Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Staying On Course by Russ Cox

©2012 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

Since returning from the NESCBWI Conference in late April, I have been heeding the advice I have received from friends, agents, and art directors who have told me how much they love my drawings and sketches. With that advice, I have started playing around colorizing my sketches and drawings so that the looseness and energy does not get lost in the final art. I have been doing a doodle a day (and filled up one sketchbook since returning) which has lead me more down this path. This is the first "official" illustration I did with this looser style. The idea came from a conference doodle that I liked and thought would make a good promo piece.
I quickly worked out a composition based on the doodle. I wanted a slight over the head perspective that would focus on the characters and their "vehicles".

I then refined the sketch a bit more, developing the characters and the space crafts.

Once I got the characters heading the right direction, I did a final, tighter drawing that stilled kept the freshness of the previous sketches. This was scanned in at 300 dpi so that I could render it digitally. I left room at the top left for my contact info.

I imported the drawing into Painter. With the sketch layer set as the top most layer, and set to "multiply", I began laying in a background tone and blocks of color. Painter has this cool feature which will allow you to set your light direction as you can see with the gradated tone. Previously, I was doing a grayscale underpainting but I thought the color blocks would achieve the same effect. Plus I wanted to keep things spontaneous and fresh. Oh, I used the gouache brushes for this illustration.

With the color in place, highlights were added on a top layer. This allowed me to drop the white over top of the sketch as well.

I felt that the final illustration looked a little flat so I went back in and added some darker tones and lightened ares of the road and grass. I think it looks much better.

Since this is a postcard promo, I sketched the main characters from the front for the back of the card and will keep it as a black & white piece. All that is left to do is put it together and send it off for printing. 

Everyone put your hands together and give a great big cheer for Debbie Ohi as she will sharing something truly amazing on her post in two weeks. Thanks for reading and make sure to check out the other posts from my fellow Pixel Shavers.



  1. Great post Russ. Love your illustration!

  2. Nice! Enjoyed watching the progression! Gives me the urge to move beyond PhotoShop.

  3. Thanks PJ! Give Painter a try. You may like it. I know that I am now hooked on it but still use PS to color correct and prep for output.

  4. Love the looser style, Russ! I haven't used Painter in a while but you're inspiring me to try getting used to new interface. I've already downloaded the patch, which I assume makes it less crash-y.

    As for "as she will sharing something truly amazing on her post in two weeks" -- eek! No pressure!!! :-D

  5. Thanks Debbie! I am really getting into Painter more so than Photoshop and had no crashing issues, so far.

    You will rock it next week!