Monday, September 04, 2006

On the Easel - Fables TPB 8 "Wolves" Part II

> I've coated the surface with some washes of color ( layers of trans. blues and browns work well ), and used some liquitex acrylic white gesso to bring out the forms. The gesso works well since it provides a little bit of tooth for subsequent layers of paint and other mediums, like pastel or colored pencil.

> And then, a little more than a day later, I arrive at the conclusion to the painting. This composition, which was so busy to begin with, is now further embellished by form, color, and texture. It will take some work in photoshop to bring clarity back to the picture.

> I outline the beanstalk and render Cinderella in vector to "pull" it from the surface. More pushing and pulling ensues.

> After some color dodging and color adjustments, I've arrived at the finish! Click the image above for an closer view. Now it's time to send it in for approval . . .


Kenichi Hoshine said...


1:35 PM  
Barbara said...

Killer wispy clouds~ I can't get over it, your combination of painterly and graphic elements blows my mind. :O

1:56 PM  
wburkert said...

wow. those exploding cloud thingies around the beanstalk are awesome. nice work.

2:55 PM  
M said...

Thank you so much for posting the process. The graphic elements and painterly elements play off each other great here.

I wonder how much reference you use here, if at all?

3:21 PM  
Shawn Escott said...

James, you da man! You cranked this thing out quick and it is beautifully rendered! Well done.

3:47 PM  
Toyebot said...

Beautiful process!. I love how everything is intertwined and your eyes travel thru the page. Thx!

5:43 PM  
craig said...

wonderful to see the process. A buddy just showed me your sketchbook the other day. Really like the figure drawings

5:45 PM  
Ann Marshall said...

Gorgeous work. I'm impressed by your ability to keep complicated compositions together--that's usually such a bitch. Nice subtle tilts of the heads...

7:38 PM  
constant said...


9:52 PM  
Bjorn said...


You work in large formats. I like that too. But how do you digitise your work into the computer? Do you take a digital photograph or do you scan the painting and patch it up in Photoshop? I always struggle with this phase. I can't afford a professional digicam with enough pixels so the piece can be used in print. And scanning the piece bit by bit and pasting it together is not so great either.

I love your work and learn a lot!

11:50 PM  
Anonymous said...

wooowww, great artwork! thanks james!

i have the some question like bjorn.
how do you digitise it?

cheers, joe

1:26 AM  
Renato said...

Hey James, amazing work but I have the same question, how do you digitise the final artwork?

I think that you scan the art (at 400 or 600 dpi) but maybe Im wrong...

2:57 AM  
Woe said...


8:27 AM  
rei said...

i have your book process recess
i love your work
im from barcelona, spain
come here to sign it!!

(sorry about my english...)

2:59 PM  
Anonymous said...

Nice, it turned out awesome. yeah i like the "wispy clouds/exploding cloud thingies" too. Keep up the sweetness and keep up the updating.


5:05 PM  
Anonymous said...

I like your older more graphic Fables covers better than these new wispy ones


5:58 PM  
k said...

Whispy rocks. The cover suits those issues that will be in the TPB.

The detail in the wolves is amazing.


6:46 PM  
Djavan said...

Beautiful. Awesome job can't wait to see it.

11:32 PM  
Mike Bear said...

thanks for showing us. its great to see this inprogress stuff. great!

12:27 AM  
Jonathan said...

Wow, I think this is the most beautiful image of yours that I have seen to date!

The composition is perfect and the way you have pulled it all together by highlighting certain elements and knocking others back is brilliant.

Thanks for posting the process too - inspirational.


2:07 AM  
Bruno Merz said...

Absolutely stunning James. The girls face is so beautiful.

3:09 AM  
Pete said...

Hey James- Amazing piece, one of the best ones ive seen you do in a long time. One question about the girls hair. You always have a nice softness to the hair you render for your women. Is her hair fully rendered in the painting stage or is it done in the vector stage? If its done in the painting stage, do you find you always use a specific brush?? Elaborate.

7:22 AM  
pietari said...

Awesome illustration! Personally I like the stages 2 & 3 the best. In the final the beanstalk pops out already too much.

10:27 AM  
Jed said...

