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.
After sketching thumbnails for my Gerda vs. the Snow Queen’s Snow Bees painting, I created 3 quick 3-value thumbnails to decide on the final composition. I found it really helps separating out the composition and value decisions before committing to a final work. Because I wanted to base the painting on the original Hans Christian Andersen story, I also want to work in the detail that he had about the palace being lit by Northern Lights.
Although I liked the extremes of values in the value study, I settled on the 3rd study because I liked the idea that the shadows on the hill would be pointing to Gerda, my focal point. I added some hills in the background to create greater depth and also added more complex branchwork in the final.
I started out with pencil and watercolor on Arches watercolor paper, but finished the piece digitally using Procreate and an Ipad Pro because I could play around with different color combinations before deciding on a final. I really like Procreate and the Apple Pencil because the process of illustrating with them is so close to real pencil, paper, and paint – but with much more flexibility with materials and undo’s. I had an earlier version, but Phil my teacher and classmate China suggested good feedback about brightening up the colors among other things. Our next assignment should be fun – drawing caricatures. I’ve picked my subject already…Edgar Allan Poe.
It’s been another busy week, but learning a lot more what CarbOthello pencils can do. I really like the medium although I have a lot to learn about making color blends. This past week had our usual gesture drawings, 2 hand drawings in pastel, and then a costumed figure drawing. Sanded paper like UArt or Wallis can receive more layers than Canson Mi-Teintes or other pastel papers, but they will eat up your pencils quicker.
I found I like the soft rich blacks of Nitram charcoal. It also doesn’t have as much dust as General’s.
I’ll also post the three examples of pastel paintings that I posted in this week’s discussion. Pastel offers such a wide variety of expression. I really like the medium.
The first is a rendering of Ophelia from Cuong Nguyen who worked as a successful web designer for many years until he got working more as a streetchalk artist, then became a full-time fine art painter. I learned from him that skin tones can be mixed with a green underpainting (verdaccio) and flesh tones.
The second is an illustration from Paul Howard from a Jill Tomlinson book called The Owl who was afraid of the dark. I like the soft luminous quality Howard was able to get from his use of pastels.
Finally, there’s The Guardian by Fiona Tang. It combines chalk pastel with charcoal and acrylic on a paper backing. The different textures of the various media used for this piece this piece contribute to the overall effect in different ways; the chalk pastel in particular is important to the trompe l’oeil effect, helping to differentiate the “three-dimensional” stag in the front from the more “two-dimensional” background charcoal elements, with the white tone of the pastel “light” against the natural brown color of the paper.
This coming week is my final one for Life Drawing IV. We’ve got a watercolor assignment, the first I’ve had since I’ve been in art school. Also this weekend, I’ll be going to the Great Critique-nic through the Western Washington Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. It’ll be the first one that I’ve ever gone to. People bring their illustrations or writing and split up into small groups where they critique and be critiqued.
I had a great time in a 1-day pastel workshop at the Cole Art Studio. I used Nupastels on LaCarte paper for this painting of a dik dik, a small antelope that lives in Africa. I worked on this in the afternoon.
In the morning, I painted an African hornbill.
Pastels seem almost effortless. I’m looking forward to doing more.
Meet Moorehead (left) and Doubleday (right). They’re a work in progress. I haven’t completely decided their back story yet. The sketch was colored in with CarbOthello pastel pencils (I like them) on Canson Mi Teintes paper. I just got a pack of La Carte and also Sennelier soft pastels and will be experimenting with those too.
I’m going to take a one day pastels workshop with Janis Graves this weekend through Cole Gallery and looking forward to it. I’ll paste a sample of her art below.
The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators also posted the group mural that I worked on at the Santa Cruz Conference.
There were 3. Here’s the one I drew a little egret (corner right) catching a fish. It’s on exhibit at the Sanctuary Exploration Center that’s part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It was a great conference.
I just heard today that Hornblower During the Crisis has been accepted in the SCBWI Western Washington Illustrators Exhibit at the Washington State Convention Center! This will be my first juried group exhibition. It runs from July 1- September 30th. I also just dropped off some art for the Best of the Gage Exhibition. The exhibition and sale there is June 17th, and of course the Clymer Museum exhibition goes through June 25th.
In addition to school, I’ve been experimenting with different ways of adding color. This past week I did some colored pencil work with the black and white owl and frog drawing. I like really like Faber-Castell Polychromos. They are oil-based, so blend with baby oil and can work side-by-side with watercolor paints or pencils.
I’ve also been doing some sketching and thinking about doing some illustrations for Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen. There are two good crow characters that are part of the story so I thought it would be nice to do. We get a lot of crow visitors in the backyard.
I also saw an inspiring video today. Sargy Mann is a painter who became blind when he was his 30’s. See his story below.
I’m starting to noodle around more with digital art programs since I got a iPad Pro and Apple Pencil last weekend. It’s great.
I just started learning the programs, but colored a pencil sketch and can see the potential.
I can see why many artists are raving . My Cintiq cable died (its awkward 3-headed connector) and the company is out of all replacements – and they can’t be bought anywhere else.
iPad Pro + Apple Pencil CAN connect to a computer using the Astropad app – which makes the process freeing. I used Corel Painter and have also started working with Procreate which is an amazing app for $5.99.
At RMCAD, it’s Art History III (Modern) this month but also had a great time at the opening of our Nature’s Call show at the Clymer Museum (my work is part of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators Northwest). It runs through June 25th and they’ll have another First Friday event in June if you might want to visit.
Earlier this month I also had a chance to attend a meeting of the Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators – Western Washington at Seattle Pacific. That was a great experience. They start off with videos filmed in the artists’ studio (I’ll post Jessixa’s and Doug’s below) and then they answer questions. I liked seeing how their illustrations evolved.
Every week, the class assignment is to have each person suggest an illustration or group of illustrations based on the reading. For the chapter on tone, I chose this 1912 illustration by Sidney Sime (1867 – 1941) for Lord Dunsany’s The Book of Wonder. I chose it partly because it has some similarities, in terms of subject matter, value range, and atmosphere, to my own project for this week. I also chose it because it effectively uses various value and compositional elements, including a chiaroscuro technique, to guide the viewer’s eye throughout the piece. The first major area of light starts at the upper left corner, then trails around, almost like a curving road, to the first major subject, the city in the rocks. In turn, the curved shape of the light/shadow pattern and the diagonal lines of the rock lead into the menacing blackness filled with eyes under the bridge. The smoky shape at right helps to transition the viewer down to the next major subject, the man on the winged beast.
Imagine what the piece would look like without the large shadowy area at left. It would lose some of its atmosphere, with the impression of discovering something grand and menacing in a dark, obscure region. In addition, the black space filled with eyes under the bridge would be less clear as a main subject of the piece, since the chiaroscuro patterns of light and dark have the area immediately above as the brightest spot in the composition.