I use thumbnail sketches to work out design issues, figure out the best way to tell a story, and to experiment with angles.
A moment in time can be captured in a number of unique ways. And each way can evoke a different feeling—It can tell a different story. It's my job to figure out which images are going to tell the right story in the very best way.
These thumbnail drawings are typically no more than an inch to an inch and a quarter at their widest or tallest. But, as you can see, I try to be fairly informative and ad quite a bit of detail for such small images.
These thumbnails are also what get used in dummy books, so it's important to get it as close to right as I can. Not to mention, I'd rather not still be working out design issues by the time I'm actually applying paint.
Once I finish the thumbnail sketches, I then proceed to the final preliminary drawings. This is when I will collect and shoot any needed reference material.
If I stray at all from the original thumbnail concept it is usually very minimal and usually only because of a perspective issue or some other unforeseen element.
This is probably one of the most exciting points of completing an illustration. Details begin to emerge and the pieces start to take on a life of their own.
From this point, there is very little left to the imagination. All the bugs are worked out. My course is set. And I know in pretty complete detail what the final image will look like.
I'm ready to move on to paint.
Once I have the finished drawings, I transfer to watercolor paper and begin the final illustration.
Ink is laid down with a combination of crow quill pens and brushes. Watercolor is put down in layers after that.
By this point all the hard decisions have been made and I can focus on the painting. In contrast to the preliminary drawing and much of the inking, I try to be a bit more loose with the watercolor. I try to let the paint do what it wants to do instead of controlling every aspect.