Looks great! That first drawing with the yellow wash and the pulled highlights has a nice quality to it--even though it's your what? third pass at refining the image, it has an immediate quality to it. I think the photoshop tweaks added a lot to the finish while maintaining the hand painted look of the piece. I've been working tonally and adding color in photoshop in a similar way, though without anywhere near this facility of course.

now how do you "render it in vector"? Is this something you do in illustrator, and what's the advantage? Isn't there something you can do that's comparable in the pixled image? Did you trace over those lines in the beanstalk with Bezier curves?

Another very sucessful piece, and it's good to see you painting again, in the sense of using actual wet media.

5:19 PM  
REsynapse said...

The transparency you achieve is highly unique James, i love it. Do you create this effect using transparent acrylics? if this question has been asked before im sorry, for i have just stumbled upon your wonderful site! thanks

10:57 PM  
Logan said...

Really beautiful design here. I really, really like the "vector elements" along side of the hand painted stuff. I showed Process Recess to a professor of mine who is an abstract painter and she commented on what a great sense you have of when things should be flat shape and when to really carve out form.

I'm just always curious as to how much "direct reference" you use for a piece. Do you ever shoot your own photos for reference or do you just use found images? I definitely don't doubt your ability to invent it all, but I'm just saying: Im curious man. Im curious.

4:20 AM  
Logan said...

Uh, in my fit of adulation for the piece, I completely forget to say how absolutely cool it was for you to break down the process this much for us. I think what might be most inspiring of all is your resourcefulness with MDF board haha. Anyways, Really helpful; all of it. Thanks James.

4:27 AM  
AK said...

Really great piece, thanks for showing the process.

I actually got my hands on some of those skb ballpoint pens, so if anyone is interested in buying I have some to sell.

10:48 AM  
AK said...

my email is sorry if this seems like an advertisement, but I know there are many fans who have been searching for these pens.

10:50 AM  
BRiTT said...

This is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I'm currently an illustration student, and I wanted to tell you I find your work SO inspiring! Everytime I look at anything you do I want to run off and draw like a maniac.

7:21 PM  
ALTAMIRA said...

wonder of the fine arts!!

7:17 AM  
Marc said...

I've been watching your work for years... I can't believe it still improves! I've always admired your mastery of form, but I realize now your use of color is really quite amazing and to me, what is most striking about your work. Keep on!


7:21 AM  
Vishaka said...

Your work is always so inspiring! Thanks for... um... being awesome. :D

Just wondering, you mentioned that you use liquitex gesso, do you use only liquitex acrylics for painting, or another brand?

4:33 PM  
Process Recess said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! Some answers:
- I gathered some reference for the wolves and Bigby from the internet. Snow White and everything was from imagination.
- The paintings are scanned in pieces and stitched together in photoshop. It takes some work to pull it off with polish, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Perhaps I should create a post on scanning . . .
- The hair was painted in acrylic, no vector involved. The hair is applied with a variety of brushes, a round for the details and an old filbert to soften the edges.
- Pietari, the beanstalk might pop out too much, but think about how the image will wrap around a book.
- Jed, by vector I mean using bezier curves to create perfect lines that I wouldn't be able to create freehand. Yup, I just traced over the lines using bezier points. I also added some halftone texture to the bean stalk to finish the effect.
- Logan, usually I create the sketch and find reference that matches the sketch. Sometimes I shoot quick reference, and sometimes I find reference on the internet. It's always a mix . . . For instance, I used myself as reference for the cover to Fables 33 (but I don't look much like Snow White).
- I use Golden acrylics.

11:17 AM  
Datsun Tran said...

Great work man, love your Fables covers. A big fan of the book myself, only discovered your blog an hour or so before, will definately bookmark it.

Congrats on the Harvey!

Datsun Tran

2:08 AM  
Anonymous said...

Hi James,

Beautiful illustration as always. As a few other had noted and asked, could you do a post on your scanning technique for your larger illustrations. Thanks pt

5:36 PM  
Amoo said...

Very extremely cool to see the process! So much work..

12:01 AM  
greg oakes said...

getting to know your process inspires the heck outta me! gotta go paint now!! ;) yay!! thanks again james... you're the man, man. ;)


2:09 PM  
NoTcH said...

ure a god

10:21 PM  
Gil said...

Beautiful is a weak word to describe your art,
it's a rare delight to see the process to such a Gorgeous work.

3:21 AM  
Soren said...

This is so amazing. The amount of detail is just incredible.

11:29 AM  

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