Puzzle Spread illustration in November ChickaDEE

The November issue of ChickaDEE Magazine is all about China. I had the super fun job of illustrating the full spread puzzle page for this issue.

Below is the final version – click to view larger (For demonstration purposes I modified it a bit from the version that appears in the magazine – removing some fun china facts that covered up a portion of the artwork in the lower right corner, and a small little bird character illustrated by Charles Manale that was standing on the box that contained the China facts)


I had a great time filling up the spread with all the different characters and colourful costumes. This piece required quite a bit of research – clothing, chinese zodiac costumes, buildings, traditional Chinese instruments, dragon costume pieces, etc.

When planning the illustration, I sketched out quite a few small thumbnails to figure out the composition and placement of the characters. As there was quite a bit of text that was to be placed on the illustration, careful planning was needed to make sure I left enough space for the text and all of the puzzle elements. Below is the thumbnail sketch I used for this illustration (approximately 4″ x 2″):


After I had the basic composition and placement of all the elements worked out, I scanned and enlarged my thumbnail sketch to actual size. I then went over the enlarged sketch defining all of the elements more clearly, and tweaking things as I went. At this point I also did a quick value study to make sure everything was working as I wanted. I find it really useful to do a value study over my sketches. It helps me ground my composition, making sure it’s working as I want, and it can help me spot problem areas that I may not have noticed when just looking at my line work. It also helps to make the final colouring stage go faster since the values are already figured out.


Once I had the sketch done at full size, and went over it one final time to produce the final line work that was used. During this final pass, some small things were changed and moved, but for the most part I was simply refining and concentrating on my line quality. You will notice a few of the main elements changed from the full size sketch to the final piece – namely the dragon puzzle pieces and the placement of the stage.