Drawings with an insane amount of detail like “Serpienta” of course require an insane amount of time (and willpower) to complete. The process of this project took place over a six week period (don’t ask how many hours).  It was not six weeks of solid work, but a result of having to divide my attention to multiple projects and stuff in my day-to-day life. Without interruptions or distractions, it might very well have been a solid week of work, but when do those circumstances ever occur?


serpienta_process_011. Initial pencil sketch. My initial concept was a medusa with sugar skull snake heads. After trying several unsuccessful composition sketches, I finally settled on one that I liked – something about the pose, perspective, and facial expression felt right. Although not originally part of my idea, I decided to have the snakes’ skin peeling back to reveal the bony vertebrae leading up to the skulls. I thought this was a cool way to push the original concept farther to an much more memorable result.

Note how proportionally larger the snake bodies and heads are compared to the final. I was just trying to work out how the concept itself would play out visually, but I knew I wanted the snakes to be smaller in order to fit more in the image.


serpienta_process_022. Full size pencil sketch. This is the pencil sketch at the project’s full intended size (24 x 30″, pretty big for a drawing). This is the most important stage; if any aspect of it is sub-par or not thoroughly ironed out, those mistakes will carry through all the way to the end. Fortunately, I was able to capture the look and feel of my initial sketch on the full size illustration board.

I got rid of her hand that had been present in my initial sketch. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include it or not at this point, but later decided it would have been unnecessarily complex and potentially visually confusing.


serpienta_process_033. I started working out the shapes of the skulls. At this point I committed to the notion that I wasn’t going to do myself any favors in regards to detailing.


serpienta_process_044. Doing one thing continuously can be mentally tiring for me, so I tend to skip to different areas of the drawing as I get bored. I turned my attention towards the shapes and contours of the snake bodies and their scales. Again, I was committed to leaving no detail un-detailed. I wasn’t sure how the scales would be rendered, but laying down a simple(?) grid along their surface was the first step.


serpienta_process_055. Inks. With all the snake bodies roughed out and grid-ed and the skulls mostly in place, I went ahead and started inking. I used various sizes of Micron pens for the outlining, and thicker Sharpies to fill in the black areas. I chose a relatively simple shape for the snake scales and repeated about 1,000 times.


serpienta_process_066. A detail shot of the snake bodies, bones and all. I wanted to save the sugar skull designs until the end, so I just did the outlines and basic forms first.

Normally, I do a great amount of research when it comes to animal anatomy, but since this was all a huge fantasy concept, I took the liberty of making it all up.


serpienta_process_077. After getting all the snake bodies inked up, I turned my attention to her face and finalized the design around the eyes. I normally hate drawing twisting/braided structures, but I like how this turned out.


serpienta_process_088. A full size shot, with the face 100% completed. At this point I was more than a little tired of drawing skulls, so several are left unfinished at the bottom. I also hadn’t given much attention to her body beneath the snakes.


serpienta_process_08a9. Finished inks. The entire drawing has been completed and inked. After finishing up the snake heads, I finally filled in her body underneath. I went with a simple toga-type garment with no detail; I didn’t want anything there to compete with the sugar skulls.


serpienta_process_0910. Beginning marker color. I started coloring in the sugar skulls, giving each one a unique color to go along with their design motif. I went with a yellow base on the bones (instead of white) simply for more visual interest and color appeal.


serpienta_process_1011. I moved on to coloring her skin and face. Generally, I haven’t used green as a dominant color in any of my Day of the Dead work, so I was excited to work it in here. When I was initially drawing her eyes, I wondered if making the pupils reptilian would be too off-putting and bizarre-looking. But ultimately, I’m glad I did, since it underscores the overall theme of the image and is a memorable bit of weirdness (the title of my autobiography, audio-narrated by Gary Busey).


12. With the woman and skulls all colored in, it was time to finally do the snake bodies. My decision-making process for color is often uncharacteristically spontaneous. I really had no clue how I was going to do them until it was time to do them. Since the all the snake vertebrae were the same color, I thought it would be visually boring for the bodies to all be the same color, as well.

I decided coloring each snake body in accordance with its sugar skull color made the most sense. But I was hesitant to apply such a rainbow color scheme, since I normally prefer only one or two dominant colors in a piece. But it’s something I’ve pulled off before with great success, so I didn’t sweat it much.

As the snake bodies go down to their roots, the colors gradually diminish. Though time-consuming, this was an effect I thought looked cool and gave a little extra oomf. That’s a technical term.

serpienta_process_11 serpienta_process_12 serpienta_process_13


serpienta_process_1413. Finished marker colors. The multi-colored snake bodies proved to be a marathon task, but I was almost there. I filled in the white roots of the snake bodies with flesh color, to achieve the look of her flesh gradually transforming into scaly forms.


 14. Finished digitally-colored image. Not a whole lot was done digitally; the background color was added, the overall hue of the image was adjusted slightly, and some stone texture was added. I like to put some color into the face so it’s not bone white. This is where the mood of the image really comes into play.

serpienta

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