I suppose there is a degree of irony of an illustrator having to think about the idea of anger management. I like to think I have some pretty good ideas when it comes to illustrating and being able to consider a client brief.
The problem is that these ideas are great all the while they stay in my head. Getting them down on paper, that's a different matter. So, with this illustration it helped a little that it took a while for the sketch to evolve. I knew that the concept would be an illustration of a character going from angry to calm with a visual colour coded 'monitor'. Once I'd established the style of the character I sketched out a couple of versions on paper first. I was happy with the idea of a red cloud descending over the angry character as well as the calm pose of the other character.
One of the best bits of advise I was ever given (and happy to pass it on) is if you intend to create a digital illustration then do as much work up front using pencil and paper as you can. Keep working until you have an idea you're happy with. I'm now at the stage where I'm happy with the concept, characters and layout. Now I need to produce a finished sketch. I map this out on a sketch pad first in pencil and then ink it up using a mix of Staedtler or Pigma Micron liners. I want the finished illustration to look real, like it's a sketch, warts and all so any slight imperfections are fine. This 'real' look includes the paper and so once it's finished I take a photo of the finished sketch and put it on my desktop.
My favourite application of choice is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I've tried others and they're either too big for what I need or aren't intuitive enough. I need to feel as if I'm actually drawing at all times. I open up a new file working at around 2,000 x 1,500 pixels and import the sketch. Whether digital illustration or animation the key to working to deadlines is to keep everything tidy. If you have multiple assets for a project then keep them all together in one folder. Save regularly and embrace 'cmd + S' as a muscle memory. Sketchbook has a comprehensive undo facility but getting into the habit of saving your progress at very regular intervals is certainly one way to remain calm.
You'll see from the above that my Sketchbook layout is fairly sparse. The lagoon is of no real use at this point and is neatly out of the way. The toolbar across the top is of regular use although I have got into the habit of using keyboard shortcuts. On the far left of the screen I have the simplest of brush palettes. As I've completed most of my inking on the sketch itself I don't need to do much of this 'in machine'. For every new project you can also create a separate colour palette. It's really useful that with Sketchbook there is a huge degree of flexibility of how this is done and maybe it will be worth exploring in more depth at some point.
In order to be able to paint behind the sketch and still see the pen lines I set the sketch layer to 'Multiply'. I also need a little bit more paper texture so I photograph another piece of old and stained paper and import this into Sketchbook also setting this layer to 'Multiply'. This means that when I include a green colour background on a separate layer beneath the sketch and paper texture I can still see both over the colour.
The rest of the sketch is then painted digitally using a Wacom Intuos (Medium) pen and tablet. I use a basic paintbrush tool and use keyboard shortcuts to vary the size and opacity of the brush as I go. I tend to paint all new elements onto a new layer until I'm happy with them and then merge with lower layers as I go.
Everyone is different but the key for me is to keep the entire process as close as possible to simply drawing on a piece of paper.