19 June 2015


For this illustration project, like the previous flower bouquet illustration, I got commissioned to do watercolour paintings. As watercolours are my favorite media, I was more than happy to work on this little series of dancing animals!

The giraffe's pattern nearly killed me...
The animals were specified and were supposed to be posing and dancing. The wished for style was slightly cartoonish, but still realistic. So I went with simplified forms, but had the animals generally keep their natural anatomy and movements.
I'll show you my process for this series, as I took some photos despite the thight schedule. 

Materials used:

~ Printing Paper for rough sketches
~ Lead pencil by Pentel in 0.3 as well as 0.5
~ Pencil leads were mostly soft B and 2B to give enough contrast.
~ Fabriano Academia Drawing Paper in A4. Not specifically designed to work with watercolours, but as long as one doesn't drown the paper in water, it holds up very well and the minimal texture makes for high-quality scans. 
~ Watercolours by a variety of brands (I mix and match, will upload an overview of my colours soon!) like Schmincke, Talens and Winsor&Newton.
~ Kneadable eraser by Faber Castell.
~ Normal eraser by MONO.
~ Watercolour/Ink brushes by some no-name brand.
~ Da Vinci Forte Synthetics Watercolour Brush in 3/0 (also known as 'ridiculously tiny')

Sketches of all animals in pencil. Giraffe getting preferential treatment.

First, I did some rough sketches in pencil. 
The goal was to get the individual poses of each animal (front and back) to look varied when put next to all the others. Especially the tiger, lion and leopard had to be posing very distinctively so they wouldn't get repetitive.

If you ever feel down, try drawing a dancing turtle.

Dancing Turtles, saving the day.
After approval was given, I went over the sketches, erasing rough lines with a kneaded eraser and defining the forms with a soft lead pencil (0.3 mm, 2B).
The end result is a tad messy, still looking like sketch, though a very detailed one. Ideal for capturing movement and dynamic poses.

A first wash of colour, mostly gray and sepia, was used to define the larger forms, shadows and fur patterns of the animals.

Detailed colors were added in layers, leaving the images to dry in the meantimes.

I took care to keep some sharp edges, as watercolors have a tendency to look "washed out". All the animals have a similar base color, namely Sepia mixed with Gray and Sienna. So even though some of the animals like the flamingo have quite eye-catching colors as a last layer, they fit into the series as a whole.

Before moving on to scanning, I went in with my trusted lead pencil once more to redefine some of the lines (especially in the faces) that had gotten washed away by the colour layers.

The pencil came also in handy for adding some details to the fur patterns.

After scanning (I use an Epson V330 Photo Scanner, which gives a nice colour payoff) I had to bring out the whites for the background, which I mostly did by just masking the animals entirely. With selective colour correction and added vibrance/saturation in Photoshop, the colours were resurrected. As you can see below, this step makes quite the difference!

Just after scanning...
....and after masking the background, increasing vibrancy, saturation and contrast in Photoshop.
To finish the commission, I also created a group picture of all animals, which you can see in my illustration gallery.
For personal use, I went over the dancing tiger once again in photoshop, adding additional watercolour elements created seperately (the leaves) as well as creating colour layers on multiply/overlay to make the tiger as a whole more colourful. The final design will be used for printing.

Dancing Tiger Illustratio
Also, as I just find them really adorable, I did the same for the turtles. 
Shake it~

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