Each year I make a holiday card to mail out to my friends and family. These were the cards for 2006, 2005, and 2004. I usually try to stick with a winter theme instead of focusing on a specific holiday. For a while I've been wanting to do an illustration with a polar bear, so I figured this year's card would be a great chance. Some might think I had The Golden Compass in mind when I decided on using a polar bear, but I was inspired by the fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Kay Nielsen's artwork for this story was especially inspiring, with this particular image planting the definite sparks of an idea in my head.
I thought it would be nice to share a bit of information on how I sometimes go about completing an image, so I'm planning to do that with this illustration.
The first thing I did, after looking up various images of polar bears online for reference, was to sketch out my idea in Photoshop with my tablet. I've gotten into the habit of doing my rough planning for pictures in Photoshop because I can make edits very quickly and easily. It's especially helpful to have the options of flipping images, changing the size, or moving certain parts around.
This got the primary idea out of my head and down in front of me where I could look at it. However, the woman on the polar bear wasn't quite right. After showing it to my boyfriend, he suggested that I take some reference photos to use. It was excellent advice, so I set up my camera on a timer and took some reference photos. Below are the two main references that I wound up using for this picture.
Armed with references photos, I went back and edited my Photoshop sketch.
Now that I had my design planned out to a point I was happy with, I went about transferring it to paper. I used brown colored pencil and a tiny bit of pen and ink (for some fine details on her face and hair ornaments) to draw the picture on to a 24" x 18" sheet of watercolor paper. Then, using watered down black ink, I painted ink washes over my pencil lines to lay down base values. These will make the digital coloring process easier for me and it also helps lend a traditional painting touch to the completed image.