I always remind myself: "Trust the process."
Step 1: Research. I study the scientist's papers, look at photos of the fossils, and compare animals in our world that might serve as analogues.
Step 2: Thumbnails. I sketch these preliminaries with watercolor, gouache, colored pencil and fountain pen. I do these from imagination, pretending I'm watching the animals go through a series of actions. What is the moment to capture?
On some level I'm also aware of 2D design issues, but I'm really trying to project myself into the moment. I try to think of my sketch as a window rather than a piece of paper.
Sometimes the first sketch is the best. Sometimes a discovery happens later. You will never know until you try a lot of variations. I don't get too attached to any of them.
|Maquette made of paper over armature wire, |
bulked out with epoxy putty, and painted in acrylic.
Step 3. Once the art director and I agree on the best sketch, I try to recreate in physical form the conditions of the sketch, to see if it works out spatially and dimensionally.
This stage is where all the unexpected surprises arrive to add conviction to the idea—for example the dappled light on the tree and the cast shadow on the visible foot.
Step 4. Then it's on to the finish in oil. Check out the video below if you haven't seen it already.
Step 5. Make a Documentary Video. It's the age of social media, so there's more work to do. Creating a video is the final part of the job. Of course it's not officially commissioned. There's no budget for making a behind-the-scenes video. An outside crew could never get the personal angle that the artist himself or herself can get.
But I like to do this when I can because it helps the magazine reach more readers. We illustrators need to do everything we can to help our print partners win.
Previous post: How to Video Your Art
Book about the process: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist
Link to YouTube video for this painting
The painting appears in the March issue of Ranger Rick