Last fall, in order to strengthen the black and white section of my portfolio, I began creating some digital pen and ink illustrations based on scenes from a young adult novel I had recently finished reading. The book, "The Hounds of the Morrigan," by Pat O'Shea is a fantasy adventure novel rooted in Celtic mythology. It's quite a long novel (over 600 pages) and as far as I know, there has never been an edition with illustrations. The story is filled with vivid scenes and characters and as I read it, I was able to easily visualize certain passages that I felt would make good illustrations.
The illustration that I am featuring in this post is from a scene that comes fairly early in the story. After 10-year-old Pidge unwittingly releases the evil serpent Olc-Glas from the pages of a crumbling manuscript, he finds that he and his sister are soon being hunted by the Morrigan, the Goddess of Death and Destruction. In this scene, Pidge who is not yet entirely aware of the dangers he has unleashed, wakes in the night and discovers that something has entered his room. Here is the passage:
"It was a cold, hissing, tinkling sound and it came from the landing outside his bedroom door. He sat up, eyes wide open.
There was something coming in from under the door: a thin, snaky tendril of fog. It crept into his room, keeping low on the floor. It began touching things and creeping into things. It whispered to itself as it crept towards his chest of drawers and then it insinuated itself through all the cracks, until it had been in and out of every drawer. It withdrew then, and paused as though to think before turning towards his wardrobe, as if it had an intelligence and could make decisions for itself."
To the left you can see the penciled image showing through from its own layer underneath the inked layer. I created lots of layers for this image. The screenshot at left shows how many layers I was using. Since I was going to be doing lots of crosshatching, having separate layers for different areas of the image made it easier to build up the darks. It also helped in case I made a mistake and needed to erase an area. By having different layers I could erase sections without having to start over again on the areas beneath it. For example I had a separate layer for the recessed panels in the bedroom door. I did the crosshatching on the door frame first, then added a new layer for the panels. If my crosshatching went over the edges of the door frame, by having it on a different layer I could clean up the edges without ruining the surrounding areas in the panels.
I began working on this illustration last November. Then, with the holidays and my preparations for going to the SCBWI winter conference, I put it aside for awhile. It wasn't until two days ago that I finally decided to tackle it again. I wish there was a way that the computer could keep track of how many brushstrokes are made when creating a digital painting. If there is such a piece of software I'm not aware of it. Anyway, I would love to know how many strokes ended up in this piece. While working on it, it felt like millions.