Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Morning Flight process, Richard Jesse Watson and digital vs physical media - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

To you Americans out there: Happy July 4th! Today I'm going to show you how I created one of my Daily Doodles (some of which I post on As I've mentioned before, I try to draw purely for the fun of it every day.

Sometimes I start with a blank digital canvas and just start drawing the first thing that comes into my head. Other times I'll do an image search for a word or phrase for inspiration. In this particular instance, I looked for "kite child" Google Image search and settled on the image at the top of a Flow Psychology page.

Ever since attending Richard Jesse Watson's session at the SCBWI Illustrators' Intensive Day in LA last year, I've been experimenting more with textures. I loved all the sessions that day and learned something new from each of them, but it was Richard's that affected me the most because his method (very loose and free) was closest to mine.

Richard Jesse Watson during an Illustrator Intensive
at the SCBWI-LA conference last year.

 Richard incorporated textures by manipulating and using a variety of physical media. I was fascinated and inspired, and was inspired to try something similar.

Richard Jesse Watson during an Illustrator Intensive
at the SCBWI-LA conference last year.
Since I work digitally, I had to look for other ways to bring texture into my drawings. I started experimenting with Photoshop's texture brushes.

To Photoshop users: you can find many, many texture brushes online as well as tips on how to install brushes, if you don't already know. You can also create your own brushes.

I used texture brushes and shades of yellow/orange to create a sunrise (or sunset, depending on how you choose to look at it). I used several layers so I could play around a bit with different colours.

When I was happy with the look, I added a plain black ground:

And grass:

And a silhouette of a running child. I had the child's arms stretching up to hold the kite:

Finally, I added the kite. I made the layer slightly transparent so you could see part of the sky showing through. I also added a paler colour to make it look like the sun was just peeking over the hill:

I put the sun on a different layer so I could move it around and see what worked best.

And yes, I'm all about layers. I know there's a much different satisfaction in working with physical media and I totally get why many artists prefer non-digital art, but the flexibility of digital media encourages me to experiment. 

With such a small office space and limited time, I'm not sure I'd feel as free to experiment with such a wide range of styles and methods if I knew that I'd have to re-do the entire piece if I screwed up, or potentially waste expensive art materials.

BUT before you traditional artists jump on me, I also admit that I don't have much experience in working with physical media. I'd love to hear thoughts from those who work regularly with both physical and digital art! Feel free to post in the comments section below.

Next up: the splendiferous Fred Koehler, whose Dad's Bad Day comes out from Dial Books For Young Readers in Spring 2014.

And just over two months until I'm Bored (new picture book written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by yours truly) comes out, woohoo! Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers have moved the publication date up to September 4th, 2012. CAN'T WAIT.

-- Debbie

I blog about writing & illustrating picture books for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers as well as writing & illustrating for young people in general. 


  1. Experimenting is essential and I loved Richard's dmo, too. Have fun and play,

  2. Organized content is the best way to display or post an article, thank you for making it easy to digest your