Monday, August 20, 2012

Rise Of The Supers: Breaking It Down

This is one of the new images I uploaded to my Children's/YA Illustration site at It was a self-imposed exercise and it's pretty self-explanatory -- teens with superpowers battle it out over the city. Now I'll break down the very simple process.

I want to reaffirm that I hate drawing buildings. I can't stand it. I have an unnatural aversion to rulers. But that's why I did this piece: to force me to draw something I don't often draw. The windows, however, I put together in Illustrator because, come on, I already told you how much I hate using rulers.

I wanted this piece to have a lot of purple, so my next step is blocking in a bunch of purple tones as an underpainting. And since I know where the light sources are going to be, I also threw in some yellows.

Now we're getting somewhere. I went through the tedious process of turning on lights in some of the windows and detailing things like brickwork and masonry. I also upped the contrast to increase the drama. Note that I haven't even bothered with the figures yet. That's dessert.

Here I blocked in the flat colors on my two main figures. Again, I want a lot of purple in this piece, so I don't go too crazy with their clothing. But I did splash some warmth in there with the red hair/blonde hair and skin tones to draw the eye.

I know this seems like a big jump, but all I really did was paint in the highlights and shadows on the figures (and yes, I suppose, I also mucked around with some superpowers). But really, the biggest change in this step is just recognizing the light sources (streetlights, electric crackles) and painting in the appropriate lights and shadows. So it's almost done but something's bothering me…

The two characters in the piece were supposed to be your standard high school loner vs. angry jock. But the more I looked at the "geek" character, the more he bothered me. Then BAM! It hit me. The geek in the hoodie looked way too much like Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook infamy). So I straightened the curls a little, gave him some bangs and everything felt much more comfortable.

I was happy enough with the piece to mock-up a cover masthead and Photoshop it onto a bookshelf. I went to the bookstore and snapped a random grouping of books, making sure there was one with dimensions that would fit my cover design. It wasn't until I was home, mucking around in Photoshop, that I noticed the kid on the cover of that Supernaturalist looks like he's watching my two teens fight it out in the sky above him. What is that…synchronicity? Serendipity? Whatever it is, I'll be posting the illustration process for a few of my new pieces in the weeks to come. Until then, you can stop by my official site to see the new ones. -v


  1. First though? They're both blond male caucasians. Go for diversity. : )

    1. Yeah, I thought of that too, Beth. But I knew one of these teens might be perceived as "the villain" and I didn't want to muck around in those waters, pitting the races against each other. This way I'm not playing favorites in the hero game. And as far as diversity goes, maybe one of these days I'll toss someone who doesn't fit the accepted western standard for beauty in a piece like this and see how that goes over.


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