Friday, June 7, 2013

Happy Ending

It's. Finally. Finished. Behold: my most ambitious illustration ever. 13 characters, seven birds, one elephant. This is the final illustration for one of my thesis stories; Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans set in Mughal-esque India.

Yes that guy does have a bird arm. It's part of the story, ok?

Why did I do this? I asked myself the very same question several times throughout the development of this drawing. This complicated setup solved several problems:

  1. Summarizes the ending of the story, with the wedding and the princes restored to human form
  2. Emphases the Indian setting of the story
  3. Makes a colorful, high-key piece for my portfolio
  4. My portfolio was lacking in crowd scenes, and also drawings of men

So when I first sketched out the thumbnail for this scene, I thought it was great. A perfect storytelling solution! I am a genius! Meanwhile a muffled voice in the back of my mind was shouting "YOU WILL REGRET THIS LATER".

So easy!

After a thorough internet search, I realized that I was not going to be able to find any birds-eye-view photos of elephants. It's just really rare to even see an elephant from that angle, I guess. So using a technique I learned from my teacher Julie Downing, I bought a toy elephant and used it as my model:

After working on the drawing for many hours, I realized how hard this thing was going to be. I set the drawing aside for an entire semester, hoping that my drawing skills would improve and I could come back to the drawing better equipped. Amazingly, my procrastination actually paid off. After six months, I battled this drawing again with renewed confidence and understanding of perspective. And I finished it!

This is what I imagine happening immediately after this scene:


  1. This is spectacular, congratulations on pulling it off (and without losing the energy in the finished piece - it looks completely effortless despite all that went into it). I love this on so many levels - the characters, the expressions, the awesome birds. Almost, almost makes me want to take on an excessively ambition illustration too :)

    1. Thanks Wylie, that means a lot to me. :)

  2. Kelley,
    This is amazing - I can't begin to imagine having the kind of talent that you have! Simply stunning :)

    1. Thanks Kristie! :) I'm happy that you stopped by.

  3. Great job! It was worth the stress and difficulty!

    1. Thanks Misa! I appreciate your comments. :)

  4. Wow, 6 months! I suddenly don't feel badly about setting aside work for even years until I feel up to snuff.

    Excellent work!


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