Before I begin developing the illustrations for a picture-book scene, I like to get to know my characters first, so I start with character sketching and development.
Once I feel I know my characters well, I start laying out the pages as thumbnail sketches -- 2" large rough compositional sketches.
I usually enlarge the thumbnail sketches to full size by scanning it, blowing it up in photoshop, and printing it out, and then use tracing paper to refine the sketch on top. Once the sketch is refined, I use a light pad to retrace the sketch onto Arches Coldpress 140 lb watercolor paper.
I ink the drawing with dip pens and India ink. Then I stretch the paper by soaking the drawing in water for about 10 minutes, and staple it onto a plywood board.
If time allows, I sometimes scan in the inked drawing, before stretching it, to print out copies for tone and color studies (but if the deadline is too tight I often have to skip this step).
The last step is laying down the color in a series of washes, using watercolors (I use a variety of brands: M. Graham, Winsor & Newton, and Holbein).
The last stage usually takes a lot of standing and staring; adding washes bit by bit until it feels finished. Once all the artwork is finished for the book, I package it up and ship it off to the publisher for scanning.
It's such a magical moment to see it come out a year later all put together in the final printed book!
All illustrations copyright Eliza Wheeler, www.wheelerstudio.com