When I first turned my career towards story illustration, I had no idea the amount of prep work that goes into making a stunning piece. Before an illustrator puts brush to canvas, they've already done a ton of homework.
The tricky bit is that the image has to look believable. Whether it’s Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels, Catcher in the Rye or Little Woman.
This is like drafts of your term papers.
Rough sketches, ideas that will eventually be worked up into a line drawing and value study.
COLOR COMP AND LIGHTING
Color comp is always a hard step for me, as there are infinite ways color schemes on can pick. Sometimes I do have artist direction from the client, or an idea in my head, but even in this example, the shadows can be blue black to purplish gold.
MODELING and REFERENCE SHOTS
All the dwarves I know are out slaying dragons, mining gems or bothering hobbits I had to fall back on a new skill.
Apparently in order to paint realistically, one needs to also be a fair sculptor as well. Yikes!
Whether the artist works traditionally or in a 3D program like Blender or ZBrush, a model of some sorts needs to be lite and photographed to catch nuisances in light. These little things that make an illustration sing.
Oh yes, did you catch that? An artist needs to be a decent photographer as well.
And then then finally, you can get down to the actual painting.
So that my folks is why artists have grey hairs.