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.
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.
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.
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 a great time at our Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Spring Conference. It was neat to be with such an enthusiastic group that were all interested in children’s books. I liked all of the speakers, but especially David Small and Kazu Kibuishi who shared a lot of their personal stories about how they came to be motivated to do the work they do. David Small is Caldecott winner and Kazu is a writer and illustrator of graphic novels like the Amulet and Explorer.
This was the first time I put together a portfolio. I searched on the web for examples of how to set one up. I use an inexpensive photo album on Amazon that had a window in the cover.
I liked being able to present my work in the portfolio evening, but I also liked seeing everyone else’s work. I’m thinking about doing more drawing with ferrets especially since my visit to the ferret rescue in Kirkland. Their fur is very soft. There were a lot of illustrators I also had a chance to discover. I especially liked Heidi Aubrey‘s mice.
After a week off, I’ll be starting animal anatomy and drawing (yay). I’m also a few weeks into volunteer orientation to work in wild bird rehabilitation – skills training starts in May.
I’m signed up for the Illustrator Intensive “Hard Things to Draw” with David Small (see some of his covers below) as well as participating in the Juried Portfolio show. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of portfolios and hearing from other illustrators and writers, art directors, and agents. I’ve heard these conferences are great for networking and getting started in children’s books.
Here’s my design for a business card:
I’m also doing film class this RMCAD quarter, so I’m putting together a short film discussion of the movie, Vertigo.
I had a great chance to interview author and film critic Jeffrey Overstreet and attorney and film lecturer Robert Cumbow, in addition to my family. I even attended a 6-hour Cinema Dissection of Vertigo at the Seattle International Film Festival Center which gave me an even deeper understanding of the film.
Here’s some illustrations I was asked to make by my local Audubon society, Pilchuck Audubon. Jim Beneteau and other volunteers give lectures to school children about different beak adaptations and how they’re suited to what they eat. They didn’t have good visual illustrations, so I made these prints for them for their traveling kit.
Jim, Valerie, and Laurel asked for common birds that children might recognize in their backyards. The nice thing about having more picture of birds and what they eat is that students can think more about they are actually seeing. There’s the barn swallow that needs dart around quickly to grab insects, hummingbird that sips nectar deep in flowers, robin that digs around in dirt for worms, and pelican who eats fish.
If anyone is interested in purchasing cards for their classroom, they can contact me HERE.
My next painting is for Seattle Audubon. I’ll be painting a marbled murrelet which is an endangered species in Washington, Oregon, and California. It’s a sea bird that nests miles inland in old growth forests, so its vulnerable in both ocean and forest habitats. Its a neat bird that has webbed feet, but also is found in the tops of trees.
Here’s my finished (I think) ink wash illustration from my concept class. Now I’ve begun Still Life, so it’s back to paintbrushes.
I did want to share some photos from our Western Washington SCBWI Keep It Simple Show. I’m lucky that it’s such a great group. Everyone was very generous and it was incredibly helpful seeing other people’s work, their tear sheets, and business cards. I’ve put in links to their websites on their works below. Check them out to be inspired. The artists are David Joaquin and Liz Wong in the top row; Maja Sereda and Tracy Wallschaleger of Red Dog Images.
The keynote speaker for the night was Jennifer Soloway of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She gave a fantastic talk on how to stand out from the slush pile, great first lines, and some of the ins and outs of being an artists’ representative.
I initially started with the idea of Copic markers and ink washes, but I found that I preferred the unexpected results of ink washes and the fractal patterns that they made as they got absorbed into paper to Copics, which were a more controlled medium.
Some of the random washes I’ll be working on this week are posted below. This week’s assignment for RMCAD is with abstract sources of inspiration for illustration. Next week, will be with concrete discoveries. It should be fun.