The Life of a Doodle

In my portfolio section named NEW STUFF at stevensalerno.com …some of the illustrations posted there are indeed for published assignments, but many are images I created on my own, as part of the process to introduce a “new” style of creating illustrations, different than my expected “whimsical” manner of styling illustrations that most art directors over the years have come to know me for, especially with the many children’s picture books I have illustrated.


I have received many terrific comments on these “new” style images of mine, done in a darker, moodier manner. (but they really are not new at all.) Actually they are a resurrection of the dark, moody style I had at the very start of my illustration career many years ago! Click here to read an earlier post on this subject.

My process for creating most of these new images is that I actually start out just doodling (ink on paper) random faces and figures… then when one captures my attention, I see it through by completing the doodle of the character fully. Because it is a doodle, without any pre-planning or light under sketch… it is spontaneously drawn and mistakes occur. For example, I might be drawing a hand, and make an error…so I will just drawn another hand, and then another until I get it right. Once the various elements of the doodle are done, I scan everything into Photoshop and then “correct” my mistakes within the doodle. By resizing parts, erasing parts, repositioning elements, taking out a poorly drawn hand or face and replacing it with another hand or face I had drawn successfully, etc… Once the image is finally composed, I then create additional layers with painted textures done with gouache to add atmosphere and setting to the image, as well as add digital color.


above– the original ink doodle drawing of the boy character (on right side)
above- additional ink drawings, of the imp character and the dog

Posted above (top) is the raw doodle I recently created while I was watching TV. Initially I started drawing a female character (the larger character on the left with the outstretched arm) but it was so terrible that I quickly abandoned it and then began the doodle of the unusual boy character with the odd hairstyle (on the right side) holding the tea cup. You can see that I made a mess of his hand holding the tea cup, so I repeated creating his hand, and the better version can be seen just above the female character’s head. Once I had finished drawing the boy character, I started imagining who he was… and so drew a mansion as if it were his family home (far left). I even scribbled in his name: Filbert Hieronymus Mann, and imagined he was the son of a wealthy and eccentric inventor. I then scanned this raw doodle into Photoshop to begin the process as described at the top.

above- the final image… that is until I then wanted to add more elements
above- the final image… with the imp and dog characters added
Posted above (top) is the finished art image… having added in the background texture and the additional digital color. The large trees on the left side were actually line art I had already created for an assignment, and felt they would work well for this spontaneous image as well, so I brought them into the Photoshop layers and reworked them a bit. I liked the final result… 

(above bottom) But after setting with the “completed” image for awhile, I then decided it needed more embellishment, to give it a deeper feeling of a real story behind the image. So I then added stronger shadow to the tree area, added the suggestion of clouds at the top of the sky… as well as modifying the size of some of the background row trees. Then I inserted additional drawings I had created of an imp character, a majestic Great Dane type dog, a tea pot, and a kind of blunderbuss gun. I scanned all these additional drawings into the layered image, tweaking their size and position until they fit into the scene perfectly. 

It is such an interesting image, that I am tempted to begin writing a story around it…

Visit the NEW STUFF portfolio section on stevensalerno.com to view many more of my new images.




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