Tag Archives: birds

Leonard Chooses His Hues

I have given the medium for Leonard Doesn’t Dance a lot of thought over the last few months. I knew that I wanted the style to be very different from Thunderstorm Dancing, quicker, looser, lighter in touch and for some reason sherberty… Ahem. Don’t ask me why.

And during my time in Italy, I was immersed in so much illustration at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair that it was the perfect time to consider what I did and didn’t want to do, and what was already done too many times elsewhere.

Ann James and I talked about illustration styles, strengths and weaknesses too. She told me that the key to good illustration is authenticity. When she looks at a folio of work, if the expression of line or character feels genuine, as though it really comes from the illustrator’s inner self, then technical weaknesses don’t matter so much. You can see the kernel of the artist in the work and it’s good. I’m re-phrasing of course, because I can’t remember the exact words that either of us used. But this is the gist of it.

So where does that leave me as a wandering artist, prone to changes of style? What is my kernel?

I came to the conclusion that I am very comfortable with my pencil, and my line is probably most expressive of my style or styles. Most me. I had decided that I would use pencil or fine liner (for the lightness of touch), white backgrounds on most pages, and colour the drawings swiftly and joyously in bright, (sherberty) digital colour.

Here are some old artworks for the sake of discussion of medium. None of them were drawn for Leonard Doesn’t Dance

parrot purr judywatsonart lores

fine liner with quick sherberty digital colour. (originally drawn for 52 Week Illustration Challenge – theme WORDS)

Perhaps this parrot cartoon isn’t a perfect example of what I had in mind, but it’s me, and it has the fine line that I want, the simple, swift colour and the white background. And it’s playful. Playfulness is key to this book.

new hat judywatsonart colour lores

loose lines with digital colour (originally drawn for 52 Week Illustration Challenge theme – LINE)

This continuous line drawing is a little heavier in line (a thicker fine liner) and heavier in tone too, on the cream background of a vintage book which was the very thing that inspired the work for Thunderstorm Dancing. But even so, it is me at my most comfortable with a wandering line… making it up as I go along.

So there I was. All decided.

Then the discussion of clothes came up with the Frances Watts and the publishing team.

Do these birds wear any clothes? Should Leonard be wearing those breeches? Or should he not?

During the course of this (somewhat cheeky) discussion I whizzed through some ‘Trouserbirds’ as evidence of the way my bird drawings had been going in recent times. Most of them were wearing trousers. The examples I sent were from my series of blob birds; all painted by starting with a pale grey washy blob, and then transforming it into wacky creatures with watercolour.

stork seaside 2

Fine liner, white background, sherberty. Paint instead of digital colour… (a blob experiment from 2014)

blob birds lores

fine liner, watercolour, trousers… why not? (These blob experiments from last year are darker in tone, but that is mostly about the shade of grey used in the original blob. Partly too about their wintery clothes which seemed to ask for deeper, more tweedy tones.)

Frances Watts was taken with the watercolour. Which gave pause for thought. Because I really enjoyed making these blobs and was already planning a book for them of my own. But there’s no reason why they couldn’t launch with Leonard…

More soon.

Leonard Doesn’t Dance: A Bird of Character

In between racing around madly organising for our auction this coming Saturday, (I refrained from using hysterical capitalisation there. Did you notice?) I have REALLY enjoyed (emphatic, enthusiastic capitalisation) doing a few character sketches for Leonard.

Leonard is the main character for my upcoming picture book with Frances Watts, to be published by HarperCollins next year. Just to put you ever so quickly into the loop, Leonard started in my head as a little fellow with a disastrously swishy tail, inspired by our Australian Willy Wagtails, who swish their tails from side to side constantly.

Leonard Doesn't Dance

The colour sketch I drew for a spontaneous cover, the first day I received the manuscript

Leonard doodles2 judywatsonart lores

further tail wagging doodles drawn during a HarperCollins Author workshop

Then I found out that Frances had only one request: that Leonard be a bigger, galumphing kind of bird, and not a little tweety-bird type. So this sent me off in other directions and I did some galumphing doodles over a period of time while I was finishing Thunderstorm Dancing.

I continued with my doodles while I was travelling in Italy during April.

In the back of my mind there was a memory of a wonderful, lanky bird from Africa called the Secretary Bird. I looked him up and found him to be wonderfully elegant, wearing short black breeches to below the ‘knee’ and a fancy headdress (from which he got his name) and a wonderful set of wings for flying to bird parties.

His beak is quite different from the one I had imagined. I thought I might alter him to make him a unique bird bearing only a partial resemblance to the Secretary Bird. But as sketches continued, I found I enjoyed him very much, just the way he is.

Leonard

Leonard  1 Leonard  2 Leonard  3 Leonard  4 Leonard  5 Leonard  6

If he won’t work on the page for me with all those smaller birds, I may have to re-think him, but I am quite attached to him already.

