Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black and White Graphite Chapter Book drawings

Over the past month I've been working on a few projects, one of those being my second chapter book. I don't have much time to talk about these but wanted to finally post them on my blog. I also figured now would be a good time to finally figure out how to make an animated GIF to show my process, something I've wanted to do for a while but never took a minute to figure out. Turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be! SO above is Gif showing my process for one of the images and the final three drawings below. They still aren't 100% done as I have to make tiny adjustments but none the less I'm quit happy with how these turned out an hope I get more projects like this. I was very surprised to find out that these graphite drawings took almost as much time as  a finished oil illustration (probably because of how much time was put into designing the various creatures and settings and the extra work put into preliminary shading of sketches). These are for "The Silver Shuttle" which I have posted the cover illustration process for already in a series of posts.
 The image above is a scene inside a tunnel inhabited by a worm creature. I won't go into all of the specifics of all of these (you'll have to read the book!). For this image I will say that the walls of the cave at this point in the action have been covered by tons of glowing strings which have also wrapped around the worm causing it to decay. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how  to best draw a dark cave as though it was being wrapped by glowing strings.Unlike paint, I knew I wouldn't be able to just add more white on top later if needed but need to figure out the best way to preserve any whites I needed. Keeping in mind erasing can only go so far and can effect later pencil work. I did experiment with painting on top of the graphite and photoshop ideas as well but really wanted to stick with graphite if possible. I was heavily relying on the work of Chris Van Allsburg as he is really the only really amazing graphite artists that I know of off the top of my head. He's quit famous for getting spectacular glowing effects in his expertly rendered graphite drawings.
 For this image, one of the more difficult aspects was trying to show detail in the main two characters heading into the tree, while keeping the main focus on the enormous tree. I needed to pull out far enough to see the context and to see a good amount of branches while still being able to see those two main figures.
 This last image had all kinds of difficulties for me.The most challenging aspects are the swan shaped "lamp" which had to be glowing and the explosion of water surrounding Annie. In the end I didn't worry as much about whether her shirt and skin and rocks look wet as this wasn't intended to be a photo realistic depiction but I did struggle through those things as it can be hard for me to let those things go sometimes and to know exactly how much information to include.Instead I focused on the main action, imagined what the creatures wings would look like with the light shining through the thin webbing,  and really focused on showing the details in the swan while still having that glow.
           If the image had just been a character standing ina   well with a flashlight I may have spent more time differentiating the rocks with their own characteristics, shapes, adding lichen, tree roots, etc. I may have had stuff floating in the water, had her reflection etc. but for an image like this with so much other action I needed to zone in on the really important aspects to favor telling the story rather than overwhelming with too much info. The good thing about chapter books is that they have plenty of room to elaborate on all of those details to help the readers mind go to work in filling in all the little things that can't be fit into one single drawing.
      This book should be available before Christmas if all goes well with publishing. Very excited to have this one sitting on my shelves as I truly enjoyed reading the story, love the themes and imagery involved along with the settings. I'll be sure to announce it's arrival on Amazon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Teen Chapter Book Cover Design: Five

For earlier posts for this cover design:

thumbnail Sketch

Rough Sketch

revised dog

Final Drawing and Color Samples

This should be one of the last posts i do for this cover as it's almost done. I may do one more final post once the text is added, but will likely wait till the book is available in about a month. Below is the final illustration as it currently stands. I still have a few small things to fix and have to get a better scan of the image for more accurate colors. I had a lot of fun painting this one as it brought up many challenges and some new stuff I've never drawn or painted before. It also gave me the opportunity to paint in oils again which I haven't done for most of the year. Working on the internal drawings while I wait to hear back from the client with comments and input on the cover. The chapter heading spot illustration is below. Seems like a strange chapter heading to go with the cover but in reading the book it all makes sense!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Books Arrived!

My brand new book, "Allegra, Friend of All Monsters" Just arrived at my doorstep yesterday! (insert mental image of me doing backflips here) I've got a handfull of copies of that book as well as my other two books for anyone interested. Just let me know if you want a signed copy and if you want it signed to anyone in particular. Of course the books are allways available via the links on the left hand side of my blog or on the "book Store" tab of my website.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Character Designs for "A Cloudy Day"

Well, I've slowly but surely begun work on my new children's book "A Cloudy Day". Got the two main characters designed, figured out what the car will look like, and figured out the overall structure/ layout of the book complete with one round of rough thumbnail sketches. I probably won't reveal much of that stuff until the book is done or at least close to it. For now I just wanted to post some character sketches. These are just the initial motionless body poses to get a feel for the shape and size of the characters. In particular, the skin tone colors aren't correct yet. I may show more of the actual evolution of the character designs later. This book actually started out as a winter book but then i made a comment about maybe having the kids in the back of a convertible so we wouldn't be boxed into a small car in every scene. So now it will take place in the summer.

 I'm finally starting to get better and faster with designing characters of young children. This is a task I have been trying to study and get a grasp on ever since my days at Massachusetts College of Art. I still have TONS to learn and really there are soo many amazing styles for drawing children's book characters. I'm just now starting to settle down a bit into a particular style while still trying to improve with each new book. Also since I'm currently doing a lot of self published material I find it's basically necesary to constantly let my style evolve as each book has drastically different needs.

