I’ve had the privilege of working on a handful of illustrations for Field & Stream magazine and each time, it’s been a true joy. This year I had the opportunity to reconnect with design director Russ Smith to tackle a really fun illustrated spread for a story written by T. Edward Nickens.
It’s been a while since I’ve done an editorial illustration breakdown so I figured this was the perfect piece to jump back into some of the techniques I use when bringing these kinds of scenes to life.
The first step after I’ve read the brief & the article is to figure out how to structure the illustration to best showcase the key elements of the scene. This typically starts with me thrashing around on the digital canvas for a while until I land on a few composition ideas to work from.
Illustrator Tip: One of the ways I overcome artist block when working on pieces like this is to start by sketching the most straight forward, generic, low hanging fruit option I can think of. Once I have that sketch worked out (which usually doesn’t take long), I think of it as my ‘safety option’: if the worst happens and I can’t come up with a single idea beyond this, I’ll at least have an option to show. The nice thing about this trick is it frees my mind from worrying about not having ‘something’ to send the client. From there, I start exploring more freely and after a while, I’ll end up with lots of different ideas. The funny thing is every once in a while, that ‘super simple quick’ idea ends up being the strongest.
Since I do all my sketching in Procreate, I’ve been enjoying tossing rough colors behind the sketches just so I have an idea where I’m headed for the final. Russ provided me a handful of photos of the environment the story took place in so finding the right color mix was fairly simple. I wanted to palletize the colors to bring that vintage look to the whole thing - and this is what I came up with:
With the rough color sketch approved, it was time to paint this beauty. I always love this part because I can throw on some music, and get lost in the details of the scene. I love being able to paint every part of the illustration and before I know it, I’ll look up to see that everything has been addressed. That’s when I know the piece is done.