Sunday, July 04, 2010

Illustration Friday - Giant

I could have gone in all sorts of directions with the current Illustration Friday challenge, which this week is 'Giant.' There are so many fairy tales and folk tales featuring giants that it would have been easy to pick a scene from "Jack and the Beanstalk,""Jack the Giant Killer,""David and Goliath," or even "Paul Bunyan," to do for this week's illustration.

But when I started to think about the word and how one's being a giant can be relative, I started to think about how an animal, like a dog, that is not that big to us (at least when compared to an elephant), would be a giant to a little mouse.  That made me think about my old dog Juniper who died a couple of years ago. When he was still alive, I was living with him in Washington state in the beautiful Skagit Valley. Across the road from my house was a series of dikes that protected us from the Skagit River, a river that constantly threatened to flood during the early winter and late spring. I use to walk Juniper (and our other two dogs) along the top of the dike, which was planted with grass that by early summer would get quite high. The high grass provided a home and shelter to all sorts of little creatures. Often, one of the dogs would catch the scent of a mouse or rabbit and dive into the long grass trying to track down a tasty morsel. They rarely caught anything, the grass provided too many hiding places and escape routes, but this week's challenge made me think about the mice that were probably cowering in fear waiting for this giant animal to go away.

I found an old photo of Juniper standing at the top of the dike that I used as a reference. Here is the sketch I made based on my old photo of him.  As you can see in the sketch, I had a lot more little mice hiding in the grass. The mice in the sketch were also a lot more cartoony. As I began painting the dog, he began to look more and more real, so when it came time to paint the mice, I decided to use a more realistic approach for them as well.

First I blocked in some color. If you look carefully, you can see the sketch showing through faintly from another layer.

After painting in the basic lights and darks, I started adding some deeper shadows. I eventually decided to lighten the grass and to darken the dog. I felt this would make him appear a bit more ominous and by lightening the bottom half of the image, it would draw more attention to the hiding mice.
Here I am adding some of the grass details at the dog's feet.

Here's a close up of one of the little mice, which is on its own layer. When I first began working on him, I turned off the darker grass layers that were beneath him, so that it would be easier to see what I was doing.

I spent more time working on the dog than on any other part of this illustration. The entire time I worked on him, I constantly checked this photograph for reference. Working on this project brought back so many memories of walking Juniper and my other dogs Lucy and Me-Me. I still miss all three of them, and those beautiful walks atop the Skagit River dikes.

13 comments:

  1. I really like the way you divided the composition in half---there is a nice balance between the dog and the mice in the grass.

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  2. Hi Vincent, really nice illustration, its so interesting to see the way you work. I love the screen shot of the little mouse face, sooooo cute!

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  3. this is wonderful, love seeing your process

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  4. Thanks for these informative posts. Got a kick out of your sock toys, too.

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  5. Fantastic Vincent! I'm so glad I became a follower... I wouldn't want to miss any of your wonderful work! Love the angle and... the mice. Nice!!

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  6. Superbe! And so great to see the process of creating your image! Thank you for sharing. The mice are so cool also.

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  7. Interesting to see the process. Even as I was reading it, I kept thinking "what mice?" because I read the darker areas in the grass as the eyes and nose of a giant dog of the grass....and the "real" dog is standing on his head....I see the mice now. I have a real hard time drawing my own dogs (they're black, not that that should make any difference), and I really like this one.

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  8. Hey Vincent! I see that point of view. Imagine living constantly in fear while having a giant snout constantly poking inside your front door. Hehehe, I like this! :))

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  9. Sweet illo and story. I like the soft grey muzzle of the old dog. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how size is relative.

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  10. this is such a sweet wonderful piece, I love how you did the fur.

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  11. It's so fun seeing your process. Thanks for sharing! This one might have been even more powerful if the dog had been peering down towards the mice, to make their fear even more imminent. But the rendering on the dog is so beautiful that it's an engaging illo regardless. Wonderful work!

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