Tag Archives: character development

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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

Galumphers and one magpie

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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.

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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.

Cornish Cat working on the weekend :)

profile alice cat judywatsonart loresPhew! That’s half the spread fixed.

I spent a day on Thursday working on this page, and was really unhappy with the results at the end of the day, so it was back to the drawing board and a re-work of this character group. It might not have mattered so much if it were a busy page. But this is a section of the still page. It has to be right…

err… now I’m looking and finding a few things I might tweak… But not today. Time to spend time with my boys.

So the page 25 Cat-Called-Thunder and Alice are working to my satisfaction. I’ve just got to finish off the seven other members of the family! (laughs hysterically)

 

Camperdown Sam

This post is to introduce you to Camperdown Sam. During our school holiday visit to Camperdown, on our first walk into the main street we met with various delightful local animal characters.

One local was Fred (Who belongs to Ted), a dog of strongly suggestive Border Terrierishness x Australian Terrierishness, who came from a rescue centre. (And according to Ted’s wife, I am completely wrong about his breeding.) We have yet to acquire some photos of Fred with ears aloft. They were lovely. More on Fred another time.

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Here’s Fred. It was hard to locate the crank handle to get him to lift his ears. These went up periodically to display neat, soft Border Terrier style ears but with tufts flying like pennants from the tips. I am determined to get a photo of those ears by any means necessary!

One was Sam. Sam looked at a distance like a small thundercloud. All furious black fluff, glaring yellow eyes, and very round. (Way too round for his own good.) But as Sam found himself being observed in his driveway, he demonstrated his highly social character by rushing over to introduce himself to us up close.

What with all the weaving, winding, and waving of his tail, Sam didn’t stand still long. At least that is the lame excuse I am giving for my poor photography. I was also stroking at the same time as photographing.

Sam in shadow

Sam in shadow – Check out that tummy, nearly touching the ground.

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Feather boa tail

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Alright, so you get the idea.

Well, I’m only just getting started on Sam. I think he’s a lot of fun to paint. He’s so inky. But I’ve other work to do first.

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For Ann James’s birthday I did this first Sam sketch. Poor Sam has been scandalously misrepresented in temperament. But it was so much more fun to draw him as a grumpy thundercloud cat. Especially wearing a party hat.

Camperdown Sam no tail judywatsonart lores

Then I did a couple of other quick ink paintings for the 52 Week Illustration Challenge (theme this week black & white… handy). This first cartoon Sam is ink with digital scribble on top. I don’t think it is a success. It could be, if I re-do the face or even just the eyes, but not at the moment. Anyway, his tail got lost off the edge of the page. Never mind.

Camperdown Sam judywatsonart lores

This one, I like. And here he is smiling, as Sam did in person. Note: I could have depicted them better, but I have tried to include the cute tufts of fluff that poke up between long-haired cats’ toes. I’ve made them too spiky, not clumpy enough here, so they look more like claws.

And now back to the last illos for Thunderstorm Dancing.

 

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.

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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…