A blank sheet of paper can be intimidating for both writers and illustrators. Nothing else can inspire creativity and instill fear both at the same time. Even when I can “see” the finished image in my head, it doesn’t just flow out onto the paper. A writer re-writes rather than writes, and an illustrator needs visual reference, something to work from, rather than pulling a perfect image from the brain. This is a one-step process for still life or portrait work, but what about when you need a witch flying on a broom, or a beanstalk climbing into the sky? Don’t see that around every day, do you? Or do you….? The elements in every fantastical illustration are all present in every day life. We just need to find them and harness them into one frame. Here’s where Photoshop has become my number one tool of late to perform what I’ve heard referred to as “Frankenstein Reference Imagery”. By using the program to create a collage, you then have something tangible to work from.

Here are some examples:

Step 1) Collage using Photoshop. I took a photo of my son in the pose I wanted. As you can see, the photo I took of him didn’t represent the angle and stance I wanted for the hind leg, so I inserted an alternate leg pose that embodied the energy I was trying to achieve. I then found some trees in our back yard that provided the roots and perspective. Then incorporated third party images for the clouds, birds, and the cottage.

“Frankenstein Reference Imagery”
using collage to create visual reference

Step 2) The finished illustration. Using the collage as a starting point, I’m inspired and feel free to make changes and embellishments and make it my own.

Jack and the Beanstalk
illustration by Alice Ratterree

And another example:

Step 1) The collage in Photoshop this time also incorporating my own sketch work:

“Frankenstein Reference Imagery”
using collage to create visual reference

Step 2) The pencil work in progress

The Book Balloon (work in progress)
illustration by Alice Ratterree


Illustrator of the day: Rebecca Dautremer

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