Like most illustrators, I usially need to do preliminary sketches for my clients. Over time, my sketch process has evolved from detailed and comprehensive pencil drawings to my current process of doing my sketches as rough paintings. These are fairly often approved as final art, something I never anticipated- but which has the benefit of the finish art having a lot more energy or atmposphere, something that can easily be rendered out of the final art. A further benefit is that the art makes a lot more sense to civilian editors who sometimes have some understanding the connection of a pencil drawing to the finished art.

a fairly old example of a pencil drawing for a book cover, i often use an electric eraser to pull out a few highlights. I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of sketches like this in my files. They are always on strathmore layout bond paper, with 6b and Hb pencil.

I started to try painting in oil over my pencil drawings, eventually i forgot all about the pencil and just painted without the drawing, essentially drawing with a brush.

Sometimes i start with a fairly tight pencil, like this, maybe just to show I can do it

Then i start making rough explorations. I sometimes make 10 paintings for a single illustration job.


sometimes i accidentally make something I like, and i try to take it further

heres a sequence of sketches (i am leaving out 90% of them) for Bear and Nightingale, for Random House, a story based on Russian folklore…the prompt was “girl on horse”

That evolved into house in snow, and i started experimenting with that idea. I made 13 paintings, one of which (not shown here) became the final cover.

even more atmosphere….its important to note, when discussing concept and conceptual illustration, that mood can BE a concept.

starting to feel like a different book…

this started to hit the right note

here are some recent sketches for a film poster for Sundown, a story about a man who abandons his family for no apparent reason…this was my first idea…

the story takes place in a beach town in mexico…

Tim Roth with a foreshadow of death. so thats my process in a nutshell- I basically work way more than I have to , but I don’t seem to have any alternative. I have learned to accept my process as it evolves and look for people to work with for whom the work connects. As Brian Eno said, it’s best to shoot the arrow where ever you want, then draw a corcle around it. it works for me- it might work for you too.