Monthly Archives: July 2011

Norm’s Promo Process – June Mailer

When we first started our gang of 4 we set the goal of sending out a promo mailer every quarter. We decided that our first was going to be mythological creatures. I can’t remember how I settled on my creature, mermaids, but I’m sure one of my friends here at OUAS can help me remember. I wish I had known that we would be doing these write-ups about our process from the start, because I would have saved more of the images it took to make this illustration. Here is my step by step process sans a few sketches.

1. Format – In this case the format was established by the group early on, so that part was easy. I always do my work larger than the final size just in case. My final size ended up being one quarter larger then needed.

2. Character design – When I first started sketching my mermaid, everything was looking very disneyesque. You know, long flowing hair that’s fun to draw under water, sea shells placed just right as to keep the parents happy, stuff like that. All that is good, but it wasn’t what I wanted this piece to look like. To get away from this I made her features longer and skinnier (bonier) in attempt to get away from the perceived perfect female shape. I enlarged her eyes, fin shaped ears, added webbed fingers and more fins and braided her hair. Man its hard to get away from something that disney has all ready established.

3. Sketches – After 3 or 4 pages of quick thumbnail sketches (boy, I wish I had saved those) I settled on having a fishing boat on the surface of the water and the mermaid and her fish friends just looking at the fisherman’s hook. Of course the mermaid needed to be in a playful pose, is she going to take the bate or won’t she.

4. Flats and background – The next thing I did was go out to the internet to find some reference images to help me set the tone and make sure that I got the under water feel right. Using the reference images I laid down flat color and played with the Hue/Saturation in Photoshop making sure that I was happy with the background color before I start because to me this will set the feel of the whole piece.

5. Texture and lighting – Next, I stared playing with the light sources and defining my shadows and forms, which is hard with an under water piece. In this image the primary light source was coming from the top, but in an underwater illustration there would be a lot of reflective light.

6. Finishing touches –  Then I added the shining light from the surface of the water and highlights on the mermaid’s scales. Once I had the image the way I liked it I started playing with photo textures. It just gives the image a bit more, well texture. It’s just a quick way to give the image a little more life. One last time I messed with the Hue/Saturation layer and played with the colors. Then finally, I flatten the whole image while still keeping the layers intact. Then I took the flattened image layer and applied a blur to it. This is where I add an image mask and paint in the areas that I want to keep in focus. This keeps the viewers eye on the areas I want them to focus on.

Wow, that last part was a little technical even for me. Once I had the final illustration completed I passed it on to Edrian who put together all our images in the final layout. Thanks Edrian! If you have any question about my process leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Click the image below to see a larger image of the final illustration.

To see more of Norm’s work visit his website or his blog.

Massive Black Tutorial Video Sale!!!

$8 Downloads for tutorial videos!!!!


Good news! I stole this blogpost from  the Muddy Colors Blog.  Nice little gift to oneself as an artist!

Several  Fantasy Illustrators of note have created instructional DVDs with Massive Black (The company behind Typically, these DVDs retail for about $50. However, MB is having a huge sale, and the downloadable versons are currently just $8 until August! This is a really big savings, and great opportunity to stock up. I know I’m grabbing a bunch. More info HERE.

Some of the downloads available are:

Dan dos Santos

This download documents the painting of the cover for Brandon Sanderson’s book, Warbreaker. It begins with an interview with Irene Gallo, Art Director at Tor Books, and ends with photographing the final painting. Throughout each step, Chesley Award winner Dan Dos Santos talks at great length about everything from salary to color theory. Though the subject matter is a book cover, all the principles taught are easily translated towards almost any commercial illustration. With over five hours of content, this is a definitive guide for anyone who wants to improve their knowledge and understanding of painting as it relates to working for clients.

5 hours, 720×480, Quicktime Format.

Donato Giancola

Join 18-time Chesley Award winner Donato Giancola in his Brooklyn studio for three days as he creates his latest space masterpiece, The Mechanic.

