Tiger’s Tale: Process steps for an editorial illustration with a storybook feel.

I got an editorial assignment this week, and the subject of the piece lent itself to a storybook approach. So, instead of my editorial style, I decided to use my softer, “kid lit” style. Here’s a quick step-by-step showing how I put it together.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseLong story short, they’re closing down Wilkinsburg High (mascot:tiger) and now those kids’ll be taking classes at Westinghouse High (mascot:bulldog). The art direction was to draw a bunch of super-cute baby tigers attending school at a bulldog’s doghouse. A perfect opportunity to use a kids’ art style, right? So, first things first, the pencils…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseThis is the pencil sketch, roughed out on printer paper. I didn’t take the time to work out all the details of the building, figuring that’d take long enough in the computer and why do it twice? I worked the tigers a little more, though, because I needed to know if Lisa (the art director) thought they were cute enough to fit the brief. They were. : ) I got approval, so I moved forward.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseI did these in MangaStudio with a pencil tool, tracing over the scanned sketch. Since Westinghouse High is the home of the bulldogs, the school was supposed to look like a doghouse. I decided to combine the classic, backyard doghouse with an old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouse complete with belfry. MangaStudio‘s rulers are so versatile and easy to use that I’ve actually learned to enjoy drawing houses and other structures.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseNext step was coloring the schoolhouse. Sticking to that storybook aesthetic, I chose a watercolor brush, fiddled with the opacity, and just started brushing color and grain into the boards. I masked out the overlap, adjusted the levels, and after the house was done, I started in on the characters…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseI picked a few warm colors for the tigers (oranges, reds, yellows) and painted in some base flats. I didn’t have to worry about being too neat, since I planned to blend the colors in the very next step…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseThe colors of the clothing and accessories were determined by the school colors. Wilkinsburg, red and blue. Westinghouse, blue and white. Once I had all the colors of the tigers roughed in, I blended them, stroking the colors to look like fur. Time consuming, but I like the way it turned out. I normally block in the backgrounds first, but I saved the minimal environment until the end.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseHere’s a quick progression of the foreground/environment. I started with some earthy colors, scribbling in some texture with a watercolor brush, adding more texture with an overlay, and deepening the shadows. Then, a rough-edged brush to map out patches of grass, followed by scattering blades of grass over the whole thing.

After that it’s just a matter of color adjustments, playing with the levels and it’s done. This was a great chance to add to my children’s illustration portfolio and still turn in an editorial assignment. The finished piece is down below, and, to see it in context, check out this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper. That link to the online edition also gives you a look at how Lisa scattered my tiger students throughout the issue and article (pp. 5,6,8&9).

SchoolThatTiger_CP_VinceDorse

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