More on this process soon, and I will tell you about the decisions about my medium.

Doodle Galumphers at the Swimming Pool

I’m not sure why my book projects seem to happen at the swimming pool. Pippa who modelled for Thunderstorm Dancing was at the pool, and many of the sketches I did at the pool while the boys were having swimming lessons fed into the book.

Here are some from that time, that have been posted before.

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drybrush sketches in the bombing zone of the local swimming pool. Ink on vintage book page.

Today I took the boys to the pool because it was pelting rain and they were stuck indoors. And there I happily began doodling for Leonard Doesn’t Dance, my new picture book project for HarperCollins, written by Frances Watts.

In truth, I set out to re-read the manuscript and ponder layouts, but I got as far as the first two lines and found I had to turn over the paper and doodle birds on the back. I think it was because Leonard was groaning. ‘Groaning’ is a very suggestive word. It conjures all sorts of pained expressions, and it wouldn’t wait.

Galumphing bird doodles judywatsonart lores

The first bird at the top is about to groan. Or has just groaned. He may have been groaning for some time. But after this, the others became more cheerful. I’m not worrying about style at the moment. Just going for Galumphing. That is my brief. It’s a brief brief.

It’s not hard to see the inspiration for these particular Galumphers.

Rose in the foreground... just in case the camera is edible.

Rose in the foreground… just in case the camera is edible.

Lily looking for something to step in

Lily looking for something to trip over

Here are Rose and Lily, the Terrible Pteranodon Twins (Araucanas) and Lily in particular, is the most impossibly clumsy bird you could ever meet. If you were to put a champagne glass in the middle of a football field and let Lily go and graze in that field, the first thing she would do would be to trip over the glass and spill the champagne. Here she looks like she is marching, but she is really galumphing.

My Leonard bird will, I hope, not be any species of bird in the real world. There will be plenty of those in the book, but Leonard I think may dispense with such restrictions.

In the next drawings I started to exaggerate the trousers on the bird, a thing that I’ve done before with my blob birds. It occurs to me now that if we choose to make Leonard a young bird person, his trousers might be shorts. These three fellows seem to be older bird persons.

Galumphing bird doodle2 judywatsonart lores

Here is a younger bird person wearing short trousers. And that is not a codpiece. (The bird tails might be tricky in some instances…)

Galumphing bird doodle 3 judywatsonart lores

And this drawing raises the question of whether Leonard ought to be more of a Bird Person, or a Person Bird. He will have to fly at one point, but he prefers cupcakes to cockroaches. He’s a multi-layered Bird Person. I’m sure there will be many more bird doodles in the coming weeks.

By the way, my advance copy of Thunderstorm Dancing arrived on my doorstep while we were at the pool. How appropriate, given that the rain had been bucketing down all day. We have all been looking through it with pleasure this evening. It is a very advance copy though. The book won’t be in the shops until April, I believe.

A Thundery book in the cloudy evening light.

A Thundery book in the cloudy evening light.

Leonard Doesn’t Dance and Trudy loves Dodds.

I’m excited to have two new projects to work on over the summer. One is another picture book with Frances Watts called Leonard Doesn’t Dance. The other is the beginnings of my own picture book with the working title Trudy and Dodds.

I’ll be posting here about both of them as I go along. Leonard will be about birds… something I shouldn’t have too much trouble loving! I’ve posted a couple of very early ideas about Leonard already. And you can follow the images alone if you want on my Pinterest page here. The more wordy stuff will be on my blog. (…rambling, rambling…)

Leonard Doesn't Dance

Trudy and Dodds was a concept I had just come up with at the time I was offered Thunderstorm Dancing and to my surprise, I received a grant from the Australia Council to get the project started. But I found I could only focus on the one big (Thunder) project, and so Trudy and Dodds was put on hold. Now is the time to revisit it, and I’m really excited to be booked into a masterclass in mid February with editing maestros Jane Godwin (Penguin) and Erica Wagner (Allen & Unwin) along with book design maestro Sandra Nobes. I’ll be taking my dummy book and manuscript along to that masterclass as a part of my grant project to get some feedback and help.

So, in the meantime, on with birds and…. dog-monster-thingees. Probably.

Sewjourn (part 2) – Bird Mania

I doodled, sketched, painted and chopped many birds at Sewjourn. Here are a few.

The jacket was time consuming and almost took one full day in the studio (bearing in mind that the culinary arts are also a big part of our Sewjourn weekend, so there is a fairly lengthy lunch-break in the middle of the day).

Choosing projects is a big decision when the time is limited to 2 precious days. A big project can be satisfying but takes a big slab of the time. Doing many small projects is also very satisfying. The important thing for me is to make some decision, because staring in confusion at a list of projects is not at all satisfying!

