A lot of people ask me how long an illustration of mine takes. So this month, I decided to time myself and photograph my progress. It usually varies based on the complexity of the subject and if I have been practicing beforehand. If I paint about everyday, I can do a sketch quite quickly and easily. However, if I have not picked my paintbrush up in a while it can take me several do-overs until I am warmed up enough. My illustrations look very stiff if I don’t continuously practice. And that, I think, is the hardest thing about being an illustrator. Making yourself paint daily is a hard practice, especially if you are lacking inspiration. But it is critical in order to refine your technique and to create a solid style.
In this particular piece, I wanted to push my boundaries and draw a pose I never drew before; one of a figure sitting and crouching. I started with a light pencil sketch and as I applied paint to her skin, quickly erased the pencil as I went. I will typically draw with both an eraser and paintbrush in one hand, erasing and quickly painting in place of the pencil line so I wont forget the shape I had drawn. I then applied paint to her dress and spent a little bit of time building up the color. In illustrations where I am trying to convey a lightweight fabric, I will typically be very conservative with how much paint I lay on the canvas. The softer and less contrast a fabric has, the lighter weight and shearer it will appear. I wanted her dress to look like chiffon, so my intent was to keep it very ethereal and light-looking.
I painted the outline of the fabric and washed it in with water. In general, this is not recommended for most illustrations. In fact, it’s better to start within the body and spread out. However, I wanted the dress to appear light was shining through it, so I wanted to create some definition between the edge of the fabric and the negative space. If you fold a piece of chiffon, you can see through the fabric and the fold it creates. Sometimes it’s useful to have a piece of fabric in front of you so you can see how it looks folded and gathered. From my experience hand sewing a chiffon wedding gown a few years ago, I have the tactility and qualities of that fabric ingrained in my memory.
The illustration below took me about an hour and a half.