Last December I was asked to illustrate a holiday card for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. This is the process of how I made it.
This illustration was done as part of my last job working as the Graphic Designer/Administrative Coordinator/Bookeeper at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. Shout out to Communications Director Kristen Wishon for making the sweet request and paying me for my time. It was timely as I was leaving my post there that I had held for over 3 years. The organization is doing important, but difficult, work in an local arts eco-system that is extremely resistant to the institutional change that is necessary for Pittsburgh to become a genuinely equitable place for artists to live and work. But I digress! Before leaving to pursue a career in Software Development, it was personally important to leave something special behind and I figured that a cute illustration of the staff would be a great way to do that. I wanted to leave everyone there a gift to remember me by that would also could be one for them to be remembered by.
When the print copies were going around I could hear everyone in the kitchen eating fudge and pointing each other out in the illustration, laughing. It was the cutest thing and it made me so proud. I saw how important it is to feel seen. It was a real honor to capture everyone in kind-hearted caricature.
Needless to say, it was a real treat.
The biggest challenge for this post card was including all 22 staff members of the Arts Council and the Office of Public Art in a 4x6” space. My goal was to create something that was meaningful to those in the office and would be meaningful to those who would receive this card. So, overall it had to have a successful holiday vibe while also including clear inside jokes capturing the staff’s real personalities.
Tools: #2 pencil, a mechanical pencil, lightbox and Photoshop. My lightbox was the MVP of this illustration.
Initial Pencil Sketch
I wanted to draw this at scale. I kept it simple and traced a post card that was lying around. It was here that I was plotting out where everyone would go. I didn’t know yet exactly what everyone would be doing. I knew I could figure that out in the next layer of clarifying pencils.
Second Pass at Pencils
Now that I knew where everyone would go I had to figure out what everyone was doing. This took some time but was the most fun. It was a delicious puzzle to solve. How to create flavor while maintaining visual clarity.
My pencilling hand was really warmed up at this point so I decided to “sling inks” with lead. I tightened up my drawing hand and kept a sharp #2 pencil at hand. This allowed for a thick, buttery line that had a nice texture that would lend visual warmth to the image. I think this came out well. I’d seen many cartoonists use pencils as inks and I wanted to try it out for real on an illustration gig.
I’d say it was a success.
After scanning the final pencils I brought the art into Photoshop where I thresholded them to increase the contrast and then got busy coloring the image. I used the Art Council’s branded palette as the jumping off point. This was helpful as I had a limited color palette. The coloring was just solving a puzzle: How do I distribute the colors give outfits of varied colors for all the figures while not concentrating any one color any where? I love it when art becomes simple problem solving.
Below is the final result scanned from the post card.
Thanks to everyone at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council from 2016->2020 for making my time there as enlightening as it was. I’m thankful for all the ways you helped me grow into who I am today <3. Real talk.
🎶 Currently listening to:
MF DOOM - Deep Fried Frenz