I have been working on my illustration style over the summer. I have been informed in the past that my natural drawing style has some of the qualities that are required for childrens illustration. I wanted therefore to specifically build upon my drawing skills, and try to harness further the naive aesthetic.I produced a lot of drawings, firstly, I concentrated upon character development. I wanted to stay true to figurative representation, with a semi realistic/naturalistic bias. I was also mindful of the necessity of humour, and so I also utilised a semi cartoon aesthetic, to create my figures. The technique I employed was born out of much trial and error, which I am sure still requires more development.Although at the present time after much research I have found that my current style has a good degree of uniqueness which can only be a good thing. I spent a lot of time trying to refine my process. At first the drawings I produced, where traced and retraced to then transfer to the support. I realised though that this was cumbersome and a burden, not to mention time consuming, I had to find another way. I wanted to find a way to retain the freedom of my drawing in the final work. and so I had to find a suitable support because I had the idea to work in watercolour with some acrylic, the support needed to be able to take water based media. At first I tried canvas board, however I hated the feel and the final look of the work, I didn’t like the tooth of the grain as I prefer a smooth surface not least because of the detail I wished to achieve. Canvas board always made me want to fill in the grain so to speak so that I could start properly on the newly raised surface after building up the media. However, this was again cumbersome as it took too much time and the final result was not what I was trying to achieve. (too overworked, and too opaque) The drawing paper I had been using I liked because it was heavyweight and the color was just off white which I liked. I figured out in the end that I could bypass the tracing ( I could of used a light box of course) and achieve a smooth surface from the outset, by transferring the original drawing to mount board using spray mount. The original drawing could then be coloured. I have not worked with watercolor for a long time so a lot of practice ensued, I also by accident really found that the use of various coloured pencils could be utilised to build the color further and to work on details. From my knowledge of acrylic paint I understood that because of their opacity they could be used to accentuate areas that required it. I was always trying to keep a freshness to the work, retaining the original drawing gave a warmth to the work which I tried to retain. I was also mindful of Maurice Sendak’s work ( famous illustrator of where the wild things are, etc)
Fig 1 and 2 . Maurice Sendak. From Where the Wild Things Are
His work is characterised by a warmth that is achieved through hatching and cross hatching in graphite and ink. I also wanted to achieve this in my work and so I continued to utilise graphite on top of the other media to to reinforce areas, recede areas and to give the overall aesthetic of a colored drawing, other than a painting. My own style has still retained some translucency, however, my personal working methods and idiosyncrasies dictated that my work began to look more worked and developed. I basically find it difficult to leave things alone, I tend to work and rework trying to achieve a feel that I believe is right, these are the sort of areas I need to develop whilst I am on the course. My work may evolve into a much more simplified version as it is now, but this would maybe take it to far into cartooning which i am trying to avoid. There is always the problem of how an image reads when reproduced digitally, watercolour does not translate well into the digital format, many works online appear washed out and not at all attractive. Photographing work is also a major bug bear for me. I currently use my i phone although good it is not perfect and when I see my work online it is not a good reflection of reality.I will have to think about purchasing a digital camera perhaps in the future. When I had an illustration agent in the 90’s every time an artwork was completed it was shipped off to the photographer who could reproduce the work exactly ready for print. There are now other digital methods of achieving the best possible results. I am sure any agent operating today have this covered. I may also consider pen and ink in the future. Below are a few samples of my loose sketch book pencil drawings, they are produced directly with an emphasis on a naive style they are produced quickly from my imagination, some are not successful and disregarded, but in the main the initial idea is quickly formed in my minds eye is realised. I think I will draw a man and it happens to arrive in my natural style. The bottom 2 are examples of were I have further worked them up into the style I was aiming for. of course for the final artwork to be successful the drawing has to be right for it to work. I can alter things later if necessary but its always advantageous to get it right first time.
