Behind The Spoons Part 3 | Digital Revolution

In imagining a finished book, I knew I wanted each page of Clarence to have the detail and consideration of a full-on painting. Growing up I was captivated by certain book covers and I wished every page inside was as detailed as the cover painting. In hindsight there is a good reason this rarely happens: the creation of such detail takes approximately forever.

Captivating book cover illustration of yore.

Captivating book cover illustration of yore.

In early 2004 I dipped a very curious toe into the pool of digital painting. I was using the program Corel Painter which had the amazing ability to imitate the look of traditional paint and media while speeding up parts of the process.

An early doodle test in Corel Painter.

An early doodle test in Corel Painter.

By the time I was ready to color Clarence, I had been digitally painting outside of class as much as I had been using real paint in class. I also spent as much time fighting against the technology, tweaking settings and scouring the pre-YouTube internet for tutorials. Techno-challenges aside, I decided to enter the brave new world and paint Clarence digitally.

Visiting my parents with my Wacom Tablet, and (SURPRISE) working on Clarence.

Visiting my parents with my Wacom Tablet, and (SURPRISE) working on Clarence.

Digital painting wasn't in the curriculum at FSU, and my professors mostly shrugged it off as a novelty. One of my teachers said outright, "always keep making art you can make when the lights go off." I agreed with this sentiment but still plowed forward with the lights on.

The great Jim Roche during one of his lessons on life and art.

The great Jim Roche during one of his lessons on life and art.

I steadily managed to work on Clarence outside of class, and at this point the book had gained notoriety for taking up all my time. I was working as fast as I could, but I kept learning every time I sat down at the computer. For every digital roadblock I passed, two more waited ahead. There was a whole lot of experimentation and digital painting that did NOT end up in the finished images, and for that alone I probably saved a small fortune forgoing the use of real paint.

In the end, the whole refined process for a completed image looked something like this: 

Super sloppy sketch in pencil.

Super sloppy sketch in pencil.

Finished drawing in pencil scanned into computer.

Finished drawing in pencil scanned into computer.

Rough digital painting and color blocking. Painted over pencil drawing. 

Rough digital painting and color blocking. Painted over pencil drawing. 

Slowly building up detail and key elements. 

Slowly building up detail and key elements. 

Further refining detail areas. 

Further refining detail areas. 

Finishing touches and final details, table lines, cup, spoon, clouds, etc.

Finishing touches and final details, table lines, cup, spoon, clouds, etc.

Later in 2005, I sold my computer monitor and my current tablet and refused to buy other art supplies and clothes and deodorant, and used my Hanukkah savings to buy a Wacom Cintiq 21UX. This was the gadget from the future, the computer screen you can draw directly onto. Though I was sweating bullets about it at the time, like I had bought some kind of gold-plated hat, it quickly proved an essential investment in my artistic future, well worth its weight in computer chips (yes, it is heavy). The monitor pictured below is still the same monitor I am using seven years later for my professional illustration work.

Me circa late 2005 in the closet/office of my dorm.

Me circa late 2005 in the closet/office of my dorm.

With the new super-tablet I worked faster and harder on Clarence than ever before... until early 2006 when I came down with an intensely bad illness and was bedridden for over a month with fever.

By the time I was ready to graduate from FSU that summer, even though I had worked on the rough color for most of the pages, I had five finished pages to show for it. For my senior art show, I hung prints of the first colored spreads along with all the finished black and white sketches in sequential order.

From the senior show: photos of the entire book in finished drawing form.

From the senior show: photos of the entire book in finished drawing form.

After graduating I moved up to Providence, RI where some of my friends were still attending undergrad at RISD for art and filmmaking. My plan was loose and open, but one thing was certain: while there, I would finish Clarence.

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