All posts tagged watercolour

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.

 

 

 

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

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.

I’ve been splashing a lot of green paint in the last few weeks for my new book.  It’s been fun drawing and painting frogs.  I haven’t done that since ‘In My Backyard.’

These are practice pictures.  Painting water lilies has been a challenge. I’ll be doing quite a few more to get it right.

pencil study of a frog