Saturday, May 19, 2018

The First Illustration for Milkweed Manor

I'm writing and illustrating a book, "Milkweed Manor."  All the characters are animals and the story takes place in a little animal Community in the forest behind Milkweed Manor.  I've written all eight chapters and have edited them sufficiently to behind the illustrations.

I've been working all week on this first one.  This is the main character, Colwyn, on his journey to his new home at Milkweed Manor.

This first illustration is important because the medium and style I use here I'll be using for the whole book.  I've already had two false starts before I finally reached this point.

The first try was watercolor over pencil, but once I had the watercolor on I realized that the body was too long!  So back to the drawing board, and onward with try number 2, which was watercolor.

The watercolor choice was definitely not a good one.  I'm not quite sure what prompted me, but, in the end it just wasn't working out.  I haven't done much watercolor, so why would I choose that medium for such a large and important ptoject?  Good question, right?  It's just a shame that I wasted so much time before coming to my sense.

So I thought some more about the medium and decided that I should use the one that I like the best, feel most comfortable with, and also feel fairly accomplished at.  I chose pencil drawing.  In the end, I'm trying for the look of a lightly tinted pencil drawing.  Here's the first layer, all #2 5mm mechanical pencil.

I have more layers of pencil to go, then I'll have to make the decision on how to add the color tints.  I'm making an extra drawing with a few leaves and a berry so I can experiment a bit before I commit myself!  

P.S.  This image is a scan.  It has more contrast than the original - not sure why.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Alligator Shaman needs Children

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the kiln after glaze firing this guy.  I liked the sculpting, and I also liked the glazing - and that doesn't always happen!

This one was really fun to make and I was pleased to come up with something different for his shamanic cloak, namely the several insets of leaves on the front.  Don't you just love the shape of the line between the jaws on alligators and crocodiles?  The wavy line gives a perplexed/amused look and of course the teeth add character too.

I think he needs a few children, or shamanic students, so I'll make a few the next time I have the clay out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

So Sad! An Unacceptable rat!

Today I was working on my second postcard and thought I was done.  But when I scanned it and looked at it with new eyes, I realized I didn't like the rat!  His eyes are wrong and his fur is too dark and without highlights.

So what to do?  It's watercolor over pencil.  And I made the mistake of adding ink over the rat's fur.  All in all, close to a disaster.  I certainly don't want to start all over again.  So, after much thought, I'm going to repaint him with opaque acrylics.  Hope it works!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Postcards from Fantasy Land

Next week I'm going to a local day-long conference for writers and illustrators of childrens' books and although I don't have anything finished I wanted to have something to put on the writers'/illustrators' table, so I decided to make promo cards - two of them, one for each of the books I'm working on.

This first one is for "The Christmas Feast."  Below is the pencil drawing I started with and the finished color version is above.  

Actually, the first step was a pencil sketch.  From that, once I was happy with it, I traced and transferred it to a piece of Strathmore Mixed Media paper and then did the detailed drawing you see below.

From there, I added color.  I was dreading the background because I find smooth color to be difficult with transparent paints.  By the way, I used Golden Fluid Acrylics.  I did, however, discover that even though the first coat may not look too good, it seals the paper and makes subsequent coats go on more evenly.  So, I try to keep my first washes light.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Another Rat

Here's the next rat I did.  This time I was sure to use Strathmore Mixed Media paper.  I began with a line drawing with very little detail then immediately began adding watercolor washes - not too much because a lot of the shading would be done in pencil.

Next I added pencil work - quite a bit, actually - then strengthened and enriched the colors with more washes.  By the way, these first two photos are from my camera.

Finally I continued with more pencil and more washes until I felt I was done.  This third image, by the way, is a scan.  To me, it seems to have more contrast and saturation than the original, but I didn't mess with any settings or do anything in Photoshop other than crop, so this is what the scanner "saw."

As far as comparing the two rats so far - this one on the Strathmore Mixed Media paper and the first one (earlier post) on Stonehenge drawing paper, the two differences I noticed are that the drawing paper seems to have more texture so the pencil work is stronger.  On the other hand, the mixed media paper holds up so well with the washes.  Another thing to try would be Strathmore Illustration board, which I may do next.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Here's the color version of the rat drawing.  When I got out the watercolors I was horrified to realize that I had done the drawing on Stonehenge drawing paper instead of Strathmore Mixed Media paper.  Nothing against Stonehenge drawing paper - in fact I like it very much for drawing - but I wanted to be able to add water media and didn't think it would work.

But I tried it anyway.  The paper buckled a bit but flattened back out when it dried and the buckling wasn't bad enough to make it difficult to paint.  It also seemed that the pencil lines were dissolving more than I expected them to.  As a result, I did very little painting.  In the end, I added a bit more pencil but it hardly showed up.  Also, I used white acrylic ink and a crow quill pen for white highlights, but they didn't show up very much.

This image is a scan.  There appears to be more contrast in  the scan than in the original but I don't know why.  I didn't touch up the image at all.

I started another rat drawing - this time definitely on the Mixed Media paper.  I'll do the drawing first, as in this one.  Then I may try one where I do only the outline drawing, then the watercolor washes, then the finished pencil work.  We'll see which works out best.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Beginning a Week of Rat Drawing

Today was my first day of a week of drawing rats.  I'm doing this as preparation for illustrating my book, "Milkweed Manor."  This drawing is not one of those illustrations but is part of an exercise in really understanding the 'look and feel' of rats and being comfortable drawing them.

Also, I'm looking for media that will work well for me.  I'm always comfortable with drawing.  Tomorrow I'll add some watercolor washes and see how that goes.  This drawing is on Strathmore Mixed Media paper and I've found that I can lay watercolor washes over pencil without the pencil smearing - as long as I don't get it real wet and don't do a lot of scrubbing (which I shouldn't do with watercolor anyway!"