November 30, 2011

The Very Edge of New Harare

illustration by cat scott - the very edge of new harare

Another illustration for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazine is in the books! I'll take you through some process and behind the scenes stuff.

First of all, this story was great. That's my favorite part about writing for AHMM is reading these great, interesting, mysterious little stories. I doodle in the margins of the pages while I read. This story, The Very Edge of New Harare, was about a city in Africa that was transitioning from rural to urban, forcing the native animals away. Meanwhile there are some murders on the edge of town. I don't want to give too much away... Read the excerpt (this link may only work until the next issue is live), or you should just get the magazine!

I put all of the thumbnails into a PDF document with a description of what's going on; sometimes the thumbs are so loose it's hard to convey what the final image would actually look like (click to see larger):

The art director chose #1, which is a giraffe overlaid with African wilderness, juxtaposed against an urban scene. This was in reference to a scene that's described when a giraffe is suddenly in the middle of a highway. The giraffe looked lost and confused about losing his home.

My in-laws just returned from an Africa trip with hundreds of amazing photos, including some great close-ups of giraffes. I gathered all my references:

And started working on the final. That's the other great thing about AHMM; we go straight to final instead of needing a final sketch in between. It makes the process feel more like "mine" rather than "drawing for the man." I do a final drawing for my own purposes though; make sure the artwork size is correct, get placement and composition stuff figured out, etc:

Then I trace the illustration onto Bristol paper using my most favoritest Hi-Tec C pen:

I almost always get scared before I put the paint over the drawing, so I scan a copy of the final ink part before I paint on it:

Here it is after paint:

....Which felt too flat; not contrasty enough. At the illustration Academy, I learned that Photoshop is our enemy, but I think that's a crock. It's a wonderful tool. Just look at Yuko Shimizu's style. So I started messing around with lightening and darkening the background:

I kind of liked the last one, but AHMM prints on newsprint so I can't go too dark with the overall layout. The others just felt too boring. So I tried reversing out the background just to give it some "oomph," again playing with light and dark options: 

Now we're talking. But the left version was too dark, right option too bland. I ultimately decided on a version in between with a few tweaks to the reversed background (I didn't like the cars or signs reversed out) and we had our final! Thanks, Photoshop!!! 

I've done another illustration for AHMM since this one, and another is in the works. They plan REALLY far in advance so it will be a few months before I can post either of those. Thanks for the assignment AHMM, and for reading my dear followers (if you made it this far you deserve some sort of award!)


Cat Scott Larimore
Louisville Graphic Designer and Illustrator