Every picture tells a story - bigger pieces
(And how to make yours do so)
Step One: The main focal point
We begin with the focal point - that is to say, the main point of the viewer's attention. My picture depicts a small boy and his young trow friend (indeed, my trow do bear a striking resemblance to orangutangs. Good spotting!) out frolicking on a raft. For these I used photographic references, sourced from my favourite online photographic archive - Flickr (http://www.flickr.com). ALWAYS use photographic (or real) references in your work. It is surprising how much mental visualising can miss out on. Try to never use other people's art except when absolutely necessary - not only is this plagiarising, but you also run the risk of copying their mistakes and adding in your own.
We have the main focal point - now to add in the details turning this from a simple picture into an illustration.
Step Two: The corners
There are several things to remember when drawing into the corners of a picture. One is balance, another is cluttering. You do not want too much activity in every corner because that will make the picture cluttered and chaotic.
I shall start with the bottom right hand corner. I have chosen this point for several reasons - one being that it is big and empty and two being that is where the little trow (his name is Jasper, by the way) is looking. So what is he looking at?
Why, it's a goosander and she has babies! Now, we have a picture in the bottom right, we have to balance it out. The top left and bottom left corners are both currently "dead space", so what shall we put in them?
We could put more ducks in the bottom left, maybe a whole family of them. This is how that would look:
Not bad - but it's starting to get a bit cluttered. This will distract us somewhat from our main focal point (the boy and the trow). Maybe I should try something less animated instead. I'll plant some pretty waterlillies.
Now we shall turn out attention to the top left. What would be good up here? Because it is diagonally opposite the goosander, I would like to balance her with another bird.
Take a look at these two pictures, which one do you think looks more captivating?
I am hoping you would say "the one on the left". Why might that be? Well, there are two reasons:
~ the branch forms an artifical corner - framing the picture.
~ the kingfisher is gazing down at our main focal point, thus focusing our attention towards it.
The bee-eater is flying off the page, which is detrimental because not only does it mean that we've scared the poor thing away, but also that it will take the viewer's gaze with it off into the void. For an easy comparison, let us look at it again, but this time comparing it with one flying in the opposite direction:
It really does make a difference, doesn't it?
Now the corners are done. There is no need to add anything to the top right because the fishing pole balances the flowers. Whilst we could add in some leaves or flowers or even a butterfly, it is not necessary and would add to the clutter. For similar reasons I have purposely left the right and left hand sides open. Our wee lads are rafting on a river and I want it to be able to flow uninterrupted from left to right.
Step Three: The Background
Before we commence work on the background, we must ask ourselves - how responsible are Hamish's parents? Are they the sort of parents that would allow their young son to frolic in a raging, wide river, or is he merely dabbling in a knee-height creek?
Given his parents are indeed responsible, and love him very much, he's playing in a little creek. And didna fret, for trows are very good swimmers, and if any misfortune did befall him, Jasper would save him.
To illustrate my background I returned to my good old friend, flickr, and did a search for "rainforest" and "creek". Selecting the most relevant pictures, I chose elements of each and replicated them approximately into the background.
The first is a rather pleasant rainforest grove, with dark reflections cast upon the almost still waters. I bet that eels live in there! Och well, it gives Hamish something to catch.
To add a little excitement and variation into the right hand corner, I decided to incorporate a small waterfall. Nothing too dramatic. The bushy fern in the top right acts as a partial border.
Now we just have to add in the reflections and voila, we're done!
Or are we?
Step Four: Finishing Touches
What we have now is a fairly nice picture of a boy and his trow-friend fishing. It does not, however, tell you much about their personalities and it does not tell a complete story. This is a trickier stage, because for this final polishing, you need to know your characters. Or at the very least, be able to think a little like them. Luckily for me, Hamish and Jasper are both characters that whilst they have not occurred in any of my stories (they're too young) I have been conceptualising them for some time, so I know them both quite well.
Hamish is a thoughtful, bookish type. He's kind to animals and old ladies. I know what you're thinking - so why is he fishing then? But really, there's no bait on the hook - or no hook under the bait, and if he were to catch anything he would likely throw it back. After keeping it in a bucket or small pool long enough for Jasper to draw it.
Yes, that's right, Jasper might be a trow, but he's no fierce little monster! He likes to draw and hopes to be a cryptozoologist. Unfortunately, they don't accept faerie folk into university. Not yet at any rate. But we're digressing now.
Few sensible young lads would go out for an expedition on the river without being properly prepared. So let's add a few little props into the picture. See if you can find them:
And stay tuned for our next exciting tutorial when I will show you how to add colour!