IGI Member PJ Lynch offers us a great insight into his amazing work process. Enjoy!
It seemed like a nice break from my long term book projects when Adrian Fitzsimon of Chemistry asked me to do a an illustration that would be used in newspaper ads and on 48 sheet posters to herald the Examiner’s series of articles on boozy Ireland.
The deadline of one week was tight for me, but I liked the humour in Adrian’s idea of subverting heroic Celtic imagery and so I agreed to do it.
The client’s rough shows the central figure of a Celtic heroine who is a bit the worse for drink. I homed in on her as the key element and knocked out a few sketches.
At the same time I sourced some good costume reference online, as well as pictures of young boozers, and I printed these out.
I quickly got the drawing of the beautiful girl’s face, but suggestting her drunkenness was not at all easy. It pretty much all had to be shown in her face, as her pose was to be upstanding and heroic. The photo of Pixie Geldof with one eye slightly more open than the other was a particularly useful inspiration.
I tried a few different poses with her left hand (you can see where I taped on the newly drawn arms) and, through feedback from Adrian we settled on the idea of the girl holding the last of her tinnies by the plastic grip that holds a six-pack together.
I knew that would be tricky to draw so I worked from some photo reference of my own hand (and my own tinnies).
Whilst I was drawing the figures I was also scanning open source Celtic knotwork for the borders and the roundel. I had to do a lot of work in Photoshop to make them fit and to join up convincingly.
The client wanted the main elements on separate layers so I printed each of my finished drawings on to a separate sheet of watercolour paper, stretched them onto boards and got stuck into the painting.
The fun part of an illustration for me is usually the painting although I must say in this case the knotwork was just a pain.
Having the separate layers worked out well for me when I scanned and imported the paintings back into Photoshop. It was great to be able to control the colour, contrast and tone of individual elements, and even to try out two or three different backgrounds in order to achieve a harmonious final result.
Being mindful that the poster was going to be printed more than three metres tall, I also did a good deal of digital painting, particularly on the central figure. You have to be really careful when touching up a watercolour in this way that it doesn’t lose it’s organic charm and end up looking very airbrushed. I hope I hit a good balance.
All in all this job was a lovely change of pace for me. As someone who mostly works in children’s books, it was great to play about so much in Photoshop, and you’d be surprised how seldom I get the chance to draw drunken yobs, and girls throwing up on the green fields of Old Ireland.