Not long ago I was asked to draw the cover image for godVERBATIM, a theater production I'll be performing in this June. The deadline almost killed me but as long as I pulled through I thought I might as well explain my creative process.
Step 1. Layout
The first thing I had to do sit down with my graphic designer and fiance Jessica Rousseau to figure out just what kind of poster we wanted to make. Our cryptic scribbles indicate options for how to layout the important information. This step allowed us to brainstorm many different ideas quickly so we could choose the best one. I don't normally do this step—but it is important when your art will end up in a poster. We went with option 4.
Next I had to figure out exactly what I wanted to fill my composition with. I knew from the start I wanted a montage of symbols and characters that spoke to various forms of religion and spirituality but I also needed a larger figure in the foreground, someone people would notice. All my preliminary work is in ballpoint pen, my favourite medium for quick and dirty pre-production work.
The last sketch I ended up drawing was my thumbnail. This comparatively tiny image establishes the final design of the woman and her relationship to the overall composition. You can also see some of the cartoons starting to emerge.
4. Rough Draft
My rough draft was drawn to scale and focuses on capturing as much of the spirit of the final work as possible. As you can see, I pretty much just start off with scribbles. Most artists seem to prefer drawing shapes first and adding the details later. I prefer doodling because I like to work out the distinguishing features of my characters before I making them feel concrete.
5. Line Art
From here on I'm working with my final image. I like to work in layers, pencilling everything in, inking over it, and then tracing my work and starting again. You can see how much of the final line art is actually traced from the roughs, but also reorganized, adapted and expanded upon. From here on I'm using technical pens to do my inking.
I decided to color my work in with pencil crayons because they allow for fine detail and subtle gradients, both of which were qualities I wanted my final artwork to have. An important characteristic of pencil crayons is that they tend to fade out the line art underneath which means you have to re-ink your drawing afterwards.
The benefit of re-inking your line art after using pencil crayons is that you can selectively re-ink certain lines (usually outlines) to make your figures stand out better against each other. By using a few different widths of pen the figures look even more crisp.
At this step various Photoshop filters were applied to clean the image up and make it more colorful and attractive. I left this step to Jessica in case she wanted to do anything special to optimize it for her purposes—and because I was dead tired and needed to crash. When I woke up everything was finished!
9. Final Product
Finally, Jessica went about turning my illustration into an actual poster. I'm not exactly sure how she does it, but I think it involves magic. Here you can see the final product.