Monday, January 24, 2011

The Man. The Music. The Muse.

I was perusing my favorite news source this morning (Facebook), and learned an astonishing fact.

FACT: Today is Neil Diamond's 70th birthday!

I found this highly serendipitous, as I have been wanting to write a Neil Diamond post forever! AND, JUST LAST NIGHT my husband suggested I dress as Neil next Halloween! (this was coupled with his brainstorm of a movie idea: The Prince and the Lauper, starring Prince and Cyndi Lauper. This is the kind of quality news item you'll see if you're friends with ME on Facebook).

What does this have to do with children's books, you ask?? PLENTY. You see, Neil Diamond is- in a tradition reaching back to the very beginnings of human creation- my muse.

As I was plotting out the climactic event in Olympig, I knew I wanted the illustrations for those scenes to be big. Show-stopping. There would be spotlights. There would be drama. There would be sequins- oh, there would be sequins. And who better to look to for inspiration than Neil Diamond?

Which leads me into an actual, real topic worthy of a blog post on an illustration site: using photo references for inspiration. I love gathering me some reference photos- in this case, to get ideas about dramatic lighting.

Besides Neil, an obvious source of inspiration for me was the Beijing opening ceremonies. I've mentioned before that color is something that I have to work at. Working from the photos on my (as Martha Stewart might call it) "Inspiration Wall", I can borrow color schemes I like.

Besides lots and lots of photo references, I also keep physical references around when I can. I've mentioned before how I make clay models of my characters.

For Olympig, since he wears a sequined outfit in his grand finale, I thought it important to have some sequins on hand to see how they look in various lights. So I bought a pair of sequin shorts purely for the purposes of artistic study. Solely for that reason and for no other reason whatsoever.

The end result? This is the color study I came up with for the next-to-grand-finale page.

I'm showing the color study and not the final piece here, because it's at an awkward stage just at the moment. More like a bad Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper than the Majesty of Neil Diamond.

But you know what? I'm not worried. With Neil by my side, everything will turn out alright in the end. Happy Birthday, Neil!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Painting's Progress

Well, my Winter Swine Hibernation is beginning to thaw, I can feel it. I have a handful of paintings left to finish- the Grand Finale climactic scene is next, and that one will be a whopper. Even so, I am starting to feel the itchings of spring. Like, subtle urges to have coffee with friends, for example, or the odd desire to put on some real clothes. I am also being forcibly outed from my winter cave, as my new children's book illustration class at Pacific Northwest College of Art starts on Tuesday! (see a description here). It will be nice to be out and about again (one day a week), and to give my PJs a rest.

Anyhoo, I took some photos of the last painting I did to document the process. I had my sketch & color study done, so I transferred that to my final paper. Those orange scribbles on the back are my transfer method, made using an orange Prismacolor colored pencil (NOT "yellowed orange", but "orange", as my poor beleaguered husband found out the hard way. I felt like a real diva that day- "Are these RED M&Ms I see?!? I SAID NO RED M&Ms!!!!"). Anyway, I take that pencil and cross-hatch all over the back. Then I flip it over, place it on my good paper, & trace the front.

(you can click on all of the pictures for a larger view)

The transfer is pretty good, but I usually add a bit more pencil detail with both the orange Prismacolor & a good old #2.

For this book, I've been outlining most of the illustrations first with a fine brush.

Then, I start blocking in the color! This part usually goes pretty quickly, and tricks me into thinking I'm almost done.

Then it's layers, layers, layers. I keep my paint pretty thin- I tend to lose control of my line work & things get too chunky if I lay the paint on thick. It's a longer process, I think, but it works for me.

The stage from the painting above to the painting below always seems to take the longest. I always find more details that I need to add in! The polka dots on Mama's dress, the stripes on Mr. Hamstring's sportscoat, the flags above the stadium, etc. I'll tell you one thing I've been LOVING to paint- the crowd in the stadium! I'm being for realsies about this, too. Especially as the story progresses towards nighttime- it's been really fun painting the camera flashes & twinkly lights in the stadium. AND... the sequins are about to come out! YES!

And now, back to work!