Cirkus performers preliminary sketches.

November 20, 2012

Sometimes I prefer my initial roughs to the finished concept art. Preliminary sketches can retain a freshness and directness that hours of painstaking colour, tone and texture addition can often detract from. In the case of my Cirkus performers concept art I started out with studying and comparing the heads of the first six Cirkus performers in one line up. This is important for establishing a consistent stylistic thread to the illustration as a whole. I then went on to design the remaining three faces independently as shown by the head studies.

Initial head roughs lined up for comparison. It’s important to achieve a consistency in style across so many characters.

Head study of Romain done from memory.

Head study of Priyan done from memory.

Head study of Sandesh done from memory.

This would not have been my normal approach but an act of God – Hurricane Sandy knocked the power out in my apartment for four days and I was forced to draw Romain, Priyan and Sandesh from memory instead of having nice photographic reference I could call up from Facebook whenever I wanted. I think this actually helped these individual designs as I felt like they captured the essence of the people concerned more effectively. I worked out body poses and styles next followed by a flat colour guide.

Original line up rough comparing body sizes and general style.

Original colour line up rough balancing overall tones across the illustration.

I hand inked the black outlines on paper and scanned them into photoshop to create layers that I could easily change colour-wise until I achieved an initial colour balance I liked. I prefer the imperfections of hand drawn lines but I like the digital lines you can sketch in Toon Boom studio when it comes to setting up clean layers in Photoshop. Toon Boom also has a nice rostrum feature (like Painter) that allows you to turn the canvas around and get your best drawing angle for optimum line weights.
After that came the task of adding tone and brush texture. Painter would have been my preferred choice for this but it doesn’t seem to like handling large resolution files with many layers as well as Photoshop. True, you can get a better variety of brushes and effects in Painter but if you’re having to wait for screen refresh then this advantage soon becomes tedious.

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