Saturday, December 4, 2010

Long Time, No Write!

Well hey there! Guess what I've been doing besides not writing on my blog? I'll give you one hint:


When you're a children's book author/illustrator, I'll admit it: there are days when my job is prett-ty laid back. I'll watch "Fame" for inspiration, do a little doodling, take a nap & call it a day. And don't get me wrong, I AM working on those days- I fully believe you need to daydream and doodle and spend quality time with your characters.

THEN there is the other part of my job. The dummy is done, art is due in 2 months, and I am painting. ALL. THE. TIME. It's quite different from the sketching in the park part of my job, but you know what? I really like this part, too. It's comforting to know what I'll be doing tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. The irony in all of this is that with all these hours spent at my drawing board, I have plenty of time to think up new blog topics, but no time to write them! Here are some recent topics I've thought of in my piggy solitude:

* Top 10 Things about Working From Home (I got as far as "Leggings" and "Glee" before deciding this might be too damaging to my image)

* A Salute To Creative Parents

* My Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde Complex: or more appropriately, Mr. Scrooge/Bob Cratchett Complex

* My Imaginary Interview with Ellen (DeGeneres. Wherein I talk about how I am COMPLETELY taken aback by the runaway success of Olympig, and how my good friend JK is helping me deal with the sudden fame. C'mon, hasn't every author had this dream?!?)

So, look forward to some of these topics in the future! Yes, I WILL find the time to write them, because talking to myself on a blog seems less creepy than just normal talking to myself. Have I mentioned I've been spending a LOT of time alone lately??

On to today's topic:

*Finally using images I took for class like 2 months ago!

So, I always like to know how other illustrators work. Here, for example, is how I set prepare my paper for my illustrations. It takes a while, but I enjoy the process- I like to imagine I'm one of Michelangelo's little helpers. Preparing my paper with care always feels very artisan to me.

I use acrylics on paper, and the first thing I do with my paper is wet it. Wet it good!

Then I flatten out the paper on a nice thick board. I have several of these boards so I can do a few pages at the same time.

Then, with the paper as flat as I can get it, I take out Bessie the Staple Gun and staple all around the edges.

Since the fibers of the paper are nice and wet you can literally stretch the paper, and that's what I do as I go around the edges. When it dries, I want it to be tight as a drum.

Then I take out my gesso.

It's taken me a while to find just the balance that I like, but I've found that a thin layer of gesso with a spongy brush,

followed by a smoothing with the flat smoothy thing I found in the hardware store

... generally does the trick. I let it dry, sand it down, and repeat the process twice more.

Two things to beware of:

1) Sometimes after wetting & stapling, the paper still looks warped!

Don't panic! I've found it usually smoothes out overnight.

2) Beware of angry cats trying to sabotage your career:

And the last thing about my process that I'll talk about tonight is mixing paint. I'm trying a new thing, which I am really loving- mixing all my colors in advance! It is a wonder! Illustrator extraordinaire Johanna Wright spoke to my illustration class at PNCA this summer, and she said this is how she works, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. And it has changed my life!

So I made color copies of the color studies I did, and mixed my paints to match the colors I already liked. My big question was, How do I know how much color to mix?! My answer: Who knows? For colors I knew I'd use frequently (like "Pig"), I went with "A lot".

I now have tupperware containers labeled "Pig Skin" around my studio, which adds a level of Hannibal Lecter creepiness to my existing "talking to myself" creepiness.

Goodnight, everybody!


Lee White Illustration said...

he he! funny post! all of it sounds very familiar. Those weeks of being locked in by a book deadline are tricky. I think some days I don't even leave the house. That's not a good thing. :)

One thing, if you use 3 ply illustration board you don't have to stretch it which could save a step. It's flexible enough to go around a scanner and I used to use it all the time when I painted in acrylic or oil. Publishers didn't have any problems with production.

Good luck, can't wait to see the finished book!

Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing your creative process! I enjoyed all your photographs.

Lauren Castillo said...

Haha! Great post, and thanks for sharing your final art prep process, Vicki. My favorite was the mischievous Sharon (that's her name, right?) eyeing the paper on the floor in your studio...what was she up to? :)

Vicki said...

Thanks for the tip, Lee- I'll check out the illustration board for my next book. I like the gessoed surface, though, and that usually ends up being the part that takes a while...

Yes Lauren, that's Sharon- just going on with her bad self as usual!

Anyhoo, thanks for the feedback everyone- it's nice to know I have company in my seclusion :)

johanna said...

Great post! You are doing so awesome, I can't wait to see this amazing book. Love seeing your process. And the mixed 'pig skin', yes!!

I know all about those career sabotaging cats...we have two. And one of them likes to fart on my pillow, but that's neither here nor there, I suppose....

Vicki said...

Ha ha! And... ewww.

Airlie Anderson said...

Labeling those colors in advance is brilliant! I'm going to visualize mine now: crocodile day, crocodile night... monkey noon, monkey morning.... :)

JaneAlexandra said...

Working from home... definitely has its ups and downs! Love you post, and it's great to see your process. I do advance colour mixing as well, but not nearly on the scale that you do. Can't wait to hear more.


Vicki said...

Thanks Jane! The advance color mixing has made a huge difference for me- it makes painting more fluid for me, since I don't have to stop and mix colors constantly.

Airlie, you're killing me- I want to see more crocodile & monkey!! The illustrations I've seen are so cute! Good luck!

Christina Rodriguez said...

I just finished a huge book deadline last week so while I'm not "working" in the "paid" sense of the word right now, I'm catching up on all the work-related things that fell by the wayside, like emails, file keeping, and of course, finding new work.

Maybe you've answered this questions before, but what weight, brand, and surface (hot or cold press?) of paper do you use?

Vicki said...

I use Arches 140 lb. watercolor paper, cold press. I used to use 300 lb. hot press, but a little comparative study showed that the surfaces were comparable after my Special Treatment. And 140 lb. paper is 1/3 the price- bonus!