Tag Archives: improvisation

Leonard’s Friends

Leonard 6

As some will know, my current book project is a picture book by Frances Watts to be published next year by HarperCollins. Leonard Doesn’t Dance is the title, and it will feature a cast of feathered friends of many species.

Leonard and his friends have been forming on the page but I’ve yet to definitely decide on the medium that will best suit the book. As a way of exploring options, I’ve begun getting to know this list of species.

Magpies
Ducks
Pigeons / Doves
Rosellas
Galahs
Woodpeckers
Flamingos
Swans
Chickens
Turkeys
Quails
Bluebirds
Finches
Penguins
Puffins

First on the list, penguins. (Yes, I’m not even reliably back-to-front.)

Penguins come in several shapes and sizes and are attired in formal to smart casual. Their posture is generally upright, and they are fond of water sports. Some are tall and imposing. Some are small and wiry. Some are round, cuddly and ridiculously cute. Possibly too cute. (What kind of a kill-joy book illustrator am I? Too cute?)

penguin very first pencil sketch

A warm-up penguin. I liked to think I was channelling William Kentridge with my deft use of the eraser… but really, this is just a warm-up penguin. My eraser was employed in deftless ways.

penguin pencil and wash early 1

A second warm-up penguin. Sometimes the warm-up process temporarily takes one backwards.  (Watercolour and brush on smooth watercolour paper.)

the rather dull small fluffy penguin

See what I mean? (Noodler’s ink, watercolour and gouache on watercolour paper.)

the rather dull penguin

A half-warmed up penguin, using a soft pencil and watercolour. I need to bond with penguin feet. They are thick and sturdy and look like lumps of pink putty. These are not right. But I like the head.

penguin pencil and wash later

A tighter line. Testing the look of a more stylised shape. This penguin is quite athletic. I didn’t  realise that some penguins have rather long legs. Even if much of the leg appears to be inside their body. Rather like walking around inside a large pillowcase with your toes in the corners… Or not. I do like the watercolour over the textured pencil.

tighter penguin

A tighter outline again with an exaggerated shape. But still with a loose hatching technique. I don’t do tidy hatching. I associate it with things like ironing shirts. A useful skill that I don’t have the patience for.

penguin pencil sketch

Looser? Almost the same head. But loose and with added dance steps.

twin penguins

Looser with ink. I think this is a combination of the last two. Or three.

A question arising is the ink. This ink is water soluble. I often enjoy this, because it’s rather scrumptious to see the line dissolve under the watercolour brush to do unexpected things. I mostly like unexpected things. But would I like unexpected things to happen on my final artwork? Maybe not.

Also, it’s hard to lay clean colour over dissolving black ink. I will want some of my colours to be clean. I will have a try with water-fast ink later. But there are other ways around this. I could do the black part with water soluble ink and print out the illustrations onto fresh watercolour paper before adding colour. But all this can get rather complicated and size can become a limitation. There is much to ponder over the next few weeks.

I will share some finches with you soon.

 

Catching up

Hello! I’ve been a bit absent! Thunder is finished and off to the printers! I’m looking forward to seeing an advance copy in early January. It’s taken a few weeks to just get myself into drawing again. That’s not something I anticipated. And there are a lot of other things that I need to catch up with now that I’ve finished that mammoth project… including Christmas!

I had a great day with Ann James and Justine Alltimes last Monday, designing a poster for Jackie French, our Australian Children’s Laureate. Her project Share a Story will revolve around the ideas on the poster/calendar which will be available for free download by Christmas.

Ann James is a well known and skilled Australian children’s illustrator. Justine Alltimes is one of the hardworking and capable Laureate Project Managers. When the three of us get together, the ideas ping about like pinballs. After Ann had drawn and painted some images, I was able to alter them digitally to make new, and hopefully intriguing combinations, that will work well together on the poster and spark the storytelling imaginations of children, teachers and parents. The challenge was to avoid the literal interpretations of words like Slurp a Story and instead to come up with images that were open-ended or suggestive. We want starting points for stories, not stories in themselves.

