morgan girvin

illustrator, maker and hermit
home > illustrated work > general projects > Welcome to Goo Lagoon

The regular, variant and uncoloured versions of ‘Welcome to Goo Lagoon’, an 18x24” Print for Bottleneck Gallery I did at the start of 2024.


‘Welcome to Goo Lagoon’ is an illustration I did for Bottleneck Gallery at the beginning of 2024, based on the show (and characters) of Spongebob Squarepants. When I was younger, I watched a lot of Spongebob. So when the opportunity to do a Spongebob illustration came along I just couldn’t resist. A lot of my current work has been quite environment and atmosphere based (something that I like), but I knew I wanted to revisit something more akin to my Taskmaster Illustration, and with a show such as Spongebob, where I’m intimately familiar with all of those small in-jokes and characters, I don’t think there’s anything I’m better suited to. 


So that’s all easily said, right? When it actually came to cracking on with the work I was surprised at how daunting I found it. It had been a while since I’d drawn something so character-heavy, and I was unsure how I would fare trying to meld a very specific animation/illustration style with my own. Thankfully, once I started, I realised that it was quite a suited match and I didn’t have too much to worry about.

There was a lot of prep work that went in to this one, specifically trawling through a list of the episodes and making note of anything I could reference. For anyone unfamiliar, the first 3 seasons of the show (and the movie that follows) are considered the ‘Golden Era’ of Spongebob material, and this is the period that I’m most familiar with. So that’s what I decided to work with. There are probably a whole cohort of characters that have been introduced in the seasons since then, but I felt I’d have enough on my plate if I just stuck with the early episodes that I was (oh so) familiar with. When scrolling through the aforementioned list, I found I was able to recall most of the stories pretty easily and thus knew what I wanted to include as Easter Eggs. There were a few where I had to read the plot synopsis, but thankfully not so many that it became overly time-consuming.

In the illustration I did, there’s references to quite a lot of those early episodes, but not every single one. Some episodes felt like they didn’t have anything visually exciting that I could take and some of them I didn’t want to just shoe-horn in for the sake of it, so I tried not to beholden myself to the idea of referencing every single one. If you want to spoil yourself for what I chose, and what was left out, I have a Google Spreadsheet here that you’re welcome to peruse!


The first step I took was to just create a (very) rough composition layout for how I wanted the piece to look. I knew that, since there would be a lot of characters, I wanted the environment to be some form of ‘neutral’ area. I could have situated all of the characters outside of The Krusty Krab, but I didn’t want to give that area any precedence over the other locations (Spongebob’s house, Sandy’s Treedome, The Chum Bucket etc).

In thinking about what I wanted the piece to look like, I was inevitably reminded of ‘Where’s Wally’, and in particular I thought about the one with Wally on the beach (as I’ve shared above). And that was it! The characters would be in Goo Lagoon, with all the key locations being given equal precedence in the background. So the first step was to just create a very rough composition that got the general vibe/location of the piece across.

Being at the beach (or Goo Lagoon) also presents a solid narrative thread that I think is pretty important for a piece like this. Clearly it’s a warm day, and all the characters have come to the beach to make the most of it. If I’d gone forward with having the characters be somewhere at the Krusty Krab I would have had to create some event to give a logistical and narrative reason for why everyone had gathered there, and that would have vetoed the idea of ‘neutrality’ that I wanted. I’m sure most people don’t think that heavily about the artwork I produce, but I believe that the work is built upon the small details. And without those in place it would just crumble.

Once I had the general vibe sorted, I began to refine the linework - ever so slightly. Ha! That’s a bit of a stretch. Even though this next plan still looks incredibly messy, it was important for starting to nail down the location of some of the bigger pieces of the illustration: The Flying Dutchman’s Ship, the stage performance, the ‘Welcome’ sign, placement of Spongebob etc.

After this I just jumped straight into the developed pencil sketch, from here I would use this as the basis for the linework. I often find trying to plan things out digitally quite tedious. It’s useful for the rough broad strokes, as you can create as many variations as you like very quickly. But as soon as it comes down to actually hashing out the details it feels so much easier to work with a pencil. The developed pencil sketch was drawn at A3, which I then scanned in, cleaned up, and printed out on 4 x sheets of A4, which I cellotaped together to make one A2 illustration. This is what I used (alongside a lightbox) to trace the final linework directly on top of. 

One thing that’s notably missing from the pencil sketch is the characters. Since only a handful of characters would be specific, and a lot would just be general background characters, I felt it would be easier to just wing them in the ink version rather than plan them out before hand. So long as I knew where the main characters were going to sit, I could just add everyone else in on a whim.

Before I started the linework I did one final colour pass on the pencil sketch to get a good idea of how it might look. This is always a more important step than I give it credit for, as the colour can (and should) influence how dense I might make certain areas of linework. It’s been a slow learning process to come to that realisation, but the colour should be built up alongside the linework, and not just added as an afterthought.

From here I ploughed ahead with the linework. I used my 0.35 rOtring Isograph on an A2 sheet of paper, which I then scanned at 600dpi so that when I slightly scale it up to 18 x 24” there wasn’t any problems with quality. As always, there ended up being a lot more lines in the illustration that I anticipated. But hey-ho, perhaps one day I will come to my senses and learn to scale it back.*

*I type this as I am currently well underway on a new illustration - I have not learnt my lesson.

Something I did in this illustration a little more predominantly than I’ve done in other work is colouring the linework. For one, I felt that the black linework was quite heavy for how small and delicate the characters were, but I also wanted to separate the characters from the landscape slightly to make them pop. There were a lot of black dots/flowers/rocks on the ground that needed to be recessed in order for this to happen. You can see a comparison of solid black linework vs the coloured linework below.

This ended up taking a lot of time, as it was essentially like colouring the drawing twice. But I’m very glad that I did it as I think it does a lot of the legwork in bringing the illustration to life. Usually I would import the scanned linework into the colour file and simply set the layer mode to ‘Multiply’ - but to achieve the coloured linework I instead used the ‘Select Colour Range’ tool, selected all of the white areas and deleted them, thus leaving just the black linework on a transparent background. I then used this as a layer mask and was able to freely colour under it. You can see below how the coloured linework looks without being masked to the illustration. 

One other noticable difference between the original plan and the final illustration was the colour of the sky. This came about when I was exploring a variant option, and was just tweaking the colours in general. I liked the original blue, since it honours the aesthetic of the actual show, but ultimately I went with the purple to a) Differentiate it from the blue-heavy variant, but also b) I felt the orange/pink sky complemented the ‘Welcome to Goo Lagoon’ sign a bit nicer, and tied the whole piece together. Anyway, here are both pieces again if you’re too lazy to scroll back up to the top of the page. Both versions went up for sale at Bottleneck Gallery on 11th April 2024. Here’s a link if you’re interested in buying one, or if you just want to view the page out of posterity.