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Steam-Powered: Mermaid Illustration – The Creative Process

As promised, here’s a peek into my mind and how I take an illustration like this from start to finish.  Everything is under the cut.  Lots of images, so be warned!

First off, here’s the original thumbnail with all my notes.  Yes, I really did it all in pink ink.  As you can see, my notes clearly say the finished illustration should be 8 x 10, and my thumbnail is clearly a square. Don’t worry, that totally bit me in the ass later.  The two squiggly things on top of the bloopy thing are the girl and the mermaid.

Thumbnail / Notes

This isn’t actually the first set of pencils I did.  My first set was based on my incorrect, square-shaped thumbnail and it was a total clusterfuck, compositionally speaking.  I honestly thought I’d saved a screengrab of that one, but I guess I didn’t. Oh well!  On to the next step!  This stage in the drafting process includes the most of the basics, except for that damn submarine, because holy crap, submarines are hard to draw! Besides, I don’t care about the stinking sub, I wanna draw a MERMAID!

Mermaid 01

I drew the sub, because you can only procrastinate for so long.

Mermaid 02

This is the point where I realized the submarine looks like a penis. Good thing I caught that mistake before the illustration went to print! I actually did have a great BS explanation all prepared, about how the submarine’s design was a reflection of the patriarchal culture that created it, and blah blah blah.

Mermaid 03

I was so disturbed by the penis-sub that I made these quickie-changes at work in Photoshop, which I loathe sketching in. Please, feel free to laugh at my misery! I know I do!

Mermaid 04


Mermaid 05

More color, but damn the water is looking dark.

Mermaid 06

Lightened things up a bit and added texture to the ship.

Mermaid 07

Almost done, but now I kind of hate the clouds. Ah, an artist’s love is a fickle thing, is it not?

Mermaid 09


Mermaid Final

Well, I hope this has been instructive! So the next time someone asks you how an artist creates a piece, you can tell them, with confidence, that it’s 4 parts bullshit and 5 parts late nights and cold panic.