More on Share a Story when the poster is released.

Other work in progress includes an illustration of Phar Lap for the front cover of a colouring book for the Melbourne Museum to match the dinosaur one I did a couple of years ago. As always with work done for Museum Victoria, I learn heaps along the way as I research the topic! Glad to find out that Phar Lap was probably not deliberately or even accidentally poisoned. Not that it made much difference to the poor horse, but he most likely died of colic related to a rare disease of the intestinal tract.

MMDinoColBk_FRONT.jpg

The 52 Week Illustration Challenge forges on towards the finish, but will return next year. I wasn’t feeling like drawing for this either, for a couple of weeks. So I’ve missed Week 47 New York, but I may go back to that. Although drawing New York itself holds little attraction for me, the New Yorker and its famous cartoons hold enormous appeal for me. So I think I need to do a New Yorker style cartoon. But of what?…

Tim and Tig New Yorker

A page from ‘Tim and Tig’

Above is an illustration I did for Aussie Nibble – Tim & Tig many years ago. I illustrated Tim and Tig just after receiving a copy of the Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker; a fantastic book that had a powerful influence on my drawing! Many of the illos in Tim and Tig, I’d wish to do again and much better, but this one I still like.

Now that I think of it, I did do some quick doodles for Week 46 Circus. (Oh dear. What a rambling post.)

The Twisted Princess tidies her tresses

The Twisted Princess tidies her tresses

This doodle was on the bottom of a Thunder illustration. You may see a wee peek of the washy water top right, and it ran completely off the page. It started as a doodle and then I got mesmerised by the leotard pattern. Actually, this led my mind off in the direction of a series of paintings I’d like to do…

This brings me to last week’s theme. Week 48 Fox. In a shocking twist of fate, I found that the topic had long ago been changed from Chicken to Fox! Horrors!

I did some fox doodles while I was waiting for the kids to get out of drama class and below you can see them.

Deadly Maggie

Deadly Maggie

This was a fennec sketch in an old book. I added some digital colour experimentally (even though fennecs are creamy in colour). It’s not entirely successful but there are elements of it that I like, including the scratching into top layers of colour; a Thunder habit that may continue for some time. Perhaps lead into interesting new areas.

fox cub judywatsonart lores

A very innocent young blob fox.

By contrast, this little blob fox is not deadly. This was my protest on behalf of my chickens.

Contortionist fox

Contortionist fox

I liked the tail hatching on this one, and also the two tone retro feel, but it was certainly rushed. Not what you’d call finished work.

The Fox with the No.6 Tattoo

The Fox with the No.6 Tattoo

Lastly, this fellow. The fox with the No. 6 Tattoo. I liked his eyes and expression. He seems to have a canny and sophisticated air about him. I added some very flat colour panels in Photoshop trying to keep it sympathetic to his stylised and simple form and I like the result.

 

 

 

The Paunch on the Perch

Mr Owl (as yet un-named) progresses on this sunny spring afternoon, our last day in Camperdown.

Our lack of method is throwing up a few issues that will need to be addressed and at the moment the head looks too tall. But when he’s a little less soggy, we will be able to remedy that.

Mr Owl hanging from the clothes line, with some serious surgery about to begin. Some wire (which I could not get to go through his paper middle - not surprisingly) is tied around him to form the basis of his wings.

Mr Owl hanging from the clothes line, with some serious surgery about to begin. Some wire (which I could not get to go through his paper middle – not surprisingly) is tied around him to form the basis of his wings.

My apprentice poses with Mr Owl, newly attached to his perch. Arty did one leg, I did the other.

My apprentice poses with Mr Owl, newly attached to his perch. Arty did one leg, I did the other.

The mad professor at work. Thanks to Arthur for many of these photos. As you can see I had sticky fingers!

The mad professor at work. Thanks to Arthur for many of these photos. As you can see I had sticky fingers!