Donato begins the download by taking photographic reference, used to add a high degree of realism and detail to his thumbnail sketch. Work on the the actual oil painting gives him opportunity to cover everything from the delicate subtleties of portraiture to eye-popping metallic surfaces. Throughout the video Donato generously passes on his years of experience and ends by inviting the viewer to surpass his own accomplishments. The Art Department and ConceptArt.Org welcome the viewer to rise to the occasion!

5 hours, 1280×720, Quicktime Format,
Greg Manchess

Join us for two rainy days spent in the studio with Greg Manchess as he masterfully combines photo reference with his imagination to craft a beautiful storybook world. Greg covers traditional oil painting techniques as well how to be a professional in the field of illustration. Some of his personal philosophy on the creative path is covered as well, all set to an original score by cutting edge dub step producer DJunya. This painting captures Greg at the very prime of both his career and his painting abilities and we feel fortunate to be able to share it with you.
60 minutes, 2 Parts, 720×480, Quicktime Format.

Edrian Promo Process June Mailer.

As a group we decided on the theme of mythical creatures and I wanted to focus on a Unicorn. The design of the postcards was pre-selected and we all had to work within a specific format.
Below are a few images that highlight my process.

I start with a sketch (not shown), which I then clean up, and use as my final art line once I scan it (first image). I then add color, shadows, and all other details (image 2). I wanted to use a soft palette that would complement the light colors of the Unicorn, but wanted to balance it out with some splash of color shown on the flowers and fairy dresses. I also wanted to give the right shading to the Unicorn to balance the dark eye, but without taking away from the movement of the piece. This last part was a bit more challenging and I used the “call a friend” card. I asked my peers and they were able to help me get the right balance.
Tip: Another tool that I use constantly as I’m working is the saturation tool, and I usually have it as a separate layer. It allows me to see that I have a good tonal value throughout the composition (image 3).

Wilson Promo Process-June Mailer

We sent out our first group promo mailer at the beginning of June. We thought it would be a good idea to post some process images of our individual Illustrations. I posted mine on my blog a while ago, but here it is again! Enjoy!

Step 1: The assignment was given for my friends and I to depict mythological creatures of some kind. I selected the Bigfoot! The format was preselected so that all of our artwork would fit. The dimensions suited a large and looming creature. So I sketched up my idea and scanned it in to show to the group.

Step 2: After crit from the group I decided that the young man was too young and decided to up his age a bit. As well as change his style and character. I also needed to alter the dimensions of the image to compensate for the bleed of the promo. These revisions were done in Photoshop.

Step 3: At this stage I added some base tones to the image. Something to help define where and how everything would sit in space. This let me better define the heirarchy of the image.

Step 4: I start to lay in some flat tones to determine the base color of various items in the composition. I alter and play with these items colors using the Hue/Saturation tool in Photoshop. I decide to let the boys clothes be all primary and warm colors to help draw attention to him. And let the cool blue push the Sasquatch and trees into the background. The moon will serve as the bright beginning and the fire as the bright ending that pulls your eye from the top of the composition to the bottom.

Step 5: I begin laying in more distinct shadings and color. Defining my light sources and defining my shadows and forms. I then present this to my friends and crit group for input.

Step 6: One smart person notes how GREEN the image is. I note that I have concerns about how muddy the image may print due to this. They recommend toning down the green to some degree. Which I do using Curves in Photoshop. They also note a variety of other things; the proximity of the fire to the young mans shoes. The tangent created by the moon against the sasquatch’s head. The warm tones showing in the upper area of the monster when they should probably be focused where the light source is.

Done: I address the issues mentioned and come up with this as the final product. The input of my peers and friends have helped elevate the piece to another level. Hopefully I can do the same on my next image! Maybe even better! Thanks so much to all my friends and peers for your input!


Our next mailer will be going out around October and we’ve decided to go with a costume theme! We’ll post process pics of those too in due time!

To see more of Wilson’s work go to:
My website

My Blog