Swamp buddies

Swamp buddies - student project

I was excited about this course as I've been watching a lot of Jazzas videos on YouTube and making up concepts and sketches is something I struggle with.

I started my brainstorming with something I usually do and went through my own, personal photo gallery to see what animal photos I have and kind of went from there.

My Reptile - folder had a bunch of turtle and frog images and I got this idea of two buddies traveling through a swampland.

Brainstorming:
- Turtle and frog
- Frog is standing on turtle's head
- They're having a conversation / looking at each other
- Evening / night scene (digital color study)
- They're at a marsh/swamp

 

Then I went to look for some more references aside from the few photos I had already taken myself. I have a rather deep-set style already so as far as the general look and background goes, I already had a pretty good idea so I pulled some Ori and the Will of the Wisps screenshots on my mood-board.

Swamp buddies - image 1 - student project
Then I started sketching out the characters trying to get down the general shape and look that I want. This is the part where I struggle the most. Getting the initial drawing down. I'm a perfectionist so I tend to noodle a lot with the anatomy and details. Here I just tried to get something down and it went surprisingly well.

Swamp buddies - image 2 - student project
I also have a habit of seeking for music that fits the piece that I'm doing. I got the idea of making an old turtle and a young frog so I remembered Oogway from Kung Fu Panda.

Then it was time for thumbnailing which is something I never really do but really should. I blurted my first idea down and then started thinking of different ways to do the scene. I have a habit of only focusing on the characters and then kind of ignoring the background (which I can't draw LOL) so I usually end up with really detailed and carefully drawn characters but then there's this huge empty shape around them. So my first thumbnail felt very lazy as I was going for the portrait type of setting. I finally settled with the 2nd one and re-drew it a tad larger and used a blue pencil to outline some golden ratio principles.

Swamp buddies - image 3 - student project

I was really happy with the larger thumbnail so I picked up an A4 paper in order to do the final sketch which I will refine into a finished drawing.

Swamp buddies - image 4 - student project

Next I will start refining the drawing. I will probably look up a lot more marsh/swamp images in order to draw the background  elements as those are definitely a weak point for me.

Once I'm done with the final sketch, I will ink it then trace it onto watercolor paper and refine and re-ink it. It's a lot of work and I usually end up with at least 3 identical drawings of my final piece but as a traditional artist this just happens to be the way I work.

Swamp buddies - image 5 - student project

Here's my finished refined drawing. Note that I did clean this up a little bit in PS. In reality there were still a lot of pencil traces underneath the ink. I had a pretty good idea about the characters but as usual, I had to lift some weights when it comes to the background.

I kept looking up more and more references for marsh/swamp areas. ArtStation is a great place for looking up professional-level environment concepts. I kept putting things together and first planning them out with a messy pencil shape. The island where the turtle is standing was very flat at first. So I went in and just scribbled with my pencil in order to find a more interesting shape and I also broke down the shoreline so it would look more realistic.

I also went back in and fixed the hind leg of the turtle as it wasn't making any sense before :D

It looks a bit messy with everything inked but I inked them because I will trace this onto watercolor paper. Once it's on it I will leave some lines (like the horizon line) out and some I will ink with dark grey / light grey fineliners to add some depth.

Next up is transferring the drawing onto watercolor paper using a light-table.

Swamp buddies - image 6 - student project

Here are my quick and messy digital color studies. I just made things super difficult for myself. I have no idea which one I like better :')

Swamp buddies - image 7 - student project

I decided on the night scene as I felt like it has more emotion and more interesting colors. I begin with a wash of Prussian Blue watercolor all over to set the basic lighting, tone and mood.  My first attempt failed miserably as I tried using masking fluid for preserving details and for some reason the fluid wouldn't completely dry and mixed itself into the paint. It was horrible.

It's a bit slow going as I have a lot of work and very little free time but I try to work on this piece by piece. I update the cover photo as I move on with the steps.

Swamp buddies - image 8 - student project

I think I'm finished with the toning with watercolor and watercolor pencils :) This is a very slow and careful process as I need to keep an eye on color temperatures and decide what elements I want to bring forward and what elements I need to push back.

Now to fine-tune and bring things together with colored pencils. It will take a long time.

Swamp buddies - image 9 - student project
Aaaaand here is the final result! It actually didn't take as long as I feared it would. This goes to show how important it is to plan ahead and have a clear vision. This entire illustration is traditional art. It was drawn with pencils, inked with Pigma Micron and Uni-Pin fineliners and then colored with Rembrandt watercolor, Faber Castell Albrech Dürer watercolor pencils and Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils.

The only digital adjustments I did was removing some dirt and dust marks caused by the scanner and the slight discoloration on the sky next to the turtles shell.

Thank you so much to Jazza for this course. It was great fun!

Minna Mäkinen
Traditional artist from Finland