Making of a Monster – Part 7

Okay, the traditional art is now all completed with paint and pencil on paper. But that doesn’t mean the poster is quite finished yet. We still have some digital tools to use to see this frightfest to completion.

What good is a monster movie poster without the words on it to say what we’re selling? What we are selling is the Illustration West 59 art competition open to professionals and students put on by the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles. So let’s make sure that is known!

To that end, I scan the painting into the computer where I will add some design elements in Photoshop. Remember my original color comp? Here it is again to remind you of where this piece is headed.



Originally I had intended for the “movie” title to be diagonal at the top right corner of the poster as a counter balance to the “Beware of the Deadline Monster” subtitle. Then the “Call for Entries” line would be at the very bottom. Those graphic design elements of the text areas needed to be created first, so I drew the ragged black bars in Photoshop and filled in the flat color to prepare the way for my text designer.



Once those elements were in place, I sent the above image to my pal Andy Heckathorne to create some vintage looking text for me. Andy is an illustrator and graphic designer from Pennsylvania who is much more adept at text design than I. (Check out his website HERE!) Our paths first crossed, ironically, at a national high school art competition when we were both seniors – he won first place, I won second. So all these years later, how appropriate that we got to collaborate on a professional art competition poster.

After a few back and forth attempts as we conceived of the text, as well as some editorial changes to what the text would say, Andy came up with this:



You know how sometimes you get stuck on an idea that you thought was creatively brilliant, but maybe it wasn’t? I must admit, it took me a while to let it sink in that the main headline should go horizontally across the top instead of diagonally. That was Andy’s idea. I had set the stage with that space up there, but ultimately, putting the text diagonally meant that the words would have had to be much smaller. After Andy kind of insisted this was the way to go, he was totally right.

Now that the text was complete, there was one last step I wanted to do to give this a vintagey feel. Dots. Old school posters sometimes would have a heavy dot pattern on them that derived from the way art had to be printed. I still wanted the details of the art to be seen, but some controlled dot patterns could be cool.

To achieve this, I purchased a plug-in for Photoshop called Mr. Retro. The software has all kinds of vintage poster looks it can help create with customizable sliders. I played around with lots of options, most of which took away all the hard work I had put into the details of the illustration. Really, I just needed dots.



After experimenting just with dots, I ended up running the art through the filter twice. I wanted big dots in the sky, and smaller dots on the characters and type.



I didn’t want dots everywhere, either. Since they were created on new layers, I was able to go in and erase dots selectively wherever they were not wanted as you can see below.



While I liked how the little dots handled the woman’s face, they didn’t look as good on the man, so those were erased from him.



Of course, it was fun getting dots on the SILA logo, which I manipulated a little by giving the eyeball a pupil like the monster has in his eyes.



So, all together, the final image looks like this…


Click on the art to see it larger (if you dare!)


Well, there you have it – the creation of a Los Angeles based art competition poster in which a monster is ravaging the city of Los Angeles. Good times.

If you are an illustrator yourself, I hope you will consider ENTERING THE CONTEST. The deadline for entries is at the end of this month – OCTOBER 31ST!!! I’ve assembled an amazing panel of judges who will be looking at your work – folks like Abrams Books editor Charles Kochman, MAD Magazine Art Director Suzy Hutchinson, and illustrators Jason Seiler, Mike Mignola, Justin Gerard, Kadir Nelson, C.F. Payne, and Drew Struzan!

In fact, I’ve been conducting interviews with my judges which are being published on the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles website, so CHECK THEM OUT!

Good luck to all who enter!

Making of a Monster – Part 6

So we’ve covered the conception, drawing, and painting of this monster movie poster for this year’s Illustration West 59 advertisement for the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles. All that’s left in the creation of the traditional art is the colored pencil stage.

I really love the colored pencil part of any illustration I do. Firstly, it is a sign that we are nearing the end of the piece, which is always cause for a sigh of relief. It means I have very few opportunities to screw anything up anymore. Secondly, the way I work, colored pencil pulls everything together into the art’s final look. As messy as the art can be during various stages, this is when it hopefully comes together the way I always saw it in my mind.

For the record, I use Prismacolor colored pencils. I have 153 colors available in the studio, some more helpful than others. (I HATE the metallic colors that seem to come wastefully packaged in their sets.) They reside in actual store displays on my shelves, so it looks like a pencil store up in here.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some closeups of the art after colored pencils were applied!



In the image above, you can see that the colored pencil is actually used sparingly. I spent so much time on the paint part of the illustration, that I really don’t want to cover it up very much. So, you can see subtle hints of shading from pencils in the monster’s eyes, a little on his upper lip, some cross-hatching on his lower lip, some hatching on the back of his head to help with the transition from scalp to hair, and you’ll see it in various other places. The biggest use of the pencils, though, is in giving a definitive outline to the character.

