In honor of the release of The Cat and the River Thames, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
You ready for it?
Okay. Here it is: illustrating, although fun, is very time consuming.
There are so many steps for each illustration, and if I were to rush them or skip them, the picture would look…well…awful.
As many people have asked me questions on how much work really goes into an illustration, I thought I’d break it down visually for you all by sharing a step by step process of part of a final illustration. I say part only because the book just came out, and if I shared the whole picture I’d give away some things 🙂
This picture is of Boathouse looking out over the Thames at Wanderer. I’ve already done my thumbnail sketch as a design concept, and have enlarged the drawing, added detail, and then using graphite paper, transferred it over to the final paper, as seen here:
Then I start adding some shadows with a dark blue colored pencil to the spaces between buildings, where boats meet the water, and the back of Boathouse’s head and inner ear. I use dark blue because it’s softer than black, and the colored pencil helps add some extra depth to the finished piece:
Then I add some colored pencil coloring to areas that are textured, like Boathouse’s hat and overalls:
Next is the first layer of watercolor. I hate this step because it all looks so flat at this point!
Then the next layer of watercolor is added (it starts looking sooo much better at this point!):
And more watercolor and details like windows get added in with colored pencil or a mechanical pencil next:
And more details like people get added or windows get darkened (with colored or mechanical pencil or an ink pen) next:
And then I finish up adding the rest of the details to Boathouse, and it’s ready to be scanned and edited!
In a blog post, it doesn’t sound super time consuming. But when you factor in the time for the watercolors to dry, it takes about 4 to 5 hours (depending on detail) per illustration. Multiply that by how many illustrations are in the book (19 or so, including the cover), that’s a lot of time illustrating….but I love every minute of it 🙂
I hope you enjoyed seeing the process broken down like this. Let me know if there’s any other questions you have about the process!