The Pier at the End of the World Illustration Technique

pier-wall-master6-9-14flatsm1000From time to time, I’m asked about the painting technique I used for the illustrations in my book The Pier at the End of the World, published by Tilbury House.

Regarding equipment, I used a combination of airbrush—my Iwata HP-C, my standard  workhorse—and a large assortment of watercolor brushes. Since I’m a scuba diver, I hook my airbrush hose to a scuba tank via a custom-made pressure control adapter. That way, I don’t have purchase and maintain an air compressor, although there are some great, quiet compressors on the market.

Regarding paint, for The Pier illustrations I used Holbein Acryla Gouache, which is neither traditional gouache nor acrylic. Instead it’s a special recipe Holbein has developed, which turns out to be very airbrush friendly because they grind their pigment so fine. Holbein products are on the expensive side, but their colors are brilliant, and I’ve always found them to be well worth the price—especially for small, detailed paintings. Again, although it’s called gouache, it’s really nothing like traditional gouache, except that it is opaque and cleans up with water.

For this wide angle sea creature composite I did about 30 separate paintings and turned each one of them into a Photoshop layer. That way I could independently stack the subjects against a large background (the big wall with pink algae), digitally adjust color as needed, and also play with the positioning of each object up until the book designer’s deadline.

Thanks for asking about the illustrations in my book.