The Death Valley project has reached its first milestone! I thought I would share a description of my process to arrive at the first sketch, which has now been delivered to the park.
When I flew out to Death Valley National Park this past March, along with giving me a guided tour, the staff gave me the following drawing. It roughly outlined which animals and plants they wanted featured and the idea for the landscape. (Working with something like this is like having to learn a foreign language and then transcribe it in your own words…)
To get the ball rolling I started with thumbnails in my sketchbook to help wrap my head around how to convey such a vast and diverse landscape. Just tiny little quick drawings without too much attention to detail. The biggest challenge was trying to seamlessly flow from one type of landscape to another. Some of the settings include: wildflower covered rock flows, a desert oasis, barren salt flats, sand dunes, transitional desert holly zones, and of course the mountains surrounding either side of the valley.
At the same time that I was trying to figure out the overall layout, I started doing individual pencil studies of the species to be featured, like the ones below. (top: Evening Primrose, bottom: Zebra Tailed Lizard) After I had a bunch, I scanned them and combined them digitally in a collage to easily play with the layout and scale.
I then printed out my computer sketch (I take full advantage of how much time sketching digitally can save!) and transferred it to paper. I spent additional time working out layout issues once on paper and kept it as a simple line drawing. (Which is hard for my detail natured self) Here is the result! Can’t wait to start painting!