More details below the fold...
This was one of the rare instances that I gambled on approval of a concept sketch (above): while waiting a thumbs-up on the design that was emailed to the client, I went ahead anyways and risked penciling it out on Bristol (below). Since time was of the essence I wanted to get a jump on the process, plus usually it's an investment of an idea that can be recycled into another project should it get rejected - being an artist is an awful lot like subsistence hunting: nothing ever gets wasted. So when I got the green light that proverbial horse had already bolted from the stable, and I could turn around and knock out the ink well in advance of enough time to let it completely dry overnight, erase, scan the line art (basically an insurance policy in the event of something horrible happening to the original) and proceed with the final color wash version.
One thing that I was supremely satisfied with throughout the entire evolution of the image was being rewarded for meticulous attention to detail. In other words, for once, I didn't screw anything up, especially during the inking (98% with single dip-pen nib) or the wash phases. Sure mistakes were made (one wee bit of whiteout), but they are so inconsequential to the overall package that nobody save the obsessive observer (namely myself) will ever be able to pick out where it went wrong. No small victory when one considers after a 14-hour day at school I wasn't exactly primed to pull an all-niter, what with the eye fatigue blurring the lines enough. Total time was approximately and hour or so for the concept sketch, another hour each for penciling and inking, and a couple more between the watercolor and digital cleanup for the print file.
Surreptitiously the composition just fell right into place, and a couple tweaks to the initial design made for a pretty tight layout, but even with the preponderance of clutter and not too much visual breathing room left open at all it still retains a cozy, intimate aesthetic. Some elements such as the scattering of newspapers from the tabletop then down and across the floor, plus the curling "pointers" of tails + wings help to curb the eye, plus a judicious use of color theory (higher contrast/warmer colors up front + cooler tones to the back), and enough highlights + white space to keep some movement going. The window & logs work to frame the symmetrical focal point, and I personally dig the last-minute inclusion of mirroring the mouths of the ol' timer and the bear behind him. Bonus homage went out to my old 18-year old cat's habit of drooling.
Confession: I had completely forgotten about this gig and the corresponding conversation held about doing such a benefit piece with the newspaper's Director of Marketing, until after the weekend had passed when I was supposed to do some concept sketches, when I got a phonecall message wondering what I had come up with, as time was starting to get tight before the event. Fortunately I had a fresh doodle in the sketchbook on a similar idea, but just switched the media from T.V. to print and reversed the point-of-view for the audience of animals. In the end it was a spectacular demonstration to my students at seeing firsthand the whole process, including salvaging a deadlined commission. Also not to mention the intrinsic value of always having a handy repository of imagery: a quick dig thorough the metaphoric mulch-pile is quite often the best source of inspiration.
Another good time for a great cause!