s.d. smith sent me another chapter of the fledge chronicles to provide an illustration. this chapter is called the soft, gooey insides of affection. when i saw that title and read the text i knew that i was in for a stretch. sure, s.d.'s work lends itself to some obvious graphic work (that's a good thing from the cartoonist's perspective!) but this story is different. just the title alone ups the ante but the tone is this chapter is tense.
fledge's protagonist is ben gray. he is in love. the girl he is over the moon for is sarah watson. miss watson knows what's up with ben but isn't really rushing into anything, she's smarter than that. ben isn't being strung along but certainly is more emotionally invested in this relationship than the lady. because of this situation, s.d. smith is able to write truly hilarious, odd-ball tales concerning this relationship that seems destined for the annals of romantic history but must first scale, inch by inch, the rocky cliff that is love. while the payoff is huge, the build-up is tense.
so my illustration must convey that tension. my artwork needs to show ben's obvious love for sarah and sarah's desire to simply enjoy the moment while keeping her head on straight. going in i knew i would struggle with this one.
about this drawing: i decided that i would illustrate the title of this chapter, the soft, gooey insides of affection in a sort of esoteric way. when you glance at the picture you see a smashed pumpkin. but i want to your eyes to linger and get an idea of where this relationship is between these two. sarah watson is looking gleefully at a shattered pumpkin while ben gray's expression comes from knowing that he made sarah happy. the two are enjoying the same experience but are experiencing it from two very different places.
i began with the smashed pumpkin. that was the easy part. i found a photo of a smashed pumpkin (google images is a treasure trove!) and sketched it out with a non-reproducible blue pencil then inked it with micron art pens of varying thickness. my wife and s.d. himself gave me some great perspective on making the pumpkin look best. then i scanned it in and started work on the faces.
the faces took hours to complete. i have page after page of floating heads from where i was just trying to get it right. i took what i thought were the best two heads and scanned them in to place them with the pumpkin. after working with the drawings in photoshop i went back to my sketchbook to make more faces. i settled on another pair and scanned those in and proceeded to spent several hours tweaking those faces in photoshop. i repositioned eyebrows, i tilted smiles, i reconstructed jawlines...i even gave ben a nose job. eventually i was pleased with the outcome. looking back at my work progress is hysterical because the end product is nowhere near where i started. more importantly i did all the refining on photoshop with my wacom pad which is a huge step for me.
after i sent the final artwork to s.d. for approval i spent another hour or so free-handing the title in photoshop with my wacom pad. i've never drawn letters in photoshop. while they look pretty rough, now i know that i can do it.
in all i spent the better part of two days on this illustration, fourteen hours of draw time and more than a few good lessons learned.
this illustration is due to be published in west virginia south magazine in another several months.