October blew in with an icy rain this morning and I couldn't be happier about it. This bodes well for a chilly, grim Halloween season -- just the way I like it. The leaves are changing, there's woodsmoke in the air, and a few of the houses on my street have already got their cardboard jack-o-lanterns taped to their front doors.
So, in keeping with the season, I decided to do a quick breakdown of my process for my Sleepy Hollow piece. This illustration was done for the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators directory, Drawing Under The Influence and will be hanging in the gallery at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh this winter. As well, the directory is still for sale at the venues where the show hangs. Ok, on with the work-in-progress steps...
Step 1) I start with a pencil sketch. I'm targeting the children's market so it's a fairly cartoony sketch. But it's a ghost story, so it has to be spooky too. Hopefully, my choice of colors will help that.
Step 2) Next I lay down a base color to help establish an eerie mood. There's gonna be a lot of deep indigos and midnight blues -- I want the forest to have a sense of foreboding -- so I work from dark to light, starting with the shadows.
Step 3) With all those brooding blues and greens in the background, Ichabod and his headless pursuer -- the focal points of the piece -- have to be rendered with contrasting, warm colors. So, layer upon layer, I build up some reds, browns and yellow-greens on Ichabod and his horse, Gunpowder. The Horseman's warm tones will come mostly from his fiery pumpkin.
Step 4) That flaming gourd also serves as one of my two light sources, the other being the moonlight. I keep all of that in mind while I'm painting in highlights and shadows -- the direction of the cast shadows, the temperature of the highlights and how the forms shift color as they move from light to shadow.
Step 5) I decide the Headless Horseman needs a ghostly mist swirling around him, so I paint that in with a soft brush at low opacity. A few more random shadows to add mystery and I'm done.