I created this for an art competition with no limits on media or theme. That sounds like it could be awesome, right? But it's difficult to be completely creative without any guidelines or constraints, so I had to create my own. As you probably already know, I am always inspired by nature, so I knew I wanted to focus on that as my subject. I've also been focusing my art-making lately on watercolors and contour illustrations, so I knew I wanted to use both as my media of choice. It seemed like a natural reflection of what I've currently been practicing and developing style-wise.
However, first, to be sure I wasn't trekking down a path I would later regret, I did a media test:
Having that theme in mind, I got to work executing it.
I determined my canvas size and measured and taped off my working area. Then, I chose which items to include ensuring a balance of bones, feathers, cones, wood, and miscellaneous smaller finds. I decided to keep everything life-sized because 1) it is how I usually draw my contour illustrations and 2) I wanted to show the details of each nature find in relation to one another. Using an assortment of tracings I had previously made of natural items and additional found items, I arranged them on my work space:
The next step was to transfer all the images to the final paper. I started with larger items first and rearranged and adjusted the placement of the remaining pieces as I finished the pencil sketch:
Sketching the placement of all the items in pencil instead of pen allowed me to view the piece as a whole once the sketch was finished:
The next step was to go over all the pencil drawings in pen. Although I had complete pencil contours, I had kept them pretty light in order to keep them erasable. I used my tracings and the actual items for reference on detail and started the pen contour, which is my favorite part:
//Cleanup and Final Pen Contour//
After adding in details with the pen, I scrutinized every item on its own, as well as all the edges of my paper and carefully erased and cleaned up every smudge. It's difficult to erase pencil smudges once they have a layer of paint over them, so I made sure to do this step several times:
All that was left after finishing the illustration was to add the watercolor layer. I determined ahead of time the color of a few key anchor items and then filled in the rest with whichever remaining colors balanced the best. In order to keep this style feeling modern, I echoed the general shape of each item, like an off-set print. I hoped it would keep the final piece from looking too busy and would support the natural shape of the found items. I think the color added a lot to the piece, and I'm happy with the way it turned out. Then, after signing it, I put it in the prepared frame: