This past summer was quite a busy time for me, filled by two amazing life changing events. First, I got married! On July 29, I tied the knot with my better half. After that, we went to Alaska for our honeymoon!
I've been on a lot of vacations, but none have been quite as awe inspiring as Alaska. Most of the land up there is completely untouched by man. It's so rugged and treacherous that very few dare to face it.
The mountains run right up to the water, so the towns are only about 3 blocks wide before the cliffs become too steep to build on. There are no roads between many towns and the people and animals who live there have to be prepared to endure months of freezing temperatures and perilous winters on their own.
We spent as much time as we could in nature including hiking, rafting, whale watching, driving Atv's along trails, and taking a train ride through the mountains. We went from one adventure to the next. And I even fit in some time for plein air painting in between.
Before we left for Alaska, my agents Chris and Christy Tugeau at www.catugeau.com, decided to do another bi-annual postcard mailing to send to publishers. They invited any of their artists who were interested to illustrate a postcard of their choosing. The theme of this mailing would be "Pets". It was up to us to interpret that theme any way we wished.
The weeks leading up to our trip, I debated over ideas for a while. I knew I wanted to some sort of large exotic pet and I went back and forth between several ideas like a pet tiger, or a horse, or something else more magical. I was having a very hard time deciding. It wasn't until a week before we left for Alaska that it hit me that I should take inspiration from my upcoming trip. That's when I finally decided that I should illustrate a wild Alaskan girl and her pet bear.
Before beginning my thumbnail sketches, I did a lot of research on the landscapes of Alaska and the bears who live there. I looked at photos, paintings and even movies. The Disney movie "Brother Bear" was a big inspiration. It may not have been the most memorable movie, but boy is it pretty.
I sketched out a lot of different ideas. I wanted to show an intimate scene between the girl and the bear, so you could really see the loving bond between them. I came up with the idea of the butterflies bringing the two together in a moment of wonder.
I wanted a close up scene of the two on the front of the postcard, so I decided I needed to show off the beauty of Alaska on the back. I wanted the viewer to really see where these two lived. Here are the final thumbnail sketches I ended up with.
Next, I gathered my references. This included hiring a model and creating an outfit for her to wear, buying bear figurines and studying bear photos, and compiling a series of different photos and paintings of Alaskan landscapes.
Using these references, I drew my digital value sketches. I like to create full value sketches for each painting I do. It's so important to work out the values of a pieces to create depth and focus in any painting.
After my sketches, I create rough digital color studies to work out the palette of my paintings. I digitally overlay colors right on top of my sketch. These are very rough, and merely a way for me to work out my plan before I pick up my paintbrush.
Then I transfer my sketches onto my boards and begin painting! Here's a rare chance to watch me paint both of these illustrations from start to finish:
Then I scanned the finish paintings, laid out the designs in Illustrator, and ordered my postcards from Vistaprint. I sent the postcards out to my agents and on they went to all the prospective clients! Then I just cross my fingers and wish my postcards luck as they hopefully make their way into the right hands.