My Process (or lack thereof) for painting Sala

There a few steps you should generally follow when creating an illustration: 

  • 1) form a concept
  • 2) Brainstorm with at least 20 thumbnail sketches
  • 3) do a grayscale study to determine value patterns
  • 4) do a quick color study/create a color pallet
  • 5) gather the reference you need (photos, models, objects etc.)
  • 6) do a detailed drawing
  • 7) proceed to the finished piece!

Following all or even most of these steps makes art faster, easier and better in the end.  I however, have the terrible habit of skipping from step one straight to to the last two steps.  I just can’t wait to get to the delicious details!


True to character, when I thought my portrait of Sala was turning out pretty well I decided to turn it into a finished piece without knowing what sort of picture I wanted it to be. I skipped planning and started playing.



I finished painted Sala’s dress then added a quick shield and stuck in some photo reference of lilies. I didn’t care for the shield so I didn’t bother finishing it but I loved the lilies so I painting some of my own…and then didn’t include them in the final piece because I eventually cropped off the whole bottom of the picture and changed my concept entirely.

Instead I decided to paint Sala with a little pet dragon. I tried several different styles of dragon. Then I thought it’d be nice to have a lantern, and then I thought the picture would look better with a background, and the background needed a landscape in it’s background and finally, after a lot of muddling, I came up with a finished piece.  It probably took five times as long as it would have if I had drawn it out by hand to begin with, but I had a lot of fun creating it and learned a lot about art and Photoshop in the process.

I owe a special thanks to my wonderful husband Eric for offering helpful suggestions whenever I was at a loss.  Here is some advice he gave me for the background.  I especially liked the penguin, but unfortunately it didn’t make it into the final piece.


5 Replies to “My Process (or lack thereof) for painting Sala”

  1. Eric really has some great ideas!! I especially like the penquin too. Thanks for sharing your process. You did an awesome job!

  2. I liked seeing the video showing the progression. It’s really cool. Also, +1 on the penguin. Eric knows what looks good.

  3. Loved seeing your process, the video is a gem. Yeah, the penguin is cool, but it’s his sword that makes him special.

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