Remember the image below from the last lesson? Penciling the city was going to be challenging, because the original ink lines got completely covered by gouache when it was painted.



A print-out of the original drawing needed to be kept next to this art the whole time to be sure the city would be penciled properly. This caused a little bit of sweat to form on my brow because it could be easy to draw windows on one building that were wonky if I wasn’t careful. They turned out okay, though, right?



And then there are all those people. (No, I didn’t draw Waldo, so don’t bother looking for him.)



How about the details of our hero couple? Care to see?



They turned out okay. You can see above that pencil helped define panty hose, pearls, and many other details. How about just a tad closer?



You can really see how the paint and pencil is working together on the man’s suit. A French gray color was lightly applied to the suit in spots, allowing the texture of the paper to do its thing. There are also some yellow and purple pencils applied to the suit, as well as a couple shades of purple pencil on the hat.

So, care to see the whole thing with the pencil completed? Here you go:



Come back tomorrow to see some final digital steps that completed the poster!

Making of a Monster – Part 5

Alright, it’s about to get real. Now comes the step where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel in this step-by-step tutorial of  the creation of this year’s Illustration West 59 poster for the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.

Let’s remove the liquid frisket from the face of the painting! Since it is rubber, I use a rubber cement remover to get it started by rubbing lightly on an edge. Once the frisket starts to come up, just grab it and pull it off. Think of it as peeling skin after a sunburn. Maybe not. That’s gross. Don’t do that.

By the way, I’m showing you the city being de-frisketed, but really, that was the last area to have it removed.



As you can see, the characters and Hollywood hills look nice and pristine without that frisket on it still. Sweet, eh? I left Los Angeles shrouded because that monster is going to take some work that I don’t want the city to suffer from. Those poor folks have been through enough as it is.



Before getting to the characters, though, using gouache, the fire and smoke get painted over on the hills. I’ve kept them pretty painterly, not wishing to hide the fact that this is indeed a painting.



Then using watercolor paint, a purple underpainting is created on the characters to help create some shadows on the figures when more paint is applied on top later on.



Do you see that rippling on the back of the monster’s head? I just wanted to point that out because THAT is caused by the liquid frisket. As it was being removed, it affected the paper in such a way that the watercolor revealed a new texture. This wasn’t necessarily desired, but it wasn’t too worrisome knowing that more paint was going on top that would likely hide that rippling later on.



Here you can see the whole piece again after the character underpainting was done.



What do I do next? Why, paint on the monster’s colors of course! It was just watercolors applied with a regular paint brush. Again, wetting the paper first with the brush, then applying the paint. Incidentally, I like using those 1oz condiment cups for my paint. I mix it in those cups, and then snap on the lids overnight. Keeps the paint wet, and makes it easy to dispose of things at the end of the project. I write on the sides of the cups with a Sharpie to identify what the paint is for, too. Easy peasy.



Next, I removed the frisket from the city buildings, then painted them with watercolor and gouache to blend them into the scene. You can also see gouache was applied to the monster. It’s all coming together now!



Come back tomorrow to see the colored pencil step in creating this monsterpiece!


Making of a Monster – Part 4

Hoo boy! There has been quite a bit stated in the first three parts of this step-by-step tutorial. Ready to read some more about the creation of this year’s Illustration West 59 poster for the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles? Let’s do this!

So, now that a large part of the base background has been painted, let’s get deeper into the nitty gritty. With the frisket still on the art, there’s one more touch I wanted to do that could go horribly wrong – put some red spatter on the art.

Now, I don’t want to have spatter go just anywhere. It really only should go in the lower left corner. So, with high tech tools such as tape, a paper napkin, and some paper towels, I masked off a broad area where red paint would not be an enhancement. Why? Because I’ll be flicking it on with a toothbrush (preferably one that you do NOT use on your teeth), and also with a regular paint brush I’ll be flipping at the paper.



When done correctly, this is the result. Toothbrush did the finer spatter, flicking a larger brush created the bigger blobs. See how the lighter areas created from the salt work together nicely with the spatter?



Next, I want to dry brush on some ground with gouache over by the Griffith Observatory part of the painting. It is desired to have that BG orange show through, with just highlights of green to indicate the Hollywood hills.



Also with gouache, it’s time to paint that crowd. This is when it is a good thing to be able to see that ink line art through the paint. The gouache is going to completely cover it at this point. I went with a monochromatic approach. Takes long enough to paint all that detail as it is. No need to pick out a full range of colors on all those folks.

Notice some colored pencil outlines were created on some folks at this point. That’s because I wanted the pencil covered by some of those dry brush strokes that came after.



