The Animal Pt2

Illustrating the story of the Whooping Crane

Day 1

March 11, 2021

Habitat/whooping crane references
Wetland habitat research
More detailed thumbnails
Color Mock-ups

Moving forward:

  • How can I effectively communicate the story of the piece without it being too obvious?
  • Differentiate the layering of wetland grasses somehow

Day 2

March 18, 2021

Notes from feedback
  • Extend the ground plane to work with the perspective better and allow more room for text
  • Oil rig near the body distract eye from the bird
  • Be mindful of large color contrasts (dark brown on cream)
  • Make the closer objects and focal point more detailed
  • Alter perspective of the bird to be more accurate

Grass and extra color issue:

First, I focused on making the grass less complex. This required altering the form of the grass to be less sporadic and a more consistent color.

Last iteration
Trying to merge colors
Trying to solve the 8 color issue by merging the grass color
More iterations of grass and ground relationship
Rock in front of grass background
Simplified Grass

Foreground detailing:

Then, I moved onto adding details to the head and fish. I approached this by blocking in colors for the forms and also using color to suggest shading.

Process of adding detail to the head and fish

Overall Process:

I hashed out my ideas on procreate for an easier time to translate my ideas into a composition and to experiment with shape and color. Of course, I recreated this in illustrator afterwards.

Overall Progress (spot the difference? haha)
Different color iterations
Color changes
  • How can I prevent the rocks from competing with the bird’s head?

Day 3

March 22, 2021

Task: Refine your illustration based on the feedback given in class

  • Change the rocks to not be outlines
  • Focus more on the habitat rather than the animal
  • Balance habitat and animal size comparison
  • Make the construction in the background more clear
Notes from feedback and sketches
Miro Board

The Angle

I started working on the largest issue: the angle. Daphne mentioned that the angle was not adding anything to the story and that it was not needed for my composition since it already has the complexity of a above/under water transition. I was sort of attached to the angle, but after thinking about it I agree. Without the angle, the viewer can focus more on understanding the story rather than focusing on trying understand the composition. Because of the awkward perspective, the body of the bird is greatly warped, which can hinder recognition. If I were to reduce recognition strain, the story would be a lot easier to understand. Also, without the angle, I would have more room to showcase the habitat, which was lacking in the angled version.

Process of adjusting the angle
Grass experiments

Moving to illustrator:

Altering body
Making the body larger
Altering the grass
Iteration 2
Trying new colors
  • Are there different color values I can play with (right now it is mostly the same values but different tones)
  • How can I differentiate the foreground grass from the background grass?

Day 4

March 24, 2021

Feedback from Daphne:

  • Both color palettes — sky color too hazy, brighten it up
  • Remove some sections of the rock outline to make it less outline like
  • Text: Rag from aligned right text makes it hard to read; Spacing between title, subhead, and text is very similar — make the space between title and subhead closer; widen line spacing within the text; make the text smaller; pay attention to the period and manually adjust the placement so it is aligned.
  • Suggestion from Shannon: add rocks to the right edge so that left aligned text will have rag that adheres to the contours of the rocks


First I played with brightening up the color palettes. I mostly just made the colors more vibrant and the sky color less gray.

Before (left) and after (right)
Before (left) and after (right)
Color palettes and their iterations (bottom — most recent)


The cityscape was too centered and took over the focus of the piece, so I shifted it to the right and partially hid it in the grasses. The green buildings and red land contrasted too much, so I opted to make them the same color.

Cityscape alterations (centered->moved right->removed crane->all green->lighter green)


Trying out highlights on the grass
Grass before changing city (left), grass after changing city (middle), trying new grass (right)


I also altered the rocks to reduce the outline.

Outline of rocks reduced


Previous text iteration (left), cleaned up right aligned text (middle), trying Shannon’s text idea (right)
Iteration 4
  • Do the grass layers distract?

Day 5

March 27, 2021

Notes from Dani critique
  • Extend some rock shadows or highlights
  • Add more color/detail to the head
  • Check text margins
  • Make buildings and land same colo
  • Try to align text to the left
  • Experiment with reducing the title and differentiate it with the subheading using color, caps, or boldness
  • Don’t trap the text with rocks on all sides — move upwards and to the left
  • Make the bird legs less robotic
  • Pay attention to the highlight to leg ratios
  • Add more detail to the bird body using the darker green
Feedback notes

Adding detail:

Because I knew that I would make the grasses more detailed, I had to alter the level of detail of the bird and the rocks that are closer to the viewer.

Added detail to head and fish
Rendering the feet/rocks more and adding highlights


Tightening up the form of the body


I have been having a difficult time with the grass.

Detailed grass


In my past iteration, I had some grass behind the green fish so that it would not blend into the background. I wanted to try and experiment with other ways to represent the fish.

Lighter version, no grass (left); original darker, with grass(right)
Darker, without grass (left); lighter, without grass (right)
With grass (left), without grass (right)


I made the text left aligned and moved the rocks to make the text feel less cramped.

Text alterations

Color Evolution:

Color evolution from start to finish


Final Illustration

Design and CS student at Carnegie Mellon University