Behind the scenes of Unfettered – Part one

Over the next few weeks I will talk about the process of generating some of the illustrations for the Unfettered project.

I’ll be starting off with Squirrel Hair. Some of the other illustrations were generated the same way, so I won’t be covering them in detail.

The sleeping image (game birds) was done the same way as I have described below.

Here we go.

I keep a lot of sketch pads around the house, and when I had my meeting with Tiny Owl Workshop about generating a book where the images come first, my sketch pads swung into action.

Here is the scribble I presented to Tiny Owl. They certainly had a lot of faith in me as the scribble was well and truly rough.


No Squirrels I here you mutter, I added the squirrels later whilst I was painting the image. I thought it needed another element to create a story. Something a writer could see as an interesting idea.

The image was to convey how silly fashion can sometimes be. I had done a previous illustration with someone wearing a snail instead of fur. Squirrel hair followed the same theme.

At the same time I did this rough, I also did a rough of a man with strange hair. I’m hoping to paint him later in the year.

So the rough was approved by Tiny Owl which was great.

I began painting the image in photoshop, starting with the face. The expression gives me hints of who this character is.

Base colours first.


Then I slowly built it up in photoshop.


Adding shadow, colour and highlights to slowly build the face and give it depth. I’ve also started the neck wrap. Again adding shadow and highlights. I use the smudge tool to give it a painted texture. Slowly merging and softening the edges. It also gives the illustration that painted look.

I try not to polish the illustrations so much that they become like an airbrush painting. I like to see the strokes.

The hair next. This section took the longest.


She was going to have dark hair at first but once the colours on the face were done, it didn’t look right. So I decided to lighten the overall hair. Then went in and started the detail. Adding variation of colours and fine hair strands.


I worked up the blue bodice and hair sticks next. As the hair was so high, I wanted her to have sticks that held it up. The handles on the sticks were going to be leather.



Added more to the sticks and started to play around with maybe a tartan pattern to the bodice.



I began to think about the birds that were to perch on top of the sticks. The birds I had scribbled in the rough were way too small. It needed more of a statement.

I came across this image of a stone peacock.


It was perfect. As per the face, I placed down the base colours and built it up, using the pic as reference.


You may have noticed I have gone away from the leather handles and now have black and white striped handles. I’ve also added the squirrels and gone darker with the dress. At the base I’ve started the underskirt.

The background has been roughly painted in too. It now is starting to come together and the colours are working well with each other.

The background was worked on more. I added a texture using the photoshop brush. This was then smudged and painted to create bushes. I wasn’t too concerned about how accurate the bushes were as they are only supposed to be a backdrop. I varied the colour to give it the antique look it needed. Just just like a Victorian photograph.


Added some pencil pines further off in the distance to create a little more depth. Then I started the base. As you can see from the image above, she is floating against the background at the moment and she needed something to stand on.


You’ll notice I’ve added texture to the under skirt. Again building up the light and shadow.

She is nearly complete. I go in and add more detail. More strands of hair and a small acorn on her bodice. Just a small touch of detail that may or may not be noticed. Add a few highlights to the peacocks to give an ivory appearance.


The image is then tweaked and adjusted with curves, brightness & contrast and colour corrections.


Next week will be the Hunters model.