       I think the first time I realized I would have to learn to draw and paint kids is when a friend in one of my illustration classes made a valid point during a class critique. With the whole class critiquing my artwork, he pointed out that the kid I had painted looked "Special". It caught me a bit off guard at the moment but i had to agree with him once I took a look from their perspective.

    The image for that critique was actually one of my main portfolio pieces and would later be printed up as one of my first ever mailer postcards to be sent out to publishers all around the U.S. I spent a couple hundred dollars to have thousands of copies printed. This is the painting when it was "corrected" after the class critique (the one on the right).

         There is still a lot to like about these images, in fact the one on the left landed my first children's book gig! Now I look back on these and realize I wasn't ready for the publishers at that time. It's likely that kids would still love the images but unfortunately in order to get my illustrations accepted by publishers and bought by parents and into the kids hands, I have to go through adults. Publishers see hundreds if not thousands of art submissions each week on their desk and most of that goes directly to the trash can. They look for unique styles, good handling of subject matter, great understanding of color, composition, the ability to tell stories through images, etc etc. but above all a children's book illustrators have to understand how to paint children in a  lively and fun way. That can be anything from the style of charlie brown comics or dora the exploror to a full on deatailed exagerated realism character like norman rockwell. I still struggle with that myself but have made huge leaps and bounds over the past few years.

     Sometimes it's hard for artists to look at their own art objectively. We spend hours and hours drawing and painting an image and redrawing and repainting, moving and shaping, pushing tugging, splatting, sloshing, rubbing, dabbing etc. we might spend twenty minutes just trying to get  a nose to look right or an hour painting the eyes with a tiny little brush that has bristles flairing out at the ends. It takes patience, a steady hand and the perfect flick of the brush to get just the right amount of hairs, with just the right amount of paint, to land in just the right spot and shape, to form the whites of the characters eyes ; on a face that is less than an inch in height on the canvas. Then when  you feel you got the paint in the right spot, you find that it's not the correct hue in relation to it's surroundings or that is the exact moment your little sister walks into the room to tell you one of the eyes is lower than the other, LOL.

    I feel I have started to retain some of the things I've been learning on the topic and hope to write some blog posts soon discussing how to draw and paint kids. Everything from what materials and mediums I find to work best, how to draw folds in clothing, drawing various hair styles, drawing the same character in different poses, designing the character, drawing emotions and facial expressions etc. All the stuff I still struggle with greatly! haha. But it should be fun to learn even more on the topics and put it all into written form for my own future reference and for yours. I'll be sure to reference books and websites on the topic whenver I know of any.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Peek Into An Illustrator's Life: One

This is the start of a series of blog posts I've wanted to start for quit some time, in which I hope to share some funny and interesting stories from my life as an artist or life in general.  A good children's illustrator knows how kids think and what they want to see. I think we pretend this has something to do with our keen insights or our fascinating ability to observe human nature at it's best. When in reality we all know it has a lot more to do with the fact that most children's illustrators are still just big kids ourselves. I still haven't figured out how to brush my hair. I once read a post on facebook asking,  "has anyone noticed that grownups are just kids trapped in bigger bodies?"

How else can a children's book illustrator start such a series but with a quote from a kid?! Kids are the best!

One day while working in the studio I was listening to an old episode of "This American Life"  about the logic of kids.

                  Adult: "What does the tooth fairy do with all the teeth?"

                   Kid: "She collects them and makes stuff."

                  Adult: "Like what?"

                  Kid: Tooth chairs , tooth trophies and tooth houses"

               ...Adult: "Why does she make houses out of teeth instead of bricks?"

                  Kid (without missing a beat): "Because no one doesn't have brick teeth"

The things that kids say are just so unbelievably genius in their originality and spontanaity! This reminds me of the time I went out to eat with family after church. There was another family from church sitting at the table next to us. The mom was actually one of the religious ed teachers and I always see her showing her kids how to do the sign of the cross, explaining the various things the priest does etc.  When it came time to order drinks I overheard the little boy tell the waitress that he wants a Bud light on Draft! The look on the parents faces was priceless. I later heard the father tell the waitress that they discovered the boy had read the phrase from a sign hanging in the restaurant "We serve Bud light On Draft!"

       Some grown ups spend a lot of time trying to be young again or look young again, while kids just can't wait to grow up. I suppose that has something to do with why many children's books apeal just as much to the parents reading them as to the kids being read to.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Teen Chapter Book Cover Design: Four

For earlier posts for this cover design:
thumbnail Sketch
Rough Sketch
revised dog

  In the past few days I refined the characters even further for the final sketch, then dove right into the color samples. The deadline for this project is extremely short so I'm a bit out of my comfort zone and cutting out various steps to move things along as quickly as possible. In the last post I showed my revisions for the dog character. In this final drawing I revised the face to better match the initial character design,
I completely revised the structure of the birds bodies, moved the legs around a bit on the dog to strengthen his pose and I shortened his neck and tilted the head to get back some of that aggressive quality in my initial dogs sketches. Finally I added some rough indications of clouds circling the moon.

For the color samples I tried all kinds of things with the sky and experimented some with how the "silver Shuttle" object in her hand would be painted with a glow. These are just rough to get a feel for final color and tonal structure of the piece.