Several years ago, I had the chance to run into one of my favorite (living) artists, Tony DiTerlizzi, co-author and artist of the popular Spiderwick Chronicles and WondLa series. His artwork reminds me of some of the creations born of the Golden Age of Illustration, which I absolutely adore. We talked for a bit, exchanged a handful of emails and went on with our lives. I have no idea how he felt about my artwork at the time, but I became even more fascinated with his. 

In 2013, he posted a series of blog entries chronicling his process of coming up with ideas and completing the cover for his WondLa books. Part II of the blog series caught my eye and offered a creative process I hadn’t thought of prior to that point, but that has influenced the process of my work since.

It’s actually a pretty simple idea, but brilliant in practice. I’ll refrain from quoting verbatim what he wrote. You can find the enlightening link to the blog entry here. What I will share with you is how I applied that process to my most recent painting I created for Disney, “Baby of Mine” (and have applied to previous paintings). 

At the beginning of his post, Tony makes a confession: that he’s not the best with color theory (not to mention that he’s partially colorblind). So to aid his art in achieving  a “perfectly harmonized palette”, as he puts it, he finds art that has the potential to be his “Palette of Inspiration”, blurs his eyes and allows the colors to “dictate their mood” to him. 

Below are a handful of images I saved as initial Palettes of Inspiration”.

Anna Nemoy

Alphonse Mucha

Elizabeth Shippen Green

I fell in love with the idea the moment I read it. I didn’t particularly feel as though I was terrible with color theory, although I’d had no formal training in what that even was. And I  couldn’t use the excuse that I was colorblind. But in all my regular searching through art, photography and live reference, what always drew me in for closer inspection was what mood the imagery or scene before me provoked in the instant it was first viewed. When I read this in print as a part of his blog, it made perfect sense, and having it defined only made what seemed to come somewhat naturally to me all the easier to access and attain. I blurred my eyes as a function of honing in on the mood of my paintings all the time and now I felt it wasn’t just a silly way of making my eyesight go wonky before its time. The good thing was that now I could make Photoshop do the auto-un-focusing for me.

This next image was the reference art that I landed on as my final Palette of Inspiration. The emotion, lighting and color combination was a perfect match for what I wanted to express in my own painting.

Carl Bloch

The only real difference between Tony’s process and mine was that he was working his color digitally and I was using traditional mediums. I didn’t have the luxury of using my paintbrush as a cursor to grab a color off the palette and run with it; I had to mix and layer and glaze and blend until I got the mood I was shooting for. But thinking about it, I believe that the brain function involved was relatively similar, even if the traditional route of creating took longer to get to the end result.

“blurred vision” of Carl Bloch’s painting

Basic color palette

So here is a glimpse at my newest piece, “Baby of Mine”, in honor of the memorable Disney film, “Dumbo”.

“Baby of Mine” Oils on Panel 18×24