Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Little Mermaid Sketch Evolution

The evolution of a sketch for a commission. The Little Mermaid, in her underwater garden with the statue of the Prince.

The initial sketch, with the Mermaid thinking dreamily of the Prince. Had a kind of wistful look to her I thought, which I quite liked, but the client didn't. Might eventually use the figure for another painting of something else one day.

A revised sketch for the Prince's statue.

Tried a few more different poses for the Mermaid. Client wanted the Mermaid to be vainly combing her hair. I liked this pose, but the composition didn't really move me. It felt too bland and safe. As I pointed out in a previous entry, Dulac's composition on his Little Mermaid piece really appealed to me. I wasn't going to be able to accomplish something quite that dramatic for this, within the guidelines that I was working. But I could at least spice it up a bit more than this sketch. I also wanted to work in that large spiral shell I had in the first sketch (I have an affinity for spirals in case you haven't noticed).

So I scribbled another one. I liked the array of objects/seaweed/fish in this, but after staring at it for a while I realized that the pose was far too similar to my Page of Cups painting, and I really hate to repeat myself.

Here's where photoshop comes in oh-so-handy! I snagged the Prince sketch, flipped horizontally, and resized him a bit to fit into the background. Took the mermaid pose from the one I like best and stuck her in the more interesting composition. I then sent this collaged version to the client.

A few more tweaks were made, and then it was transferred to the illustration board for the cleaned up final sketch. Details were added to the surroundings, treasures, adornments.
Now it's ready to be painted:


  1. Thanks so much for sharing these processes with us. It's a big inspiration and quite helpful!

  2. I so desperately love your work! It's so inspirational to me, especially since I love to draw mermaids and so do you! I can't wait to see this finished =D

  3. I love seeing your sketching process! Thanks for sharing! The final version is beautiful and hardly can wait to see it finished! :)

  4. I love all these sketches! Do you always revise sketches so often for commissions?

  5. No Maggie, it depends on the client. Some have a clearer idea from the start of what they want, and some are more or less specific about what they want the final piece to be like.

  6. Aww Steph,
    I just love the first one - but the last one blows me away. I already can "see" it colored.
    I know, it turns out just gorgeous!

  7. i love Dulac's work and i even considered mentioning that particular image when commissioning the piece because i loved it so much :P
    I think you've really captured elements/mood of that image in your sketch (which I love) and I can't wait to see it painted. Thanks for your post. I love to see how images are evolved :)

  8. truly lovely and even more impressive when you can see the behind steps it takes to get there!

  9. Your work always inspires me. I was reading through your process and noticed the photoshop melding of various sketches to make one lovely composition. I must say that was an "AHA!" moment for me! What a time saver and a GREAT way to see if the composition is actually working and/or make changes. Thank you for sharing this idea. I do have one question. HOW do you transfer the final sketch/photoshop print out to the illustration board. Do you use graphite paper and trace it over, a grid? I am assuming a light box is out on this, due to the thickness of the board. Thanks for any help you are willing to share. I can't wait for your new book to come out!

  10. Rebecca -
    Sorry for taking so long to respond! You can see here my process for transferring the digital sketch composite onto the final painting surface: