Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Wind in the Willows: Butler's Pantry Color Illustration Process

IDW will be releasing my illustrated edition of the Kenneth Grahame classic Wind in the Willows soon. The book will be Grahame's original text, with over 70 illustrations by me.

For this week's blogpost, I'm going to share the process of one of the b&w illustrations from Chapter 9: Wayfarers All:

"The Badger drew himself up, took a firm of his stick with both paws, glanced round his comrades, and cried- 'The hour is come! Follow me!' "

It was very hard to narrow down all the moments in the book to choose to illustrate. Having only 20 color pieces, I had to narrow down eight chapters to have 2, while four of the chapters would have only 1. Here the four main characters have used a secret tunnel to get inside Toad Hall and wage a battle against the weasels who have taken it over and prevented Toad to return to his home. Here are my pencil drawings of the characters as well as the butler's pantry on copy paper. To help with the angle and geometry of the cabinets, I found a pre-made custom cabinet model in Google Sketch-up.

I then scanned those pencil sketches and in photoshop, composited them into a single layout that told the story. I tinted each character a different color...even though Id' drawn them as a group, I cut each one out and placed them on a separate layer so I could nudge them around, resize them, and make little compositional changes without affecting the group as a whole. This also helped when placing them in contact with elements in the background like Toad coming out of the trap-door and Badger's hand on the door ready to fling wide.

The digitally composited sketch was then printed out at-size (about 11" x 7") and then taped to the back of a sheet of 300 series Strathmore Bristol. On a light box I was able to see through the bristol's surface to the printout so I could ink on the bristol using the sketch as a guide. For pens, I used Copic Multiliners (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs). Here is an in-process photo I took with my phone and posted back when I was inking this piece.

This was one of the illustrations I'd been thinking of for the longest time when getting ready to do this project. E. H. Shepard did a great job with his color version of the scene, and I tried hard to keep the spirit of his while taking a different angle to the events and letting my inkwork and sensibilities get a chance to do the work.

I also wanted to reinforce the idea that while the weasels have been occupying Toad Hall, they haven't taken very good care of it...dishes everywhere, bottle leaving rings on countertops, napkins draped instead of folded, and nothing washed.

The coloring process was as I've detailed it out on my past color blogposts. The first step was to block out all the color areas (each character's skin, each character's clothes, the floor, the pantry cabinets, the dishes, etc.) and then render the image using Dodge & Burn tools with a textured brush (these allow me to highlight and shade while adding a pebbled texture). I added a few color holds to the inkwork for the items behind glass as well as the patterns on Badger & Rat's coats to make the piece feel more painted than a colored drawing.

Here you can see the completed image as it will appear in the book along with 19 other color illustrations and 50 B&W.

Wind in the Willows from IDW and is available to pre-order on Amazon.com:

For all my other Willows Process Posts:

2017 Appearances: 
C2E2: April 21-23
Heroes Con: Jun. 16-18
San Diego Comic Con: July 19-23
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 22-24

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