Speaking of those dry brush strokes, again with gouache, I painted some stylized lines emanating out of our escaping couple kind of in a radio wave type of thing typical of vintage space age art. Notice how those circular strokes kind of go up and join with the strokes of the green hills, helping to tie everything together design-wise.



Lastly, using gouache again, I painted a wavy border on three sides of the art. It’s a little wide, to accommodate image cutoff should this get printed as a poster, and to accommodate the art being put in a frame at some point. As you can see, the painting is taking shape, and is closely following that rough color comp created at the beginning of this project.



Come back TOMORROW when we will remove the frisket and continue on with the details!

Illustration West 59 wants your submissions! The deadline is October 31st! CLICK HERE for details!


Making of a Monster – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the steps in creating my monster movie painting for the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles’ Illustration West 59 poster.

So, yesterday we left things with liquid frisket. Today we begin painting the background! There will be several techniques used in getting the background just the way I want it.

First of all, you must have your paper lying flat on a desk, NOT on an angle. Watercolor paint will certainly streak due to gravity if you don’t do this first.

That being said, watercolor still can have a mind of its own, and I want it to apply as smoothly as possible. To just start applying the paint, it dries so quickly that it might leave weird edges in the middle of the piece that aren’t desired as I try to cover as much space as is needed on this large 18×24″ paper. So, before applying a drop of paint, the technique here is to brush on copious amounts of water to soak the paper first. This will allow the paint to go on more smoothly.

While the paper is still wet, THEN a big ol’ brush comes out to slather on the base color. I made sure I mixed a LOT of this color, because if I run out, it’s a pain in the neck to try to quickly mix more that matches. Easier to throw excess paint out than to have the hassle of trying to match it later before the paint dries. Notice how the paint just kind of beads up on top of that frisket. I did tend to throw on swashes of darker orange in places while everything was wet, which you’ll see in the last image of this post.



You are also probably noticing some rippling in the paper causing pools of wet paint to gather. I use watercolor block paper because it helps minimize this problem. The block paper is bound on all four sides to keep the paper stretched so it can’t curl up when the water is applied. However, it still ripples a bit, causing those pools. If you just let those pools dry where they lie, then you get weird clumps of color on your painting. You can’t just watch the paint dry. You must be actively involved. So, what I do is while the paint is drying, I tilt the paper to allow the paint to move around preventing it from pooling. Later, after the paint completely dries, the paper will lie flat.



There is a special effect I wanted to do on the canvas while the paint was still wet. Before it dried completely, I sprinkled a little salt in some areas of the background. Salt repells the paint, creating little light areas that can be cool. Here’s a later image after the paint dried where you can see the salt effect in the upper right corner of the art.



By the way, the crowd running away from the wanton destruction was NOT frisketed off. Why? Because I didn’t mind allowing that orange color to seep through whatever paint was going to be applied later. But you can see how that ink line shows through nicely.



A second painting technique I wanted to do on the background was airbrushing. A subtle lighter glow was desired in a few areas, so some gouache paint was mixed, and then carefully sprayed on as you can see here. Remember, earlier I mentioned that gouache is an opaque medium. It covers. You can see here how it covers the liquid frisket, and it is beginning to cover the ink lines on the paper, too.



A third painting technique employed on the background is a dry brush technique using gouache. This is definitely a characteristic of 1950’s illustration, particularly of pulp covers. So, dabbing a larger brush in gouache, I painted on layers of colors from more subtle shades first, building up to lighter. They will look like energetic light beams emanating from behind the monster later on. Right now it all looks a bit chaotic.



Here’s the whole image as it sits after all of this. Looks like I may have airbrushed some lighter color on the burst behind the alien, too, and there is more of that salt stippling in the lower regions of the painting. You can also see patches of darker orange that was applied when the background was still wet. It’s just something to create some energy in the piece – some visual interest.



Okay. Overwhelmed yet? More details in the process are yet to come tomorrow!


Making of a Monster – Part 2

Welcome back to the second post of my step-by-step in creating the Illustration West 59 call for entries poster for the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.

Yesterday we ended with the creation of the color comp in Photoshop. Today we dive into beginning the traditional art on paper.

To start with, the line drawing needs to be printed out on the computer so it can be traced down on the final paper. I print such things out in a light color onto 11×14″ layout bond paper. It’s thin, and it takes my inkjet ink nicely. The art needs to be blown up to the final size, which means it gets printed onto two pieces of layout bond and then taped together.

Unfortunately, there are no photos of this next step – using graphite paper I made by rubbing a woodless pencil on a piece of tracing paper, I put that graphite side down onto Arches watercolor block paper, then I tape down the printed layout bond paper on top of it. Then just using a pencil, I trace over my printed drawing to transfer it in graphite to the painting surface. It is printed in a light color so that it’s obvious as to what I have traced with the pencil. Once I pull all that away, there are extra graphite smudges all over the place, which normally I’d carefully erase, but not this time…

This time I decided to trace my pencil lines with ink, then I vigorously erased all the extraneous pencil marks. Why? Because the media this time was going to involve heavy use of gouache paint, which is an opaque watercolor, which means it’s going to cover the lines. If I left it as pencil lines, I wouldn’t be able to see through the paint to bring out the details. Ink lines will show through better, but ultimately will get covered in paint and colored pencils by the time this piece is finished.


