A few words on process

Sometimes when I'm given an illustration assignment, I'm being asked to create an image of something that I can reference directly from a set of images I'm being given.  And at other times I'm being asked to create an image or scenario that doesn't exist, so I have to fake it a little bit.  This is a post about how I sometimes go about making up reference for myself.

Quite often, especially for the illustrations I've been doing for Real Simple in their monthly feature 'Things Cooks Know', I'm being asked to do a set of instructional illustrations.  They often include hands making and doing things, and it requires me having to take photos of my own hands doing these actions to get the image just right.  Whether it's a hand flipping a tortilla in a skillet or shucking an oyster, I have to use objects around my studio to make my reference.  (I once used an oyster-shaped rock in place of an oyster in a 'How to Shuck an Oyster' piece).

Below, I've got a set of three images.  They were used to paint an illustration for The New York Times a couple of weeks back.  The story required images of a wallet with California ID, Mexican passport, and a set of keys set out on a kitchen countertop.  Since I don't have either a California piece of ID or Mexican passport, I printed life-size versions of these off and stuck them to my  drivers license and the cover of my Canadian passport.  I also used my wallet, set of keys and some American change I had from my last trip to the States, and placed them on to the counter to look like they'd been tossed there.  Then I took a photo.

Next, I did a sketch from the photo I'd taken, changing a couple of elements like the keyring.

And this is the resulting illustration.

I have loads of photos like these saved from past jobs that I had to stage for reference, and they always crack me up a little bit.