Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Being a Creative Adult and Encouraging Creative Babies

This post is very long overdue as most posts are... and I will give you a fair warning that it's a long, process heavy one! I will preface this gargantuan novel-post by saying that one of the things I love most about being an artist is that I get to be a kid all the time. If I didn't have to draw them so often I probably would never have even notice that giraffes have little horns on the tops of their I'm constantly learning too. (Ahherm, female giraffess ALSO have small tufts of hair and now you know as well!)     

In the beginning of last year I was approached by two lovely people named Alice and Pete. Of all places to find my art, on Facebook is where it all started! See, it can be good. They had a very interesting project for me that would be both easy and also technically challenging: 1. Create a world for 40 animals (easy) 2. It's an interactive play mat for babies, final size 4 ft. x 4 ft. (wowzers) Just for reference, I'm used to working in inches.

When I start any project, I never like to be hindered by technical I did the easy part first, I sketched animals like there was no tomorrow. Here are some of my initial pencil sketches and reference photos I used:

I knew I wanted to have at least one tree and a stream running throughout the scene:

So then I started to fit the animals into the scene like puzzle pieces:

After a trillion versions of these, a few phone calls, and some really great art direction, I began to realize how out of my comfort zone I actually was. We decided it would be best if I broke the mat up into 4 24"x 24" quadrants and fit about 10 animals per quadrant:

...and I started to add a bit of color for depth:

The amount of sketches I went through to get to what's next is somewhat unbelievable, but like anything else, practice makes things easier. I filled at least half a sketchbook with animals, but it was time to get on the computer at this point. Each animal and chosen object would eventually have a label, so I labeled away and spread out. We also split the four quadrants into North Pole, South Pole, Forest, Desert, Tropical, which helped to organize the animals:

Adding a final logo and placeholder buttons (for interactivity):

Inked version:

I have a few different styles I like to work in. Sometimes I prefer black outline, sometimes no outline. I tend to not find as much freelance work with my black line style, but it made me immensely happy that this project allowed me to explore this style in a way that combined a bit of both. I used line, but added texture as well.

When you tap on an animal you hear a sound and the name of the animal in three different languages, depending on which you choose. Here's the play mat in all it's glory (I can't wait to get a sample!):

Some of my favorite close-ups (click each image to enlarge):

And a very sincere plug for a company that is fantastic to work for, Creative Baby! This product will be available in stores for all babies in December 2011! 


  1. Awesome work! Thanks so much for sharing your sketch process. A project like this can be so overwhelming...where does one begin? It's nice to see that it does take many steps to get to the ideal client result. Superb!

  2. Wow!! This is fantastic. What a super post - thanks for sharing your process and that is a lot of hard, hard work. The end result is awesome! (so were a lot of the sketches!!)

  3. What a great post! Its so wonderful to see your process. Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. Wow, Renée! You totally outdid yourself- it looks fabulous! Lucky babies everywhere will be geeking out to all the cute animals you created! Well done! :)

  5. Renee, this is AMAZING! What a tremendous amount of work you put into this and it looks fab! I love it. I am particularly fond of the little ape (next to the croc) in the first set of sketches, what a funny slightly bemused expression! Thanks for sharing the process too - it's always interesting to see how projects get solved and created.
    Slightly unrelated, have you heard of the Book Illustration Competition? The deadline is in Jan 2012.

  6. Renee you're such an inspiration! I love your work, and your blog posts, and this one's really great. I love how cluttered your initial sketches were, I thought it was going to be one of those "Can you find the koala bear?" pictures searches. The fluffy doggy's my fav :D Thanks for sharing!

  7. Sweet creation. It is so relaxing to see these pictures. I sketch well too.

  8. Renee, This is such an amazing post. You did an insane amount of work and the quality shows in your finished piece. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your process.

    I just LOVE your animals. They make me happy.

  9. Thanks so much everyone. I'm really glad you all like the post! I should really post more process art, that's where all the magic happens!

    Angela- You say "where does one begin?" - I began by putting on Pee Wee's Playhouse for background sound :)

    Nina- I love the idea of babies geeking out. haa

    Krishna - thanks so much for that link! I'm totally gonna check it out!

    Noelle - You're so sweet, thank you! I think making a Where's Waldo type of illustration would be super fun! Maybe someday!

    Tracy- it makes me happy that you're happy! :D

  10. Wow - I love that you've shared your sketches. You have a great imagination for all those creatures. And the final result is just amazing - it got my attention for such a long time - there is so much to see.

  11. Thank you so so so much :)

  12. rebecca11:03 PM

    Lovely, Renee.