MON PARIS… illustrating a travel article

On a somewhat regular basis over the past handful of years, I create small spot illustrations for the Westways group of magazines (which are the automobile AAA magazines) for their DriveSmart and TravelSmart columns. The Design Director I always work with is Eric Van Eyke(see my earlier post about these assignments).


But recently, I was also contacted by the Westways Art Director, Lori Anderson about creating a full-page illustration for one of their feature travel articles on Paris, entitled MON PARIS. (I think it is for their January 2014 issue of Westways) I said yes to the project before even reading the manuscript, as I had been eager to work on an assignment for Westways other than for the small spot illustrations I usually do for the DriveSmart and TravelSmart columns.


The key to this travel article was visiting Paris and hanging out in one particular neighborhood and purposely not indulging in all the expected tourist venues, but rather enjoying the nuances of regular everyday life, like a Parisian. The writer describes people and things seen while sitting at the same neighborhood cafe each morning over cafe creme, croissants and reading the paper. It is this scene that I illustrated. 


Posted below is the sketch and final drawings I created. The final drawings were all scanned into Photoshop, and then positioned, modified, manipulated, and layered with color and textures, etc… to arrive at the completed illustration…


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This is my initial sketch. It is simply a black crayon pencil sketch with just a bit of gouache color indicating the coffee. Of course, I go though an earlier much rougher version before this one, but the sketch shown here is the level of “tightness” in a sketch I like to show to an art director, because ultimately it saves time. If a sketch shown to an art director is too rough, they have questions about it which then prompts having the do a second tighter version anyway… so why not just give them that level right at the start. Particularly in the instance of working with an art director for a first time. The more you work with the same art director, the more and more you can get away with “sketch shorthand” because they begin to understand what your final art will look like, even from seeing just a very rough sketch.

(above)
This is what I then showed to the art director. It is my initial B&W sketch which I scanned into Photoshop and added digital color layers…. which as you can see I elected to use just monochromatic yellows/oranges in the background and limited full color in the foreground for the coffee cup and croissants. This sketch was quickly approved by the art director and editors, so I had the “green light” to proceed with creating the final art. 

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This is a close-up view of the waiter character from the initial sketch.
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Based on the preliminary sketch that was approved by the art director, this is the “final stage art” drawing of the foreground portion of the illustration, the cup of coffee, croissants, and the Le Monde newspaper. It was drawn with black crayon, and embellished with black gouache (with a brush).
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Detail view of the croissant.
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Based on the preliminary sketch that was approved by the art director, this is the “final stage art” drawing of the middle portion of the illustration. It is of all the characters seen sitting in the cafe, walking the sidewalks, and standing at the patisserie across the street. It was drawn with black crayon, black ink pen, and embellished with black gouache (with a brush). Some of the tones were created by smearing the ink line with a wetted finger immediately after having drawn the line.
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Detail of the characters sitting in the cafe.
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Based on the preliminary sketch that was approved by the art director, this is the “final stage art” drawing of two of the characters: the waiter and the woman seen at the top window watering her flowers. It was drawn with black crayon, black ink pen, and embellished with black gouache (with a brush). Some of the tones were created by smearing the ink line with a wetted finger immediately after having drawn the line. (The “mutton-chop” sideburns and pompadour hairstyle on the waiter was as described in the article!)
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Detail of the waiter drawing.

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Based on the preliminary sketch that was approved by the art director, this is the “final stage art” drawing of of the background portion of the illustration… the building facades, signs, etc…  It was drawn with black ink pen, and black crayon. As soon as I created this background drawing, I immediately knew I had made the line work much too dark… but did not worry, because I knew that once I scanned the drawing into Photoshop I could then manipulate the line to make it lighter.

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This is a speckled texture I created, done by rubbing a toothbrush into slightly watery black gouache and then “flicking” the bristles of the brush with my thumb (held about 12″ inches above the paper surface) such that a fine spray of dots hits across the paper. I also used a dark brown crayon to then draw horizontal streaks across the speckled texture. This texture was scanned into Photoshop and layered into my final illustration.
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This is a view of all the above elements that I had scanned into Photoshop, which were compiled in layers to compose the final illustration scene. I altered the black lines of all the the middle ground and background objects/characters so that these lines were now more of a sepia/brown color instead of black. This was done so the “still-life” objects in the front (coffee/croissants/newspaper) rendered in black, would pop more in prominence. I also faded all the middle ground and background lines a little bit, to also make it all seem further back within the scene. On a new layer I added in the yellow color and “erased” some of the yellow (effectively creating white) to highlight the waiter and make the effect of the steam rising from the coffee. The “speckled” texture was added over the entire composition but then strategically “erased out” so that it remained in only some areas, like on the buildings and also streaked across the street a bit.
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Next, I added a layer of darker orange to bring more graphic richness and definition… which I also used as the color of the coffee in the cup, to help relate the foreground with the rest of the scene. Employing such limited color in the middle ground and background assists in making a very
detailed/busy area of the image to become more unified, and brings some needed simplicity to the overall feel… and of course also acts as a way of bringing more attention to the foreground elements.
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Here is the final illustration… with blues and greens and more yellow added into the foreground objects.

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Detail view of the waiter and the woman sitting at the cafe with her little dog. Here you can better see how I orchestrated the use of the speckled texture sparingly. I love the subtle, simple descriptions of all the little characters seen in the background.
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Detail view of the lovers kissing, and the old man carrying his baguettes. The street is Rue Vavin, and the cafe the writer was sitting at is named Cafe Vavin… and I think it is located in the 6th Arrondisement.
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Detail view of the coffee.

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I also created a small spot illustration of the Eiffel Tower, to accompany the large main illustration. It was created in the same step process as described above for the cafe scene illustration…

I am looking forward to seeing the final printed copy of Westways magazine, the January 2014 issue. Seeing the images in tandem with the words (within the designer’s page design) for which they were created is what it’s all about as an illustrator.


Visit my illustration web site, stevensalerno.com to view all my portfolio sections… make sure to see my NEW STUFF section and all my picture books for children!



See full post here: Steven Salerno Blog2013-11-02.