Working in Watercolor
Watercolor has always felt like the ‘right’ medium for illustration to me. My mom is an accomplished watercolor painter, and she introduced me to the medium when I was still in gradeschool. Although I also love to paint in acrylics, I keep coming back to watercolors for illustration work.
I work on Arches bright white hot pressed paper using a variety of watercolor brands. Like most illustrators, when working on a book project I start with thumbnails, move to full sized sketches, and then jump to full color watercolor drafts. My sketches tend to be loose, and I usually scan them into the computer and make some adjustments to them in photoshop. I then transfer them to the watercolor paper using an Epson photo 1280 printer. Because the printer inks are water soluble, I print the sketch in a very light sepia or pale blue (depending on whether the final art will lean towards a warm or cool palette). To preserve the lines I want, I often draw into and over the printed sketch using a combination of graphite and color pencils. In this way I can keep much of the spontaneity of the first sketch, and preserve some of the drawn line that I like to see in the final art. When I break out the watercolors most of the printed sketch blends into the washes, but the lines of chosen to emphasize remain. I also sometimes scan my work back in and clean it up, make adjustments, or occasionally add digital embellishments in Photoshop. The final image is usually digital, although the bulk of image is made using traditional media.
The toughest thing about working in watercolor is making changes. I often start all over again if there is something I don’t like about one of my illustrations.