Sunday, February 6, 2011

Process of a custom watercolor illustration

This is a recent 11x14" watercolor commission I finished. The client wanted a night scene, with a lighthouse, whale, moon, and other fun sea creatures.

Preliminary sketch of idea. Sea creatures include octopus, fish, anemones, and starfish.

After feedback from client, some fun improvements include a baby whale and the light beam from lighthouse.

Illustration is started. Design is lightly drawn in pencil and then inked.
Drawn on 300lb., hot press watercolor paper, which is a heavy weight paper with a relatively smooth surface. India ink is used because it is waterproof, doesn't smudge, and doesn't fade.

First inking completed.

The first layers of watercolor.

First layer of sky painted. Additional layers added on waves.

Sky almost complete after 4 layers of watercolor.

Animals, seaweed and other details painted (my favorite part). Water painted with 3-4 more thin layers. Large rock added on coast to address a slightly awkward empty area.

Many lines are reinked at this point to sharpen and darken after the watercolor, additional bubbles and other details added. Some lines are thickened as well to give a sense of depth.
Sent to client for feedback.

Finished painting. Give the full view a look!

Clients only wish was to change the stripes in the lighthouse to red. This can be tricky and involves scrubbing out the watercolor and repainting. But I think it was a big improvement and added some needed color in the top half.
Final touches include more texture in the water, detail in the house, and some more small stars.


  1. Its beautiful! I love seeing the process, too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I am the client! I just wanted to Thank you again David, this beautiful painting is a gift from me to my little boy Luke who is 15 months old. It was such a positive and easy experience talking with you and watching you create this. I am delighted with the result and know that he will love listening to stories about all the sea creatures in the picture - it will be a real feature in his bedroom and a treasure to pass on :)

  3. Thanks Kelly!

    Belinda, my pleasure. It was a fun project!

  4. This is awesome, David! Everything is beautiful and the details just make it even more amazing. Awesome seeing your process.

    Little octopus at the bottom is my favorite <3.

  5. Great post! Awesome to see your process and then the final product!

  6. Just discovered your art on etsy and your blog- beautiful work! I will be back for more.

  7. love this post! the process is great to see. i really need to convince my hubby to let me buy some items from your shop; i've been eyeing them for months now!

  8. I found your art on Etsy and followed over to your blog. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am grateful to artists that share a process so that others can learn from it and appreciate the art that much more! :)

  9. Thanks for your note! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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