An Alligator is Born: My Process

I'd like to start sharing a bit more about my process, especially since I had so much fun creating a tutorial for the Lilla Rogers Studio Course.  I thought I'd walk you through how I go from rough sketch to a final character design.  This is pretty down and dirty.  I did it all in one morning.  Often I'll spend longer working on a character to get them just right, but sometimes, the creative juices just flow!  Today was one of those days!

 Very Rough Sketch

Very Rough Sketch

This was my initial idea.  It may surprise you to know that many illustrators start out with this rather ugly chicken scratch.  We're just trying to get our ideas down on paper fast so we don't forget anything later!  I feel kind of strange even sharing this, because I see so many things wrong with it!  I drew this about a month ago and haven't had time to revisit it until now.

 A window to my messy brain.

A window to my messy brain.

Next up, character studies.  I usually start with real life photo references courtesy of Google just get an idea of what an animal looks like.  I start off in a more realistic style.  Then I simplify and stylize from there.  It always helps to have a working knowledge of anatomy especially when drawing animals and people.

 Messy!

Messy!

I scanned this guy in from my sketchbook.  There are some things wrong with it.  I want him to be getting ready to eat this whole cake in one big bite.  But his tiny arms aren't capable of raising the cake that high.  So his head, mouth and neck are going to need some editing in Photoshop.  But it's a good start!

 Starting to come together.

Starting to come together.

Here's the redraw in Photoshop.  Now I'm ready to add color.

 Looking Colorful!

Looking Colorful!

I "paint" in Photoshop with some wonderful watercolor brushes I downloaded from Kyle T. Webster.  I also paint on multiple layers so I can fiddle with colors and design later.  I ramped up some of the saturation in the greens on his body after I painted him.

 Happy Birthday to me!!!

Happy Birthday to me!!!

Here's the final character study.  The story behind this guy has to do with a massive sweet tooth!  He might eat a few too many sweets, or too many little kids' birthday cakes.  Haven't figured out the story arc yet, but it always helps me to develop a character first and then build a story around that character.  After all, that's how the good real life stories happen.  They grow out of our personalities and how we interact with the world and other people!  Hope you enjoyed this little look into my process!