Plants Vs Zombies Watercolors: Patrice

One of the perks of my job coloring Plants Vs. Zombies is that I get comp copies of each book I color.  I always make sure to send a copy to a pair of brothers my partner nannies, Silas and Leo.  They’ve really been enjoying the books.  After giving them a copy of Plants Vs. Zombies: Timepocalypse, a week later I noticed when I visited their house that the copy was already dog-eared! Additionally, according to my partner, all the zombie fighting silliness in the books have been helping Leo deal with some of his nightmares, which in my mind, is probably one of the most validating things I’ve ever heard about something I’ve worked on!

 This last week, Silas, had a birthday party and at my partner’s behest, I was commissioned to make some Plants Vs. Zombies related watercolors to give to him and his brother.  So while I was working on these illustrations, I decided to scan each step to give y’all an idea of my process when doing watercolor illustrations. 

So let’s get to it!

Step 1: Roughs

RoughUsually I’d thumbnail a bunch of tiny gesture drawings to figure out what I was going to draw, but for this one I had a strong idea of what I wanted to create, so I just dived straight in to a rough drawing on a piece of scrap paper.  Patrice’s pose is an outright reference to a Norman Rockwell illustration I really enjoy.  Overall, I was pretty confident about this composition, though I ended up drawing over what was originally a peashooter to replace with a sunflower.  Which is why that middle, right-hand portion looks like such a jumble.

Step 2: Pencils

Patrice-PencilsI transferred the roughs to watercolor paper, or by transfer, I mean I just redrew the whole dang thing.  But when you have a template to work with, it goes much faster. A couple of elements got removed, rearranged, or changed for clarity.  I replaced the right-hand zombie on the ground next to Zomboss with an imp, and gave the left-hand zombie a bucket on his head.  Patrice’s pose is more thought out.  It took a bit of trial and error to work out that pose because I didn’t spend much time thinking about it in the rough stage.  I originally wanted to make the pose as close to form of the original Rosie the Riveter illustration I was referencing, but ultimately I think it was better to give Patrice’s pose her own aspects while still paying homage. 

Step 3: Inks

Patrice-inksBy this step, everything’s coming together! Using a brush, india ink, and eraser, I solidified all the line-art in preparation for watercolor.  Also, I added some shadows to help the illustration pop and give points for the eye to move around in the line-art.  The chomper lost their spots in this step, I figured I would just free-hand those spots in the painting step.  That proved to be a little more challenging than I thought it would be.

Step 4: Watercolor

Patrice-ColorsWatercolor is something I’m still learning a lot about and that’s part of the enjoyment of it for me. It’s also fun to render these characters in a different way, since normally I’m coloring them day in and day out on Photoshop using a tablet pen.  It’s nice to have some analog art to create as a break from the computer screen. Also, paper with lots of tooth is just a pleasure to work on.  

While I was painting this picture I would take a break from it and paint the other picture with Nate (which I’ll talk about it in the next post) so that the Patrice painting could dry.  Something I’ve realized while watercolor painting is that trying to add to the paint while it’s still wet creates a chaotic mess, you have to wait for it to dry to make another pass.  Most of this stage went smoothly, but I had some issues with the chomper.  My intent was to do an initial pass that was a light purple/pink for the spots, when that pass would dry, the plan was to go over it with a deeper purple, outlining the spots in this way. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that the first pass hadn’t completely dried, so towards the top of the chomper, the pigment spread into the first, lighter pink pass.  I dabbed it up as best as I could, and it worked out alright, but it wasn’t what I intended.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and the recipients really enjoyed it.  Next post I’ll cover the other painting with Nate!  Until then, I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe even found some insight into a process I’m still learning more about myself!