and the subtle convergence and divergence of the clouds leads the eye around in an elliptical path back to the center.
Next I added the very bottom of the "ship". I purposely didn't show much of it as I want to viewer to wonder: what type of ship this boy pirate could own?Or was he in the crow's nest?  I also needed to show a portion of it to ground the character.

I then started to form the individual pieces of the character. I usually work from the background, and work forward, but sometimes I like to do a few foreground bits so I can place them on top, as I go, to ensure I'm staying on track with my proportions. And I really like doing toes, so I couldn't resist! :)

It can be a bit tricky when there are a few different layers of plasticine on top of each other, with a foreshortened image. And it can start to look wonky if I don't carefully flatten out, or cut out the plasticine bits that will be directly behind another foreground object.  So, I find it can be useful to have the foreground parts set aside to then be able to trace around them and make the exact cut, so it isn't noticeable.

Here he is, the "boy pirate", after a bunch of tinkering and sculpting, I think he is almost there. I usually like to put it away for a few days and then take a look at it again and tinker a bit more. It lets me look at it with a fresher set of eyes and spot any other problems. 

As always, I'd love any feedback, good and bad, it is always so helpful :)

I also worked on a close-up  of this little "boy pirate" and used it for Illustration Friday this week. I wanted to
show him saying "ARRRRRRR!", but not in a scary, mean way, but in a playful way. Here is the sketch I came up with:

I recently purchased this amazing book by Mark Simon called Facial Expressions of Babies and Teens. It is such a great resource if you need to do facial expressions. And it also shows a few models that have posed  over consecutive years so you can actually see how the face matures with the same child...very helpful stuff! I hope I succeeded in achieving a playful "ARRR". I must have scraped off each feature and started again like a million times??

I had a lot of fun with this illo. as I got to play with the textures of the hat, skin, and handkerchief. I had fun with the extruder to make the teeny feathers on the top of  his pirate hat. Sore thumbs though!  Here he is again, all sneery and cute:

Next up, I am going to do a double page spread that shows his "ship", "first mate" and surroundings. Here is a quick sketch of the layout and a tighter one of the ship and it's crew:

I think I might change the boy pirate's position and have him looking back and pointing so that he is engaged in dialogue with the other little "first mate". I want to show more interaction, so I will probably do a few more sketches to firm up my thoughts.

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step tutorial of how I work. :) 

And thank-you all for the wonderful comments and for taking the time to pop over to my blog and see what I've been are all AWESOME!!


Nicola said...

Wow this is amazing!!! So interesting to see how your ideas come to life!! I also really love that sketch of the snarling pirate!! Wonderful! Your work is just so unique!

One question I do have is how do you store and keep all of these pieces? I find it hard enough to store my canvas' I can't imagine how you would keep these without damaging them?

Fantastic work! :0)

Suzanne Del Rizzo said...

Hi Nicola,
Thanks for the kind words!
I store all of my plasticine illustrations in flat pizza-style mailer boxes. It took me a while to find a supplier but I managed to get some through ULINE and I have a few sizes I can use. It is always a worry that one of my illustrations might get squished, as the plasticine remains pliable(epecially with 4 sets of little hands aroud the house. The boxes work well, are stackable and keep dust off the illustrations that might show up when I photograph them.
Thanks for the question :)

Shirley said...

Geee Suzanne...this is a fabulous post..thank you for showing us step by step all of the intricate detail you do for each piece. It's amazing to me to see this. I can work with play-doh and get general chubby characters, but wow, this is amazing. Well done! It's also cool to know you have sketched out your plan of action and thought of things like lighting/direction/composition to highlight your boy pirate character (bring the viewer back to the central figure). A great plan of action for the end result which I think always turns out fantastically. Great job, Suzanne!

Mari√°n Lario said...

Which technique so original! I like it:)
Children illustration step by step

creativemom2 said...

This is so impressive. you have an incredible imagination and are so talented to be able to sketch and then produce beautiful master pieces.
I also love reading your blogs. Have you considered writing and illustrating your own children's books. I know they would be entertaining and the pictures would come to life.


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