Below are four illustrations I have produced recently which I am fairly happy with stylistically although certain elements of reproduction need to be addressed. Much research will be undertaken during my course and also more experimentation, my style may evolve further. I have followed a self initiated text in these cases which I have shown underneath.
Millies amazing Hair, grew and grew, it was so soft little birds loved to make nests within it
Millie had to visit the hairdressers everyday to have it cut, but within an hour it had grown back even longer!
Tom’s new friend Monkey was very naughty and because he was innocent he didn’t understand the consequences of what he did, he was full of fun and was always getting into trouble.
The multi coloured egg Alice had discovered was left overnight in a box in a warm place. later next day a curious noise was heard from within, the whole family gathered in anticipation. The egg had hatched and a baby dragon had appeared.
The subject matter is at the present time down to self initiation, there is no exterior driver or motif other than a desire to produce images that I feel may offer an insight into my style and subject matter that may inspire an author or art director to ask me to illustrate some form of writing. I am an illustrator and have been trained to respond to exterior needs, and as such without this input currently I have to contend with building my portfolio and producing self initiated work. I am aiming for twenty new works, when I have achieved this I will re organise my website and re promote myself and my work as a children’s book illustrator specifically. I am extremely open minded as far as what I would be willing to illustrate and I am trying hard in this respect to create a style that is quick, slick and unencumbered by any subject restrictions.The subject matter described here with this work and indeed in any case, is drawn from a number of sources, usually an idea pops in to my head on a good day, my imagination is usually in overdrive naturally and so I can cherry pick usually. I especially enjoy working on ideas of teaching morals. When on the relatively rare off day I rely upon little thumb sketches or previous work as yet unresolved, or from drawings from my sketch books that give me inspiration for larger work. I tend to draw everyday in sketch books, I like to produce my ‘heads’ where I practice and develop character designs. Recently, I have particularly concentrated on drawing children, I wouldn’t say children where more difficult to draw, however they do present some challenges, that do require concentration and practice. Below is the initial drawing for the last illustration I present today. This is how all the work starts, drawing with a 5B graphite pencil (preference) into an A3 Sketchbook removing from sketch book and pasting onto white mount board with spray mount. I then utilise mixed media techniques to produce the final artwork. My current work is all under A3 size, although to compensate for pages within a book that require full page and/or double page spreads other than images with a body of text, I will be producing larger work to cater for this eventuality. My technique has enabled me to downsize the production time and currently this work from concept/design to finish takes around 24 hours. If It was a real brief then I could reduce the time down further with a tight deadline initiative. With the technique described I can retain the initial drawing to a large extent, nothing is lost in tracing back and forwards. The method also lends itself well to the initial drawing stage production when the art director or client wishes an illustrator to supply concept drawings, at this stage any amendments can be undertaken or complete changes can be made quickly. Obviously the strength and success of an image is based not only on the concept and idea, the execution, and pictorial design is as important. Good Design is achieved through form, perspective, composition, and colour. I will produce another post which concentrates on successful design at a later date. I hope you agree that my new style is on the right track, and you actually like it and believe it successful for children’s book illustration. As I have said previously, I commence my course in september for 2 years, I am sure I will be influenced greatly by my peers, tutors and surroundings, research and practice. There is an opportunity to collaborate with the practitioners on the Children’s writing MA and so I am looking forward to producing assigned work other than self initiated . i am considering producing my own books also, and so it is important to hone my writing for children’s books. My work may develop further or it may just require a tweak here and there, which ever it is I hope you continue to follow my progress as at nearly 50, I hope and wish to gain a real and successful career in children’s Book Illustration.
Lucy and her friends searched all day for the mysterious monster in the woods, what they found was a very different person with a gentle and polite manner. the boys didn’t understand the man and threatened him with sticks they had found. Lucy was the first to object.
The observant of you may notice that I changed the knife points in the drawing to sticks ( Branches without the sharp knives) I realised that the knives would potentially not be very sensitive for a children’s publication/audience.