Twitter user @sfried0, from Florida, gave me my first commission since 2009. I offered him the same rate of $2/hour that I charged back in the day. His request was to draw his original character, the Aria-esque heroine Mayumi, in an art gallery demonstrating her Relm/Harold-like ability to bring her pictures to life. I committed 25 hours to not only draw the picture, but to describe my process.
The first thing I did was to study Mayumi’s character design and try to draw her myself.
I made a rough set of sketches. I wanted to decide on proportions and get a pose that didn’t look off-balance. Often, I will draw a character that looks fine to me, then I look at the character in the mirror and it seems like she’s about to tip over. So notice the flipping from left to right, the height and hand position changing, and the breast size being reduced from “small” to “smaller”.
It might seem like a waste of time, particularly with a strict hour allotment, to draw something that isn’t going to make it into the final piece. But in my experience, it hasn’t been a waste of time. While drawing the character I thought of my concept: creatures would be climbing out of the paper like in Hypergenesis.
Getting started on the actual composition. I thought of having everything converging to the center, where Aria Girl would be tossing sketchbook pages onto the floor.
While it is possible to draw in a sketchbook while standing, I’ve always preferred to do it sitting down. I decided to have a fancy chair.
This Google Image Search result for “antique chair” was chosen because it had picture embroidered onto it. It became the central point of the composition, and when it came time to color, I chose colors based on the colors of the chair.
Would it have been better to have her looking straight ahead instead of leaning to the side? I don’t know, but I changed it so she wouldn’t look so stiff.
I try to always sketch out the entire rough composition before going into details. In practice, I always end up changing part of the composition once I’ve started the details.
This time, I realized that it’s rare to see chairs in the middle of the hallway in an art gallery, and I changed the pose so it looked more like her elbow was supporting her weight. I added lines to the floor to make up for the loss of the convergent lines in the hallway.
I decided on a spiral arrangement of the sketchbook pages.
For all the animals coming out of the pages, I searched for a whole bunch of references. I don’t know how to draw cats off the top of my head. I have to look it up.
For coloring, I sampled the colors directly from the chair reference image using the Photoshop eyedropper. I got the colors for the character from the official art. Note that at this time, there is a disconnect between the chair and the character because of the different lighting.
I use only one brush for the entire drawing: a hard-edge circle brush. I change the radius of the circle, and turn the pressure sensitivity on or off, depending on the task. The hard edge causes my color gradients to look like stripes of gradually changing color. The hard-edge circle brush I use with 100% opacity most of the time, but to perform color blending, I set the brush opacity to either 30% or 50% (and only those values).
I’ve tried to draw with airbrush gradients before, which eliminates the stripey look, but I don’t like it as much. My taste tends toward straight lines and polygons.
After coloring in the character, I blend in the color of the chair so that the character appears to be in the same lighting as the chair. Note the tint of yellow and green added to the girl’s outfit, and the changing of the skin color from pink-white to yellow-white.
The two paintings in the background are copied from the art of the Magic cards Genesis Wave and Genesis Hydra, the two cousins of Hypergenesis. The actual wave and hydra were edited out of the pictures, reducing them to landscape paintings.
Even though I try to be done with the line art at the time of coloring, I sometimes go back and make adjustments, such as adding the fringe to all the pages to indicate where the spirals of the sketchbook went through.
To color all the animals, I sample colors from all the references, but alter them to match the lighting. The dog’s head on the left is lighter than on the Wild Mongrel card, and the cat’s fur has the pale yellow color of the wall added to it.
I added an extra “override” layer over the top of everything to make final adjustments, such as the highlights in the eyes and the whiskers of the cat. Add details to the floor and we’re done. If you have Photoshop, you can see how the image is organized into layers.
If you ever wondered what my drawing process was like, I hope this enlightens you. (It’s nothing special, really.) If you’re wondering why someone would cast Hypergenesis to summon a bunch of small and mostly harmless creatures, I don’t have an answer for you.