I’ve finally had chance to work more on an animal version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Captain Nemo is a Great Horned Owl, Professor Aronnax is a rabbit and his dedicated servant Conseil is a badger.
I’m also working on a picture book dummy for my children’s book illustration class. I’ve chosen the Velveteen rabbit.
I’m really enjoying children’s book illustration class and my local SCBWI chapter told me that the wonderful children’s book illustrator Jerry Pinkney will be in Seattle next week at the US Board on Books for Young People conference. He’s also going to be signing books at the Secret Garden bookstore. I’ll try to report on the conference here. The illustrators and authors are pretty incredible. There’s also a pre-conference tour that University of Washington is giving of their special collection of children’s book illustrations.
Last weekend when I was working at the wildlife rehab center, we got to see a very cute saw-whet owl. I think he had been hit by a car, but seems to be recovering well.
This past week, we were studying wordless picture books. Here is my discussion post answering questions such as some favorite wordless picture books and whether we thought wordless picture books could be improved with words or vice-versa, whether there were picture books with words that could published as wordless.
A prime contender for my favorite wordless picture book is Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. It tells a metaphorical story about the immigrant experience, with a poor man leaving home on a steamship in order to support his family, and finding himself in a bizarre new world. Many aspects of immigration are reflected: confusion, frustration, tedious manual labor, and the dangers of war, but also the joys of making new friends, discovering new experiences, and finding ways to support the people you love. The world of The Arrival is visually set in the early 20th century, and the art style is modeled after the sepia photographs of those periods, making the strange creatures and environments feel all the more otherworldly. The lack of words helps to make the reader’s connection with the immigrant protagonist all the more direct, as he struggles to figure out an often difficult to comprehend new environment. In Tan’s own words, “Words have a remarkable magnetic pull on our attention, and how we interpret attendant images: in their absence, an image can often have more conceptual space around it, and invite a more lingering attention from a reader who might otherwise reach for the nearest convenient caption, and let that rule their imagination.”
A wordless picture book that I haven’t read in its entirety, but is pretty good from what I’ve seen, is Journey by Aaron Becker. I like it because of its sense of wonder, and its simple, positive message about creative works can break boundaries and reach out to other people. The lack of words in this book, again, helps to place the reader in the protagonist’s place, as they discover the possibilities of their creativity over the story’s course.
I kind of can’t name any wordless books that I think would be improved by words. Wordless picture books have their own strengths as a format; they have a certain element of discovery to them, as the reader pieces together events without the aid of a narrative text. There are some books could be adapted pretty simply, if not necessarily improved, into effective wordless books. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are comes to mind, as do some of Beatrix Potter’s works.
I’m starting my picture book dummy based on the story of The Velveteen Rabbit. I could tell the gist of the plot of the story without words, but I feel like some nuances, such as the point the Skin Horse makes about toys becoming real, would be at least partially lost.
I just had my first week of Children’s Book Illustration 1 at RMCAD and the first assignment was to develop a few several concept sketch comics in 3 panels on the theme of: Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
It was a nice first assignment to ease into thinking about sketching from a visual storytelling perspective vs. drawing single sketches.
The last one was probably my favorite. This week we’re drawing a mini book dummy for an Aesop’s fable.
I just found out today that I won a Charlene Cosgrove Memorial Scholarship at my university, Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design! It was very unexpected. It’s $825 that I can put toward tuition.
I submitted this painting a marbled murrelet (it’s actually still a WIP – some things I need to clean up) done in gouche and transparent watercolor and the crow that I recently posted here on the blog and Gerda from the Snow Queen (below).
There was also a writing prompt with the scholarship and I had a chance to write on a Japanese artist Tabaimo who recently had an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum here in Seattle.
The question we were to write about was whether we thought the context of the artist was important for a full appreciation and understanding of art. For me, the context of the art is very important.
I’ll post my paper below for anyone who might be interested. Also here’s a short video interview with Tabaimo talking about the exhibition.
I’m excited to share that I’ve juried in two art pieces in the Fantastical Worlds Exhibition at Blakely Hall. The curator is Anna Macrae and the event was organized by ArtEast. I am thrilled and honored. There are some amazing artists in the show. Put it on your calendar. The opening reception is September 7th at Blakely Hall in Issaquah 6-8 pm. The art should be up until the beginning of November.