The Doodle Birds were a quick little play and very small, but I also had a lovely time preparing for them, by embellishing book pages with a range of inks and paints to make the patterns for their plumage.

Apologies for the poor photographs. I was so focused on creating that I didn’t take the time to set up proper photos, and much was not photographed at all. In fact I didn’t even make it to the wonderful book shop on the Lancefield main street, and I usually love to support them and buy a few treats for myself or others while I am there.

collage doodle bird

Bird collage doodle

collage doodle birds

Bird collage doodles canoodle

jacket - painted bird

A white jacket I have been meaning to paint or deface in some way for over two years. Now well on its way with a back panel full of painted birds

jacket- painted bird 2

My favourite jacket bird. I like the simplicity of outline, form and colour.

 

Another little collage bird

Another little collage bird. Actually the creases are not obvious in the real thing. It doesn’t like to be squished in the scanner though.

Sewjourn weekend with the Refash Sistas

This is just a quick few lines upon my return from a lovely long weekend away with my arty crafty stitchy friends at Sewjourn.

I took a veritable mountain of materials with me, as did all the others. It’s hard to predict exactly what one will feel like working on, so it’s good to have options.

As it turned out, I didn’t use my sewing machine and my space remained largely strewn with wet painting materials. But I did do a quick collaboration with Juliet; a thing I have been wanting to do for about three years.

Her thread drawings, when in their first stages, consisting of black thread on linen, often have me positively itching to take ink and a paintbrush to them! Thankfully for Juliet, I am capable of some self restraint!

Given the time and space to finally give it a whirl, I drew a few quick birds on cotton (birds were my dominant theme for the weekend) and begged her to draw over one of them in thread for me, which she did. Here’s what happened.

soft pastel on cotton

soft pastel on cotton

Another soft pastel bird. We carried through with only one of the three that I drew, as Juliet had her own mountain of projects to work on.

Another soft pastel bird. We carried through with only one of the three that I drew, as Juliet had her own mountain of projects to work on.

Juliet selects a bird to work on

Juliet selects a bird to work on

Juliet stretches the fabric into an embroidery hoop.

Juliet stretches the fabric into an embroidery hoop

Juliet at the machine. An expert at work.

Juliet at the machine. An expert at work.

sewing bird6

Thread drawing process complete

Thread drawing process complete

It’s not surprising that Juliet’s thread drawings resonate with me, given my fascination with continuous line drawings. These are a stitched version of that very thing.

I threw on the black paint in a variety of ways. I varied the amount of water to see how it would react to the fabric, how the spreading would look and whether I could also get a dry brush effect. Unfortunately this photo is a little blurry.

I threw on the black paint in a variety of ways. I varied the amount of water to see how it would react to the fabric, how the spreading would look and whether I could get a dry brush effect. Unfortunately this photo is a little blurry.

I loved the way Juliet had treated the eye. It didn't want any paint at all.

I loved the way Juliet had treated the eye. It didn’t want any paint at all.

Initially I intended it to be a black and white creation. But I felt the urge to add some colour to the bird. I think this worked well.

Initially I intended it to be a black and white creation. But I felt the urge to add some colour to the bird. I think this worked well.

More on my other Sewjourn projects later.

Bird Doodles during HarperCollins Author Workshop

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.

Leonard doodles2 judywatsonart lores

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.

Leonard doodles judywatsonart lores

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…

 

The Bird Lover (take 2)

Here’s the same subject in a very different style. I couldn’t decide on the two skirt patterns you you can make up your own minds :-)

Bella will even be able to tell me what the fabrics are called. Is my girl a soft autumn Bella? I started off going for warm autumn and then my colour palette morphed…. (obsessively drawn to soft autumn it seems)

The fashion derives from circa 1840 and the applications of partial derivatives in differential and integral calculus.

Happy Friday!

bird lover blue pattern skirt judywatsonart lores

The more demure, blue skirt print.

bird lover light floral skirt judywatsonart loresThe lighter floral print skirt echoing the snowy overlays elsewhere in the scene.

 

The Bird Lover

 

Okay, this post came down. Now it’s going up again because I hear some people have linked to it. Sorry about that. Decided I wasn’t keen on it. But here it is again. Have posted plenty of warts-and-all experimental doodles before now, so why not this one?

the bird lover2 judywatsonart lores

Strange little doodle fellow with a Tove Jansson Groke nose…

For my bird loving Mum. (I know your nose doesn’t look like this, Mum.)

Furthermore… (in for a penny, in for a pound) here’s the earlier version of this pic. Which I decided was too dark. But it has a different, more raw and slightly spooky quality. Kids could have a go at something similar to this combining scraper board techniques with collage.

the bird lover judywatsonart lores