It’s all about the little people.


The next step comes from experience in using the various media that will be employed on this painting. Watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil will all be coming into the mix, and I usually start with things furthest away moving to the foreground. So, next is the application of liquid frisket.



Liquid frisket is a white milky liquid that is really a liquid rubber. It smells bad, but you apply it to areas that you want to mask off from getting painted. In this case, deep oranges and yellows will be applied to the background, but since I’m working with water soluble paints, I don’t want those to bleed through later when painting the characters. So, liquid frisket is applied right over those elements.



You need to let the frisket dry, which can take awhile, sometimes up to an hour. Once it does, it dries slightly yellow, and will have a little rubbery tack to it. Don’t worry, once you paint all the exposed layers, the frisket will peel up leaving those areas untouched.


Kind of a dramatic angle. “RUN! Run from the giant liquid frisketed monster!!”

Tomorrow we begin to paint the background!

Illustration West 59 wants your submissions! The deadline is October 31st! CLICK HERE!

Making of a Monster – Part 1

Today begins my step-by-step tutorial about the making of my poster for The Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles’ Illustration West 59 call for entries poster. Illustration West 59 is SILA’s 59th annual art competition for professional illustrators and students, for which I am serving as Show Chair. The deadline to enter is only a few short weeks away on October 31. (CLICK HERE for entry details.)

As Show Chair, along with choosing my jury and other various administrative tasks, I was asked to create the poster image this year. While the contest is open to entrants from around the globe, SILA is based in Los Angeles, the hub for movie making. With my penchant for drawing monsters, what better way to promote an LA contest than with a monster movie poster!


Painting a happy little monster Bob Ross style!


I love old vintage movie posters, and immediately my mind went to the monster movie posters of the 1950s. In looking on the internet at what had come before, it became evident that the ones I most gravitated to were images of huge monsters with people running in abject terror, usually with a couple in the foreground really showing the emotional distress of such citywide intrusions into their lives.



In picking out my favorites, it dawned on me that most of these great posters were illustrated by the legendary Reynold Brown. Not surprising, I later learned that Reynold had been a professor at Pasadena’s Art Center college where he had been an instructor of one of my judges, famed movie poster artist Drew Struzan! Ah yes, I had chosen to be inspired by the best.

So, to begin with, I sketched a number of thumbnail sketches (little super sketchy drawings just to get some ideas down in a visual way), soon settling on a furry, alien-like octopus breaking through the Los Angeles skyline. Unfortunately, I don’t have my rough rejected ideas to show you, but I CAN show you the drawing I settled on.



After showing it around, I had gotten some feedback that maybe it should be modernized a little to steer away from it looking too fifties. The only trouble is, there are a LOT of people currently in LA who dress in vintage clothes from the ’40s and ’50s as it is, so I was reluctant. As a way to modernize, I did this sketch changing the man’s clothes, and putting tattoos on the figures. Ultimately, I didn’t care for this approach, preferring to keep it more vintage.



By the way, I do my planning sketches in Photoshop on the computer. Working on a Cintiq monitor for drawing, I draw in layers which allows for easy changes to the composition while working through it. This is how I start all my traditional paintings – working it out on the computer first.

The next step is to paint a color comprehensive sketch on the computer. This is a great place to work out issues of color, make changes as necessary, and make sure it is all working before going to the trouble of breaking out actual paint and paper. I will print this out, and keep it on my drafting table as a guide while I work on the final traditional art.



So, come back tomorrow as I show you the first steps of creating this illustration on actual bonafide PAPER! Shocking, isn’t it? Ha!

Pink Pooh

This past weekend I attended the birthday party of a friend. A few weeks before, she had told me a story of how a few years back she was on a quest to get a pink Eeyore doll that The Disney Store had produced. She had told several friends about it, and then within a day, she was given multiple copies of the pink plush. D’oh!

As her birthday approached, this story had stuck in my head, so I went ahead and made Lauren a picture of more of the gang in this off-model color. Well, all were off except, of course, little Piglet who felt right at home in the color.


Someone must have washed them together with a red shirt.


While the above piece is a traditional watercolor and colored pencil painting, just for kicks for those of you who enjoy seeing more of the process, I’m including the original rough sketch that I did in Photoshop. I cleaned things up when I traced this rough onto the final watercolor paper.


Pink Pooh. Sounds like a medical problem, doesn’t it?