A sketch of the funeral procession from Señor Don Gato. I drew this in 2002, and it was the first time my illustrations looked painterly rather than cartoony. I consciously mimicked Diego Velasquez for this project. You’ll notice that in the sketch I amateurishly put interesting details in the gutter—the vertical strip in the center where the 2 pages meet—which had to be moved to one side in the painting.
Another Señor Don Gato post here.
Here are odds and ends from the reference file I amassed for this project. I liked the banner in the Goya painting and adapted it for this scene.
For the shipwreck scene, I wanted to mimic antique oil paintings of storms at sea. The first three images by masters of the genre represent the kind of nautical art to which I would be tipping my hat.
Following those are my own work. By now you know the drill: thumbnail sketch, tight sketch, color study, final illustration.
The thumbnail sketches are each about 2″ tall, the tight sketch is maybe 8″ tall, the color study is the size of a postcard, the final is about 20″ x 14″.
Four bored kids on a hot summer day—the opener from Peter Spit A Seed At Sue. Thumbnail and tight sketch.
This is the wraparound porch on my old house in Pittsburgh. And that’s my dog, India snoozing on the left.
Occasionally—very occasionally—I get an assignment to create an image for grownups. These two were for a business magazine; the article was about decision-making. One was to be of a couple of football players and an umpire flipping a coin, the other would be two lawyers playing rock-paper-scissors. The client provided a rough layout—
Here’s the sketch of the football players—
This was a black & white assignment, so I rendered it in India ink washes.
Here are the two lawyers, as a sketch—
And inked in—
Why is the sketch always more fun than the finish?
A bunch of cover ideas for Peter Spit A Seed At Sue.
These are all rough sketches, drawn about the size of a playing card. One idea was selected, and I drew a tight sketch—
Please add the watermelons!
Art director Jim Hoover creates a comp with sketch and type. Let’s get the other 2 kids in there.
I painted the cover with a watermelon pink background.
This color was thought to be too feminine, so through the magic of digital correction, the background color was changed. (I didn’t do it. I don’t know which buttons to push.)
There’s a little throwaway scene in Joe Bright and the Seven Genre Dudes where Joe is invited to a royal story-telling competition. For this image I needed to design the royal messenger and the king’s coach.
The story isn’t set in any particular time or place—it just calls for a fairytale look. That allows me a pretty wide latitude regarding costume and setting. The messenger I dressed in something 16th century—slashed sleeves and short cape—with a sash to make him look official. The coach is something I found in Peter Newark’s Crimson Book of Highwaymen—a book about desperadoes who robbed the wealthy travelers of merrie olde England.
Here’s the thumbnail—we’re looking at the left page.
The tight sketch—
Throughout this project I used color to give clues about each character. Everything having to do with the king got colored purple.
Here’s Stella, from Joe Bright and the Seven Genre Dudes.
Thumbnail sketch for pp 6/7. Stella the storyteller sees her rival, Joe Bright, in the back of her magic story-telling chair.
Tight sketch for page 6.
A close-up of my color map for the book. These are small color sketches of every spread, all next to each other. It’s easier to plan the palette, or color choices, for the entire project when I can see it all at once. The scenes with Joe Bright feature warm yellows; the ones with Stella are cold blues and purples. Stella tries to foil Joe with 3 different devices—these are acid green, so the reader can identify them easily.
Here’s the painting for page 6 in progress:
Here’s the model sheet I came up with for Henry. This was a few years ago. I was working along the lines of classic model sheets for say, a Disney character, with the proportion lines and head-height. Nowadays my model sheets are a lot looser, with many more poses scattered over the paper.
John Manders Illustration
Caricatures, Comic Strips
School Assembly Visits