Christmas Pigs and Cozy Barns

Animals have to be my favorite things to draw and paint,  As for favorite times of the year, Christmas has to rate  near the top.  And finally, barns have always been places I’ve been drawn to for both their size and feeling of coziness in the stables.

That’s why illustrating Pippin the Christmas Pig for Jean Little & Scholastic was a special treat for me: all three came together in one story.

Pippin the Christmas Pig

Cover of Pippin the Christmas Pig

There were many drawings made for each of the paintings in the book, and although I’d love to share all of them, I’ve chosen to post the drawings of the barn.  The exact building doesn’t exist other than in my imagination, but it was drawn on from barns I’d known since my childhood.  Maybe one day I’ll own my own.

sketch of barn interior

A peek through the door

When I create a scene for a book, I like to create a space in which I could move around in and see from all angles.   This image never appears in the book. I drew it so that I would know what entering the barn would look with all the important elements like the manger and even the door in the ceiling in place.

view from above

Looking down from above

Barns often have trap doors in the upper floors to allow hay to be dropped down to feed the animals below.  I used this one to give the reader a peek from above onto what was happening below.

I like putting different viewpoints into my pictures. Perspective changes add drama and excitement. Perhaps it may be because I’m not too fond of heights and this lets me conquer that fear, but never the less I find it fun.

interior of stable

barn interior set up

I needed to set the stage for the scene where Pippin brings the woman and child into the warm stable from the cold outside.  I chose a wide view to allow the cold of the open door to contrast with the warmth at the other end.

I also wanted it cozy, so I chose to create the warmth in the middle surrounded but the walls on three sides and the barrels and tractor  creating a front wall.  The mice on the barrels are spectators to the scene just like the readers who find themselves watching from behind.  The stairs on the back left lead up to the upper barn and ultimately to the trap opening above.

Of course the empty stage is nothing without the actors, and here it’s Pippin bringing the woman and child in and confronting the surprised stable mates.

animals in the barn

Pippin bringing in the visitors.

After the pencil there are colour studies to help set the feeling for each scene. In this book I wanted to contrast warmth of the stable with cold whether outside or upstairs in the barn loft.

colour watercolour of the stable

Colour study of the stable

Painting in the book

Barns often have trap doors in the upper floors to allow hay to be dropped down to feed the animals below.  I used this one to give the reader a peek from above onto what was below.

Pippin the Christmas Pig is a book about the contrast of warm and cold hearts; hearts that eventually warm too.   Jean wrote a lovely story and I was pleased to have been given the chance to illustrate it.

Mr Christies Book awards 2004

Winning the Mr. Christie’s Award 2004

Rabbits at Royal Winter Fair Toronto: studies for characters.

It’s November, and in Toronto it means it’s time for the Royal Winter Fair.  Every year I go with my college students to draw the beautiful animals.  This year due to a very tight schedule, I won’t be going,  However, I thought it’s a nice time to post some drawings from past fairs.

From the books I’ve written and or illustrated in the past, you can easily see that I love drawing and painting animals .  I take every opportunity to study animals when I can. Whether pets or farm animals, or even at museums, it’s always best drawing live animals from life and not just from photos. That’s why the Royal is so special: so many animals together in one place, and all so close you could touch them.

For me, creating good characters for books means studying them, especially from life.  Photo reference is good, but being able to see an animal from many sides, especially if they move, makes for the greatest understanding.  I feel if you understand your subject, you are more able to be in control of your character regardless how you pose them or even change them in caricature.

Rabbits are some of favorites at the show.  Here are a few of my sketches.

Coming soon: Drawing pets