The above images show the progression from initial sketch to finished illustration (or series of illustrations) for a piece I painted for National Geographic Magazine. The two-page spread told the true story of Bruce Means, a scientist that was bitten by a rattlesnake while alone in the wild. He was far away from help and had to fight to stay alive while making the long trek back to civilization and medical help.
- The first sketch served as a thumbnail sketch for the project. It's a little more finished than my thumbnails tend to be but there was a lot of information to convey in a fairly small space. At this point I'm mainly setting up composition and figure placement.
- The second sketch is a more finished sketch that was produced a little larger and is beginning to show more detail. It also begins to use Bruce Mean's likeness that was pulled from video screenshots and combined with posing a model in the studio for drawing reference. The foreground panels are also beginning to take shape and show the process of cell degradation that is happening within Mean's body. The panel composition also needed to change at this stage to allow for the spine of the magazine. Otherwise, an important piece of the illustration could get lost in the binding.
- The third image is a color rough. If time and budget allow, a color rough can help a client better envision the finished piece and show the color palette the illustrator is planning to incorporate into the piece. Both this stage and the final illustration were produced in watercolor.
- The fourth image is the finished illustration. Notice how a panel has been dropped to open space for a block of text on the right. Also, notice how the foreground panels' content changes throughout the process. Working through the sketch and rough process with a client can help them to "nail down" exactly what they want the final illustration to depict.
all images copyright National Geographic magazine