Sketchbook Stories :: Dominick Saponaro

Dom and I graduated from the same illustration program at UArts. We reconnected a few years ago when he and Christy were out visiting the bay area and I’m so glad we did :-)

Dominick’s an amazing illustrator that paints with light. You would never guess, not in a million years, that he creates his art digitally!! His expressive brushstrokes and dramatic lighting creates an incredibly striking mood, well beyond the literal interpretation. It’s really that awesome!!

Dom has worked with the likes of Simon & Schuster, Holiday House, The Science Fiction Book Club, Solaris Books, and Bethlehem Books. His work has been featured in Spectrum and ImagineFX Magazine, and has been showcased in numerous galleries and illustration shows. 

Here is Dominick‘s Sketchbook Story ::

DS: I have a confession to make… I hate thumbnails! Let me rephrase that by saying, I hated thumbnails. Up until recently I have always felt my thumbnails left a lot to be desired, not only for myself but also the client. While I have never gotten a complaint as to the level they were ever at I just felt they never really showed my final intentions. I’d always be chomping at the bit to move along and get started throwing value down on the final canvas as quickly as possible.

DS: I just didn’t enjoy all the preparatory work involved with creating the final image, even though I knew it all was necessary. Recently I have forced myself to really push my thumbnails as far as possible, trying to create full blown miniature black and white paintings of the image I have in my mind. This has helped me immensely! Even though I spend more time on these sketches it saves time down the road at a later stage of the illustration. Everything is now figured out and there is no trial & error moving forward. I know what I am looking for in reference, what I have to do for the final drawing, and even know what’s happening value wise with the final painting. Best of all, I have really come to enjoy the thumbnail stage of a project now!


DS: I am influenced by many Golden Age illustrators like NC Wyeth, Dean Cornwell and Howard Pyle. I like to incorporate many of their fundamental techniques of drawing, composition and value within my own works. I strive to create works of art that transcend illustration. I am sharing with you a step by step snapshot of my digital painting technique. 


DS: I work in a very traditional way, starting with an initial line drawing.

DS: Then I build up from a mid ground underpainting by wiping out or erasing.

DS: I then begin modeling the form with heavier more opaque brushwork. 

DS: Once I have a fully realized black and white painting I do quick little tiny color studies to guide me with my palette choices. I then proceed to color on the final, building up the painting with many different transparent color glazes while still retaining the value from the black and white painting.


DS: After the painting is keyed in color wise to completion I then go in and refine the painting even further with opaque colors so as not to just have a colorized black and white.  Finally Ill go in and make any last minute hue, value, or saturation adjustments while pushing textures and refining some of the brushwork.  You can see  a step by step video progress slideshow here.

DS: Here are a few pieces on exhibit at The Philadelphia Sketch Club’s “Phillustration!” exhibition. I won first place in the institutional category with my train painting “1027” and second place in the self promotion category for my “Lincoln” portrait.

DS: I also recently received another honor when his “A Princess of Mars” painting was selected from over 300 entries for inclusion in the Frank Frazetta tribute exhibition at Gallery Provocateur. Proceeds from the show will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for Frank’s granddaughter Jessica, who suffers from the disease.

Here’s where you can find Dominick Saponaro ::

website :

  1. This is fabulous! Such beautiful art!

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