I good friend commissioned me to design a tattoo for him to take to a tattoo shop. His idea was to show a Laughing Gull eating a slice of pepperoni pizza. First, I had to research what laughing gulls looked like. I also dug up videos of them flying and how they looked eating human food.
#Round One: the Composition
I penciled a collection of different poses, pizza's, and angles. The purpose of the composition sketches wasn't to pick a composition to finalize. We used the sketches as fodder for finding our final composition.
Round Two: Ink style
Armed with some desired composition ideas, I inked a couple examples using slightly different styles. I tend to draw in a line art style that blends architectural contours with traditional core, fill and cast shadow hatching. Lately I've been excited about using the fan brush to paint more organic ink strokes into my line work. I included some examples of that style as well for discussion.
Round 3: Final Polish
We chose the up-from-under angle with spread wings. I like this composition best as it feels dynamic and more naturalistic than the stereotypical soaring pose. We also chose the clean line version, yet increased the contrast of the head, wing tips and feet in order for the image to read better at a distance and as the tattoo ages.