Sketchbook Stories :: David Hohn

I met David with Dan at the first SCBWI Conference I ever attended. He was sitting in the row in front of me sketching during the keynote speech and I was admiring his drawings. I just had to introduce myself and we’ve been online friends ever since.

Like myself, David has gained the experience of knowing “both sides of the fence”. He’s worked as both a staff artist and art director and now he teaches Illustration at the Art Institute of Portland and illustrates with the majority of his projects focusing on the juvenile and trade picture book markets.

Here is David’s Sketchbook Story ::

DH: Recently I’ve been working on a chapter book series “The Imagination Station” with Focus on the Family and Tyndale Publishers. I thought I’d take you through the creation of the cover for the second book in the series.

DH: It all starts with the manuscript and picking the moment that captures the essence of the book without giving away any vital plot points. The initial discussion with the editor and art director is essential to getting a sense of the emotion the cover needs to convey. I really like those covers that ask a question of the viewer — a question that can only be answered by reading the book.

DH: I work up a ton of different ideas and then whittle them down to three that I think work the best. Those get formatted along with a typed pitch and e-mailed to the editor.

DH: In this case Option 1 was chosen with some changes to the characters poses.

DH: It is at this stage that I start gathering photo reference. Photo reference can be tricky. The temptation to simply copy a photo can be strong, but copying any single image can have the dual effect of making your drawing look stiff and “copied” as well as opening you up to copyright infringement (if you didn’t take the photos yourself).

DH: Because of this I wait to gather photo reference until after the sketch has been approved and will actively avoid any photo reference that is too similar to my rough sketch.

DH: My best reference tool is probably the mirror hanging next to my drawing table (hey, hands are hard to draw out of your head — so why bother?!)

DH: Alterations are easy to make at this rough sketch stage, and there was yet another character pose change before heading on to finished sketch.

DH: The next stage is an ink and monochromatic watercolor painting to establish texture and values. I’ve run the gamut between all physical mediums to all digital painting. These days I seem to be landing somewhere inbetween. I love the random, unplanned effects of watercolor but need the speed and flexibility of digital painting. Over the years I’ve adapted a glazing method used by the old masters.

DH: The watercolor painting gets scanned in and then I “glaze” color over the value study in Photoshop. This retains all the watercolor goodness but allows for a great deal of color experimentation.

DH: Once the overall color of the painting is defined I use custom opaque brushes to paint in the highlights and push the planes of the image.

DH: The very last thing is to print out a color accurate proof of the digital file and send that along with the high res file burned to a CD off to the publisher and to have all the type placed by the designer.
And here are some of the advance copies of the first three books in the series.

Here’s where you can find David ::

website ::
     blog ::

  1. i love his process of under-painting "in real life" then glazing in photoshop. great way to keep the texture!

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