Here is my Art Statement for the show:
Animals have always captured my imagination. They come with a wild array of forms, colors, sounds, and with them an inner world we can only see faint traces of, and can never fully understand. Focusing on animals in my work always seemed natural to me, expressing emotions and worlds outside our understanding.
“Outside Looking In” is a somewhat personal piece, capturing a moment in time between two worlds. The piece started from random pourings of blue ink on paper, which formed an appealing landscape; the rest was filled in digitally.
“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with Rabbits” is a lighthearted piece, which attempts to capture that sense of wonder and mystery I’ve always been drawn to, of entering a world you never knew you were missing.
I was also happy to hear that my painting of Edgar (see right) made it into ArtEast’s Put a Bird On It show that opens this Thursday evening at the ArtEast Center (I’ll be there) and remains there until October 1st.
Here’s a great commission that I had a chance to draw, a smiling crow. I haven’t had a chance to post, but now I’m taking Non-Western Art History. It’s passing pretty quickly (Haiti, India, China, Japan so far), but it’s been interesting.
At the beginning of summer, I also had a chance to start working in a small wildlife rehabilitation center. It’s been a great experience so far – mostly birds and small mammals. Here are two long-time residents, Hooligan and Eclipse – both barred owls who aren’t able to be released because they have one wing. They are beautiful. It’s Hooligan who likes to talk.
We’re continuing to draw our way through the animal kingdom. Each week’s assignment follows the same pattern – block out the geometric shapes, then draw animal gestures. We’re also doing a skeleton study and ecorche / muscle drawing, so it’s busy. Having done an ecorche for each group helps in making a fantasy hybrid animal (WIP). These are just a few of the sketches from the past weeks.
This week’s assignment are gestures of bears, wolves, and dogs. Using a envelope for the animals and simplifying geometric shapes helps with simplifying. The class is setting into a routine of drawing gestures with a little value added in some, skeleton and ecorche version, and discussion post which looks at different rendering of animals characters and how they can be portrayed as protagonists or antagonists in a story. It’s fun seeing the examples that my classmates come up with.
I’m finding I really like drawing with the Procreate app on the iPad pro and Apple pencil. It’s close to drawing with a real pencil. When I want this soft effect with pencil, I usually prefer to use mylar (Dura-lar) which comes in huge rolls from Dick Blick and erases cleanly.
My discussion post:
There’s some amount of range when it comes to how sympathetically bear characters are portrayed. On the sympathetic side, there are characters such as teddy bears, and related characters such as the Care Bears and Winnie the Pooh, which are modeled more on the stuffed animal than the actual animal.
More realistic sympathetic bears include Baloo from any of the multiple adaptations of The Jungle Book, Smokey the Bear, and the bear family of Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear.
On the more antipathetic side, there are characters such as the bear in the film version of The Fox and the Hound, and the grizzly bear from the film Balto, which are portrayed as bestial, inhuman predators.
When wolves are portrayed positively, they tend to come off as majestic, intelligent, loyal, embodying the nobility of nature; the wolf family in The Jungle Book, Moro in Princess Mononoke.
Negatively, wolves are portrayed as crafty predators, as with the classical fairytale archetype of the Big Bad Wolf.
The main example I can think of when it comes to neutral/background characters is how, in Donald Duck etc. comics, otherwise “human” side/background characters tend to be given dog noses, and occasionally ears. Here, the use of animal characteristics basically just signifies that these stories take place in a completely unreal fantasy world.
In general, I would say that completely realistic renderings of animals, as you might find in an educational book, often have less strong emotional expressivity, and are less immediately emotionally accessible as a result. Even mostly realistic designs often “cheat” when it comes to faces, adding human elements such as humanoid scleras, eyebrow muscles, and mouth expressions.
I had my first week of Animal Anatomy and Drawing and the assignments were all on Big Cats. Last week I also had a chance to go to Cougar Mountain, a small zoo in Issaquah. We shot some nice photo reference, though.
The first assignment was to break down the animals into 3D geometric shapes. It was a bit hard at first, but I can see that it helps simplify and visualizes the 3D forms when you see them in the live animals. The idea of drawing the envelope is to get the general shape of the animal or figure before working on details. Here are some of my gesture drawings. For me, it’s easier working out the forms when watching a video loop of animals moving. The book for the course is Joe Weatherly’s Drawing Animals. We also had to do skeleton and ecorche versions.