Saturday, August 16, 2014

BOY ON A RED HORSE... a WORKBOOK promotional ad... sketch to completed illustration

Like most illustrators, I am having to regularly advertise my illustration style samples to art directors, design directors, art buyers and editors in all areas: advertising agencies, magazines, newspapers, publishing, etc... and I do so through a variety of promotional vehicles: portfolios on my illustration web site and blog of course, as well as a number of illustration industry web sites like,,, and others... and social media sites like, facebook, etc...

I also promote my illustration business through email promos via, snail mail postcards, and illustration directory ad books, such as WORKBOOK (which is sent out to about 15,000 art directors annually) This is the directory I have consistently advertised in since about 1992. I am required to create my directory ad pages for WORKBOOK about 6 months ahead of time to meet their production/printing schedule, so I just completed my latest directory ad image for the Spring 2015 WORKBOOK Illustration Directory book, which will be released in March 2015. (a companion WORKBOOK ad book will be released in fall 2015... and I will create that ad page art sometime near the end January 2015).

Sometimes I just use an existing illustration of mine as my WORKBOOK ad page, but most often I create a new illustration image specifically for the directory ad. I was doodling recently, and created an image of a boy on a horse... and liked it as there seemed something a bit mysterious about the two characters, so I decided, if developed further, it might be a good candidate as my next ad page. I thought as an ad for my illustration work, it possibly might catch the attention of some publishing AD's for book cover assignments...

I never really draw horses, but when I do, I enjoy it. And maybe doing so comes a bit easily for me because I know their shape quite well. My grandfather had a little farm, and he always had a handful of horses. He was born in 1907 (I think!) and as a young man had worked in the Adirondack mountains for a paper company, hauling giant cut logs out of the forests with his team of horses. And he also loved entering County Fairs in the Horse Pull contests, wherein weighed slabs of concrete were placed on sleds, then hooked up to teams of horses and the horses pulled the heavy weight to see who could pull it the furthest: 20 feet, 30 feet, 60 feet, etc... My grandfather raised Belgian Draft horses... which are a very big, strong breed....they weigh on average about 2,000 pounds! So they could really pull heavy weights! I remember as a kid helping in the barn and brushing and feeding the horses... and also riding on the slabs of cement on the sled when the horses pulled the sled around the track behind the barn! Anyway, I think those memories of horses helps me to understand how to depict their character and shape on paper.

The next step was to create a more refined sketch, and in the general dimensions of the WORKBOOK directory ad page size, which is 7.25" wide x 9.25" tall. This is the sketch you see below.  
In this sketch I embellished upon the initial doodle -by adding in another tiny horse far in the background, and purposely kept the landscape horizon line very low to emphasize the height of the young boy sitting atop the big horse. This sketch was created with a black ink brush-tip pen, blue marker, and pastel on a scrap of lined paper.

This is the final completed illustration, with the type treatment in place too (for the WORKBOOK ad page). You can see that I essentially kept the same basic composition for the final art image as indicated in the sketch... with only a change in the shaping of the cloud formations, and also decided to eliminate the little horse seen in the background and instead show a sailboat, and turned the rolling hills seen in the sketch into the sea. Whether it had stayed a little horse in the background, or is a small sailboat, it didn't really matter... essentially I just wanted to place something small in the background so as to show contrast in size, thus making the horse seem as big as possible within the composition, and to create a triangle of visual attention with the sailboat, the boy's face, and the horse's head.

To create the final image, I taped my sketch on my light table, placed my heavyweight paper on top of the sketch and in pencil lightly redrew the image of the horse and boy... making on the fly improvement adjustments to the image. Then I used a brush-tip ink pen to draw the final image, using the light penciling underneath as my guide. Then I scanned the ink drawing into Photoshop... and in a multitude of layers began to finalize the completed look of the illustration... The background blue texture you see is a texture I created with color pencils which I also scanned and brought in as another layer. The foreground "ground" texture was another texture I created with pastel on rough paper. The yellow and red colors seen in the horse and boy were done digitally, as were the clouds and sailboat and sea. 

It was a very simple image to create technically, the only really work was drawing the horse in a minimal manner, and allowing the quality of the gestural line be a feature of the overall image, in other words not rendering the horse and the boy characters, but rather drawing them directly. What you do not see posted here, are the handful of attempted final inkings of the horse and boy which were not executed well enough, and ended up in the waste basket. 

Note: The sketch seen at the top was drawn without using any reference at all, because I know a horse's general anatomy well enough to certainly create a rough sketch image from just my imagination, especially a sketch that is virtually in silhouette... However, to create the final illustration I did indeed use a few photos of horse's head and legs for reference.

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