Digital Illustration Up Close: Behind the Art of Amazing Places

christy haleReleased this month, Amazing Places is a collection of original poems hand-picked by acclaimed anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins that celebrates some of the amazingly diverse places in our nation. It has received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, which calls it “a broadly appealing testament to the American landscape and people.”

The gorgeous illustrations in Amazing Places are a uniquecollaboration between artist Chris Soentpiet, who created the rough sketches, and Christy Hale, who brought those sketches to life by adding color and detail. We asked Christy to take us behind the scenes and show us her process for working with Chris Soentpiet’s illustrations to make Amazing Places come to life:Amazing Places

Christy: I have selected the longhouse piece to show the art process used for creating the art for Amazing Places:

1. Chris Soentpiet’s rough sketch
amazing places rough illustration

2. The editor and art director requested modifications. Below is Chris’s tight sketch reflecting those changes.

amazing places rough illustration 2

3. The printer scanned Chris’s sketches and then I received the digital files and my work on the art began. I made some additional changes to the original sketch based on editorial suggestions.

amazing places illustration rough

4. I changed the pencil line to sepia to give it some richness.
amazing places illustration sepia

5. To add color to the art I needed some reference for longhouses. I did some image research. Here are two of many pictures I found.

amazing places reference picture
ca. June 1997, Midland, Ontario, Canada — Animal furs and drying tobacco hang inside a building at the Huron Indian Village. — Image by © Robert Holmes/CORBIS

longhouse-reference2

6. I added colors in transparent layers in Photoshop. I wanted to simulate the beautiful watercolor effects Chris is known for. Each layer was a different color. Sometimes there were multiple layers of the same color in varying transparencies for more subtle effects.
Below you see the sepia line with one color added.
amazing places illustration sepia 2

7. Here is the sepia line with seven colors added.
amazing places illustration sepia 2

8. Here is a screen shot showing the many layers in the Photoshop file.

amazing places illustration photoshop

9. Here is the final image with all the colors. For each piece in the book I worked with a limited palette. In the long house piece there are many, many different neutral colors in varying values. I used color value, intensity, and hue to help direct the eye in each composition.

amazing places final

Christy Hale is the author and illustrator of The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan, a Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year selection, and Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building, winner of a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor. As an art educator, Hale has written about artists for Instructor magazine’s Masterpiece of the Month feature and workshops. Hale lives with her family in Palo Alto, California. Visit her online at christyhale.com.

Purchase a copy of Amazing Places here.

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