Thursday, March 28, 2013

Creating a fantasy story book illustration

How do I come up with a fantasy scene that I can't draw from life?

First, I find a subject that does exist in our human realm and study it for accuracy.

Horses are my favorite subjects. Growing up on Curacao I learned to appreciate and respect the Colombian Paso Fino horse breed and their trainers.
These gaited Paso Fino horses are graceful and natural dancers and carry their tail proudly. The rider in my picture wears zamarros, chaps which give the rider an elegant appearance. 

This quick study drawing/sketch is created from my own reference pictures and from cherished memories. Horses were the first subjects I started drawing 35 years ago and they are still inspiring me. The more I draw a subject the easier it becomes to draw from memory. To create the right mood I listen to the kind of music that I remember from those Paso Fino horse competitions (Gloria Esefan album Abriendo Puertas). Listening to this kind of music while drawing brings me back to the images of the beautiful horses and I can almost hear their hooves dancing on the beat.
Second, from study to illustration. 

It all depends on what the story is about. This quick sketch could work for a book about Paso Finos. But in this case I needed to create a fantasy illustration. Asking myself questions such as, who are the characters, where are they and what are they doing help me to get an idea.  
Again, I use music (in this case more dreamy music like Enya, Era, classical music) to create the fairy tale atmosphere. But without drawing skills they remain just ideas and daydreams in my head. Only by daily observing and practicing drawing from life can I make my imagination come to life on paper.

For the fairy I used my own pictures of childhood and made my ears just a touch bigger and gave myself a pair of wings as well.  I always carry a sketch book with me and over the years I have not only tried to capture the wings of our own chickens but also the wings of swans and raptors in the wild and captivity. 
These observations from wildlife enabled me to create a horse with wings or Pegasus. Once I have designed the characters, the background naturally unfolded. 
No worries about copy right issues 

By working from my own studies and creating my own reference pictures I never have to worry about infringing someone's copy right. Nature provides enough references and my imagination does the rest!

In this self portrait below I illustrated my own happy memories of my beloved first Paso Fino friend and the beautiful beaches of Curacao.
Imagination, observations and memories can be powerful tools for creating illustrations.

What is your favorite tool? Feel free to add a link to your illustration work.

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