Here's the development process for the illustration I just added to my portfolio. It's based on the story "Toke," by Tim Akers. First, I spent some time coming up with an idea for what I wanted to make the picture look like. It only took a short while to get a vague idea. I wanted to show the inhuman "scarecrow" creature in a frightened pose, echoing old pulp novels, with a murderous shadow looming over him, er, it. I liked the idea of the reversal of traditional roles. I also wanted to show the way the creature was made of vegetable strands wrapped around a wooden frame, which I thought was a pretty neat (and unique) idea for a "monster."
With the idea in mind I spent lots and lots of time scribbling while I tried to find a pose (all sketches done in Painter, by the way):
The pose began to get clearer, and I did a little color study which turned out to be mostly wrong. However, the bottom two pictures show the final sketch coming together.
Here's the finished sketch:
The background actually went fairly easily, as I chanced into a nice loose pattern that looked like brickwork in yellow light. That pattern, and the shadow, remained essentially unchanged from here on. However, the figure gave me lots of trouble. On the upper right you see the remnants of some disasterous color experiments, and then on the lower left I revert the figure to the sketch (thank God for digital and saving backups, or that would have been much more tedious). Finally, on the lower right I start with the pole that forms the creature's arm "bone", then move on to the strands of it, and things seem to start working. (Color was done using the "Acrylics" "Captured Bristle" brush, pretty much throughout. It seemed to get the feel I wanted. Mostly I just varied the size.)
From here on out, it is "just" a matter of carefully rendering all those sticks and strands and shadows. This was the long (and nerve-wracking) part. Many, many steps are not shown.
Finally, after much effort, the final, tweaked slightly in Photoshop, and signed: