Thursday, April 12, 2012


I've been very fortunate to work with wonderful clients in the past year. It's exciting to see more and more requests come in for custom designs. Of all the types of illustration I've created however, the most exciting have been those for private portraits.

Interestingly, I don't often get requests for true-to-life renditions of the subjects. I find clients want to be interpreted and recreated in the style of my work. They want to envision themselves in a tropical dream being bathed by sunlight, as a beautiful wahine in a forgotten place and time. I'm always happy because I know before the art is created, it is already loved. 

Such is the case with this illustration for my latest client who dances hula and is a quite beautiful Japanese woman. I was asked to create an image in her likeness. Because she needs a digital file and not a finished canvas, I went for a fully digital illustration.  Here I wanted to share a bit of the process...

1. Ok, so not every step is digital. I do begin every illustration with a good old sketch. I don't go into much detail...I mostly just indicate where elements will sit and get a feel for the layout. This is submitted to the client for approval. 

2. After initial sketch is approved I begin the line drawing process. I like to think of this as digital inking, where I clean up my lines and create a framework for the image, working in Illustrator. 
3. My client did not want an exact rendition of herself but did want me to take cues her photographs. She was so lovely I couldn't help but be inspired by her facial features. 

 4. I carefully build the composition and base color. I sometimes will do this in gouache to pick up the texture of the paper. For this one, I did all my base in vector format.

5. Here I'm beginning to texturize the skirt and skin to give it a depth and tone. I work on the main subject first before moving on to the background/scenery.
6. Painting the ocean can be tricky. I challenge myself with each piece to come up with new ways to render water. Unlike the mountain (which is static) the ocean has a energy of it's own. The important thing to remember is to give the sea life and movement.

7. Ok, so you'll notice my girl's features changed since the original sketch. The first girl had smaller eyes and a poutier lip. I made some edits to suit the client's request. I put the finishing touches to the face, being careful to keep the shading soft and subtle. Overall, turned out great.
So this is my basic design process. I'll post the final version in the next few days when I complete the project. 'Till then, a hui hou! 

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic to see how you do this! My daughter (5yrs old) has been BEGGING me for months and months to make one of your prints into a quilted wall hanging for her "Hawaiian Girl Bedroom". I've toyed a bit to see if I can't get your style but nothing will quite be as lovely as your original. I would love to chat with you about trying to put something together in a quilted wall hanging if you ever have a moment... I know you're busy, busy!