All posts in Putting a Book Together

I love showing process.

As a reader you get to see the final work.  That’s the most important piece of course, but if you’re an artist or illustrator, or just like peeking behind the creative curtain an seeing what happened up to that final piece, I’m with you.  I’ve always loved seeing the stuff that happened before.  And if possible, I love getting into the mind of the creator through their letters or notes.

But here I just want to show you a small bit of what went into Dashing Through the Snow.

The first image is the final painting from one of the last pages of the book.  The only thing missing is the text.  I don’t put that in.  The art director at Scholastic does that.  I’m happy she does, since my printing isn’t that great.  I prefer writing script.

Final Painting in the process

The last present is always the biggest surprise

The painting is of the opening of the very last present that fell from Santa’s Sleigh.  I needed to get all the characters in, and yet add a bit of fun to the suspense.

Below is the drawing on the watercolour sheet.  There were many rougher drawings before this one.

I admit it’s a bit messy.  That gets cleaned up when I ink it.

Once it is inked I start to paint.  The picture below is of 4 paintings being done at the same time.  I do that so that I make sure my colours don’t change from picture to picture.  That’s a very easy thing since I can start getting very creative with new possibilities and add new colours.   So that they have some reference I have a practice picture leaning up on my table.  I try to make all my mistakes in the practice pictures, but mistakes do happen.  And then it’s back to a new stretched sheet of paper and start all over again.

A book can have 18 spreads like this so making sure you got your mistakes out of the way can save a lot of time.

I hope to offer reproductions of this and other images soon.  Originals are available.

You can get  Hard and Soft Cover and Board Book from your favorite independent book store or Chapters Indigo.

Cover of Dashing Through the Snow

Happy Singing this Christmas!

colors on my mixing plate

 

My palette of choice for mixing my watercolours is an old porcelain plate.

If I need a large amount of the same colour for a series of paintings such as for At The Pond, I will use porcelain bowls of different sizes.

I have plastic ones but I find they can get scratched over time and then are hard to clean.

The porcelain plate cleans up beautifully and the intensity of the white glaze gives the paint a transparency similar to the paper.

Just try to get pure white ones with no design or colour to conflict with your colours.  The best and most inexpensive were picked up at an Asian food store near my studio.

Or just check out the nearest reuse store near you.

 

 

 

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

Well, I suppose ‘easy’ isn’t the right way to describe it, but when illustrating a story, there are a few steps that must be taken.  I’m using the images here from an exhibition I once put together called ‘From the Inside Out: stages in the making of a Book.’

From the Inside Out: Stages in a Picture Book

For this I’ve taken examples from ‘In My Backyard’  written by John DeVries and illustrated by yours truly.  I admit I’ve chosen it because for it, just as I am doing currently, I drew a frog.

Step 1:  divide the story so that it will fit into the number of pages for a book.  This is important because for cost reasons and simplicity of printing and cutting up the pages, picture books are generally either 24 or 32 pages.   I don’t think there are many people who would like to buy a book with the end missing, or a bunch of empty pages at the end  unless I suppose you got to draw in them.  Some stories are easy to divide up, but others take a lot of thinking on what page which words will go. Sometimes a page has no words at all.  If you’re doing a book,  give this a lot of thought.

Step 2:  Characters (or places).   Most books will have characters.  It’s very important to take time to know your character.   Taking time to sketch your character from every possible angle and view, and every possible expression is valuable.  No one wants a character to change from page to page, unless of course that’s part of the story.  Keeping your character the same is a challenge and takes practice regardless how simple or complex.

Step 3:  Rough linears.  They are called that for two reasons:  1) they are rough, and 2) they are just lines.    This is important.  Never get into details too soon.  This stage is when you sketch out your ideas for the whole book, not just individual pictures.  You want to work fast, small, and therefore quite rough.  If you put too much detail in at this time you will be hesitant to want to toss the drawing or make changes should there be a problem with any particular drawing fitting in to the overall story and look of the book.

Remember, it’s a book, and not just one page you are drawing.

Oh, I forgot to add, and never forget this: this is when you decide where the words will be in the pictures.  It is important that you consider the words a part of the picture, and not an afterthought.

Step 4:  Clean linears.   This is when you clean it up before you put on any colour .   This is when you can finally put in all the details you want.  In fact, this is when you decide what will be in the picture and what stays out: NO ADDING AFTER THIS!  No kidding, this is when all the decisions about design other than colour are finalized.  If you don’t, you will only have horrible confusion and a lot of tears later.  Well, maybe not so bad, but if you make changes after this, it truly can be confusion and tears.  I write from experience.  Trust me.

Step 5:  Paint!  Yes, this is when you can have fun and splash and toss and smear and….Ouch!  I didn’t say that, did I?    Yes you get to paint or use whatever technique you want, but at this point you should have everything figured  out so that there won’t be any surprises.  And yes, there will be, but that’s part of the fun.

Good luck!  Enjoy!

p.s.  you may have noticed that one of the sketches in the book ended up not only in the book but also the cover.  It doesn’t always happen that way, but when it does, Bonus!  You get some time off to go play.

Just as important as finding the right words for a story, finding the right colours for a book takes a lot of consideration.

Colour of course is only one of the many things that make the pictures in a book both interesting and pleasing.  Colour sets the mood for the book.  It sets the ‘feel’ that the author and illustrator want the reader to experience.  Colours also move the eye through the book.

I have a lot of colours to chose from, and yet I have to narrow it down to just a few.  That’s not to say you could use as many as you want for, lets say, a garden of many flowers or people with different cloths.  Of course that would be ok.  But I have found that a few well chosen colours can tell a visual story much better, at least for me.

For this new book I need to paint a goldfish pond. I’ve chosen mainly greens: for lily pads, for the water looking down into the pond, and for the frogs.  But goldfish are anything but green, and yet even though they are very orange, they have to fit to the picture.  And of course what is a pond without a water lily.  This one is white.  But every artist knows there is no pure white in nature.

The last problem that has to be solved is how my paints get along, not as colours, but as chemicals.  It’s true that some of my colours are really just dirt, but others are chemicals, and they don’t always get along.  Combinations which should be simple can be disasters since they just don’t want to mix.  Or they don’t like being put on top of each other; pulling the bottom colour off the paper even if it’s dry.

So you see, choosing the colours for a picture book is both fun and a bit of work. And for that reason you can see there are many tests and tries just to get it right even before I start the actual pictures that will end up in the book.

Ever wonder what it’s like to illustrate a picture book?

Putting a book together, from first idea to finished covers is an adventure. I’ve always wanted to share the process and here’s where it’s going to happen.

Every week there will be lots of pictures and lots of suggestions on what you might consider illustrating your own book.

Join me as I share the fun of new work and old. And when I can, I’ll answer your questions too.

See you soon.