The immensely talented artist and instructors of www.svslearn.com issue an illustration challenge each month. They provide a prompt and then folks submit illustrations which are shared and a select few critiqued live on the 3rd Thursday of each month.
I had joined in the live critique web meeting the past few months as I learn so much from them and what they recommend and provide feedback on for those illustrations. But what I had not done is submit a piece of my work for any of them.
So I made a promise to myself that I would submit something for the August 2015 3rd Thursday challenge when it was announced. The prompt was:
Astrid cautiously stepped out of the craft onto soft spongy turf. Though she didn't see anything she had a deep sense that she wasn't alone.
It took me a few days of thinking over that prompt to start to come up with ideas.
What stood out to me the most at first was the spongy turf. My mind kept imagining that it was in fact an actual sponge. And the idea hit me for the setting being a sink full of dishes.
The craft could be a cup floating in the water in the sink and the sponge would be a kitchen sponge onto of the waters surface. I pulled out a little scrap piece of paper and started a rough drawing of the scene.
As I thought about it more I loved the idea of making cute timid little Astrid the enemy in the illustration. And how was I planning to do that? By implying that she is a germ. She is living in this cup she steps out on a sponge (a known breeding ground for germs) and what is growing and looming behind her? An army of germ fighting soap suds ready to do battle.
I liked the overall composition of the thumbnail sketch so then I pulled out another piece of paper and began working on Astrid. I want her to have a glow about her when the final painting is done and I also put an orb (that is really based off a real world germ under a microscope) in her hand. It will be a light source but could also be seen as her weapon.
For the growing army of suds I wanted to keep them simple but give them expression and personality based on their eyes. As if each one is unique in its own way. Some look dangerous or mean, others look fearful or are trying to hide.
The next step was work on a color composition to get down values for lighting and possible color schemes.
After posting my first attempt i received input from some of my peers in the SVSLearn forums which was invaluable. I had clearly started off with far to many colors and worked through a few color comps to get it toned down to mostly blue/grays and then the jarring green/yellow of Astrid to create that tension between her and her surroundings as shown here.
I shared this updated version and folks still felt like it may be a bit too saturated in blue. And then someone suggested that perhaps it would be even better if this were a night time setting instead of day time.
I had been thinking the same thing, about how it might be far more mysterious if it were night. So I went back into the art and began adjusting my painting to give it that feel. Along the way I changed some other elements - added some reflections into the water, adding hints of bubbles in the air around the army of suds and so on. And I also changed the symbol on the shield of the dish soap hero in the background to show it helped fight against the germ.
When all was said and done I submitted the following piece (shown below) and crossed my fingers. I was one of 43 entries for this months challenge. I was not one of the 5 that were picked for critique but they did pull up my image to make note that they found my take on the prompt very clever and original and told me that they did not see this coming. So I was really happy about that!