I like to think I was being wonderfully efficient with my time last Friday afternoon at the HarperCollins Author Workshop Day. (Lordy!) After doing the blobs on the train going to the event, I doodled on with these birds during the presentations as well as taking notes!
I’m not sure I needed to take so many notes, but the doodles were a continuation of some character development for a HarperCollins picture book I will be working on over this coming summer. So that seems quite appropriate really.
The bird will sort himself out without too much trouble, because he’s kind of there in spirit already, even though his appearance does morph quite a lot. But what I’m interested in particularly is how to depict the legs, making them as versatile as possible for doing all sorts of things that birds don’t generally do in the common suburban back yard (like dancing the polka), and not getting bogged down by actual bird anatomy, whilst also not offending my own sense of birdishness by having ‘knees’ facing the wrong way or anything.
I can’t seem to help that. My dad is a vet. Sometimes I look up the skeletons of the animals I am drawing.
I do want this particular bird to have big feet if possible. There’s a reason. But I don’t want them to hamper the drawings either. So I will be playing around with options and we’ll see where we get to. In this second page, you see me having the wild idea of fat legs!
I’m not sure if this could work in moderation, or whether it might offend my aforementioned sense of birdishness…
He’s already adorable. Interesting how the doodles show you are getting to know him, looking forward to seeing him fledge! Esp. like the fat legs, so incongruous .
Thanks Liz! Valuable feedback.
Ahhhh, all these questions are so familiar to me. But you’re working absolutely the way that’s best, by letting the flow of energy take you to many places, and then sorting it all out later. He’s looking delightful. LOTS of promise. I too fret over anatomy, both human and animal, and have concluded over the years that you can push the envelope as far as you like, as long as the results are ‘plausible’ within your (and their) constructed universe. Of course that’s easier said than done, but artists recognise such things almost intuitively… well the GOOD ones do… and it seems to me that your intuition serves you extremely well. Energy and life and delight pour through these little sketches, and as long as a good deal of those qualities end up in the final illustrations, then all will be well.
Bird legs are difficult, and I don’t quite know why. In my painting The Congregation of Birds, I had to paint the legs of the heron a dozen times before I was satisfied, and to this day I’m not clear as to what I eventually did that made them come together OK. I think that there is a sprightliness to your twig-legged bird that is delightfully mercurial, whereas the elephantine-legged version has a sweetness that is more to do with juvenile clumsiness and the fact that he seems earthbound by them. The trick will be whether you can make him fly convincingly without them looking as though they’d weigh him down. I remember the ostriches of Fantasia, and how balletic they were with those clumping feet and massive thighs. The old animators trick of ‘squeeze and stretch’ can go a long way to make the implausible, plausible!