Continued from Part 1 – Concept
Hello! I’m Enoki, the creator of Mini Meditations on Friendship. This is my first ever illustrated book, and to create it has been a wonderful experience and life-long dream come true! But it takes a lot of work – that’s why I’m sharing my process with you! (Read Part 3 here!)
Part 2: Painting
As mentioned in Part 1, my approach to illustrating Mini Meditations on Friendship is broken down into three aesthetics and their muse: The Girl who loves Pink, The Girl who loves Nature and The Cardinal Girl with Attitude.
At this point in the project, I was about to start the illustrations which will make up the final forty-eight. With mood boards ready, I choose to begin by focusing on first painting all the illustrations based on the Nature aesthetic, followed by Pink, and then Cardinal.
In hindsight, I should have probably addressed Nature (the persona I am least familiar with) last, because although she has a strong mood board to follow, I feel in my infancy with her as a muse, that this probably needed a little more time to develop.
To begin with, I struggled to get the colour palette just right. Here is an example of an early first-attempt with the snail-ghosts. I wasn’t happy with how I painted the face of the central character, so I started again.
Here is my second-attempt with the snail-ghosts illustration. I can’t recall why I wasn’t happy with how this was going, but it made me consider starting over for a third-attempt – before editor Mike Medaglia stopped me! At first sight he loved it – and that was a sure sign to finish the painting. I’m so glad, as once I did it turned out to be one of my favourites of the series.
The first few paintings were tricky to produce, as I kept focusing on them individually. Judging the quality of the whole series like this, I put a lot of pressure on myself, but in order to keep on top of the deadline I knew I had to meet my personal goals all along the way and press on. Throughout the process, I worked closely with editor Mike, sharing with him my progress piece by piece. Having someone to converse with and be like a human check-point really helps to force a more reasonable perspective on things.
For instance, my first illustration for the project took two days, my second illustration three. Once I had completed the fourth, I found myself thanking my inner perfectionist for its criticism and moving on. My production rate thus became on average of one and a half or two illustrations a day.
Once I got into the rhythm, working habits began to form.
Using my maquette as reference, I turn my sketch into a drawing to clarify it using tracing paper. Either I’d trace over the original image if I liked it that much, or change things up a little, or draw the whole thing from scratch completely if I didn’t feel it was working.
I’d then transfer the drawing onto a fresh sheet of watercolour paper. I used hot press as it is perfectly smooth, so great for scanning without picking up texture.
To prepare the surface ready to accept the watercolour, I’d mask off any areas I don’t need using low-tack masking tape, or washi tape if I was feeling fancy! For some reason, in the example with the cat-walker above, I’ve used both!
I stretch the paper by brushing over the entire surface with pure water, then let this dry. Drying happens naturally if I have some other things to do in the meantime, or if I’m not feeling so patient will blast it with a hairdryer. Either way doesn’t seem to make a difference.
There’s still one more thing I do before I paint.. sometimes, but not always the case. I pretty much just stare at the artwork as it is, as a drawing. For a few minutes I visualise what I’d like the final outcome to be. Sometimes, the visual is very clear, sometimes this takes a bit of detective work.
Once I was satisfied enough with the fathomed image, I’d make a mental note of the primary elements of this, such as where the strongest contrast may be, or if there is one particular colour that stands out. I’d lightly commit these to memory, and begin to paint.
I’d start by working around one of the strongest visualised elements first, then the next, stopping now and then to check it against the phantom blueprint, and adjusting the blueprint along the way if something’s not quite matching up to the feel.
In this case with the 1920s-inspired girl, I removed the whale sitting on her lap. This simplified and balanced the image by helping to draw attention to the girl as the main focus of the illustration.
I continue to paint in parts until the whole illustration feels complete, working back in any pencil details which have lost their grain if need be.
All paintings are then scanned, and any dust marks removed in Photoshop. In the example above, you can clearly see the difference between a casual shot taken with my camera phone and a cleaned up scan.
See you in part 3! Where I will be taking the scanned artwork to final production.