My latest illustration for the upcoming Chicago Treasure book project was based on Mother Goose. I was given photos of the young lady who would be playing the Mother Goose herself along with a few other photos of friends who could be flying along with her.
Looking for References
As with all of the pieces I am working on for this classic fairy tale and nursery rhyme series, I go online and read about the history or origin of the story. Mother Goose was a name given to the imaginary author of a series of these fairy tales andrhymes. She may or may not have been a real person but was often depicted as a woman or a goose.
She is generally depicted as a woman wearing elements of a peasant costume from Wales. A few examples of this type of dress are shown from these reference images below. The tall hats, the shawl are very specific to the look. So I wanted to be sure to pull from them when creating my design.
Next I wanted to make it appear that the girls and the goose were flying above a landscape that had a castle in the background. I came across images for the Hohenzollern Castle in Germany and it was exactly the look I was going for. I loved the grayish blue roofs and the soft colored stone walls that picked up on the colors around them. I also found it beautifully set atop that hill over looking its kingdom.
I created several few different variations of the pose for the goose (two of which are shown below), and also different variations of the kids and placement of them to submit for input from the project creator Larry Broutman.
Larry selected version 4 as it would allow more room to focus visually on the girls and and perhaps make them a bit larger that in the version with the wings spanned open.
Digital Painting Process
Next I begin the process of digital painting by laying down local colors. This is basically blocking in the general color for each main object in the scene. It allows me to build off of those colors and also ensure that my values will work with each other on the final piece.
Once the local colors are in place I selected the goose and began working on the details of her wings and the feathers. It took me a while to get the subtle textures and shapes to come to life. There is the base cream color but then added in on top I used subtle rose tones, some blue grays and soft golds. I wanted her to appear to be picking up the colors of the sky I painted in the background which has that nice pink color from the sun at the skyline.
Once the goose was done I started working on her scarf along with the cape and hat of Mother Goose. I wanted them to coordinate to really tie these two characters together visually. I pulled the blue from the striped shirt the young lady was already wearing and built from there. As I was working I felt like the goose also needed a hat and some other embellishments and the flowers were just the right touch. I was actually inspired by looking at some references for carousel animals as I know they are always painted with details and embellishments such as this.
At the same time I also went in and adjusted the coloring on the other two young ladies shirts. The black shirt against the darer blue cape was getting lost. And the yellow shirt just stood out to much in the illustrated composition. So I used color shades that complimented the flowers and coordinated them into the scene much more now as well.
The original background design had the darker evergreen trees in the foreground. Those worked with the version of the Goose with the wings spanned out. But they were not working with the version we were now going with.
So I revised the background to show more of the landscape and added in a body of water. When it got to rendering out those little trees from this aerial view I will admit I struggled. I could not capture the look I was going for. They would end up looking like one big soft bush, or way to detailed and distracting. I created and tossed a full days worth of attempts and was getting a little frustrated. So I stepped away for a day and hoped that when I came back to it I would have a new outlook. And luckily that worked.
I think in the final I created trees that fit my style for this illustration and quickly read as tree tops without demanding any attention or focus off of the main characters.