The wings and tail in progress c/o Arty. You see I ran out of wire for the second wing. Not to be too daunted, we carry on. Mr Owl will never be the best flier, I think, which reminds me of the Sett Owl from Isobelle Carmody's Little Fur series.

The wings and tail in progress, photo c/o Arty. You see I ran out of wire for the second wing. Not to be too daunted, we carry on. Mr Owl will never be the best flier, which reminds me of the wonderful Sett Owl from Isobelle Carmody’s Little Fur series.

gluey! Shortly after this, the dog threw up on the lawn next to me. You wanted to know that, didn't you?

Gluey! Shortly after this, the dog threw up on the lawn next to me. You wanted to know that, didn’t you?

Arty is working on making several beaks for us to choose from, when the moment arrives for Mr Owl's face!

Arty is working on making several beaks for us to choose from, when the moment arrives for Mr Owl’s face!

I hope you are enjoying all these photos of the washing. Where would we Australian's be without the marvellous 'Hills Hoist' clothes line?

I hope you are enjoying all these photos of the washing (sorry Nanna Gail). Where would we Australian’s be without the marvellous ‘Hills Hoist’ clothes line?

And now we leave him to drip dry for a while. Tomorrow he needs to be fit to travel to Melbourne in the car.

And now we leave him to drip dry for a while. Tomorrow he needs to be fit to travel to Melbourne in the car.

And now it’s back to work on Thunderstorm Dancing cover options in Nanna Gail’s sunny studio.

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.

Blobs on a moving vehicle (again)

Another journey on the train to the city. More blobs. People at the moment.

Scanning is too time consuming at present, so here we have quick photos of the two pages. Colouring will come bit by bit. Apologies for the low quality.

IMG_0408.JPG

IMG_0404.JPG

For tonight, a coloured threesome. I like the girl journeying in the snow best. I will have to think on her story and add it later.

It’s interesting how this process has slowed down my hand to a more deliberate, less impulsive sort of line. And yet, because of the random blob shapes that form the starting point, the figures seem to retain a little of their energy.

IMG_0407.JPG

IMG_0405.JPG

IMG_0406.JPG

Experiments with Blobs in a Moving Vehicle (part 2)

This is the second page of blobs that I worked on in the train last Friday. In this case, I was deliberately turning them all into dogs. I think that if I draw enough blob dogs, one of them will begin to emerge as a repeating character who could star in his own world. The nature of blobs is that none do exactly repeat themselves… they are new and special in their own blobby way, but there are recognisable types and that is enough for my purposes.

Only about half of the blobs on this page were in a state worth posting. Two were accidentally sacrificed on the McCrae Beach on Saturday as I tried to colour them with borrowed art materials and sea water. The results were worse than you are imagining now.

Yes, they were.

As far as repeating types go, one thing is apparent already. I have a fondness for whiskers.

This is Angelina the Bearded Lady. (Miniature Schnauzer) She has been looking for circus work for a while, but so far has only been offered work as a rat catcher.

bearded dog lady judywatsonart lores

 

This is Hamish. (Border Terrier x Dandie Dinmont Terrier) Hamish is going to let the chickens out on a blustery spring morning. He never chases them, because he knows they don’t like it. HIs favourite hen is a Light Sussex named Leonora Carrington.

blustery boanket dog judywatsonart lores

 

 

This is Toby. (mostly Foxhound but his great grandmother was a Poodle) He’s a country dog. He left the foxhound pack when the others made fun of his moustache. Now he wanders the hedgerows and picks up a bit of work here and there. He is courteous to passing foxes, and they are sometimes courteous to him.

country dog judywatsonart lores

 

This is Theo. (Wire-haired Fox Terrier) Theo is in a hurry to pull on his coat as he has to pick up the kids from puppy school. There are 14 in the litter so he is taking a truck.

dressing dog judywatsonart lores

 

This is Gabriel. (Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier x English Pointer) Gabriel runs a delicatessen, and is renowned locally for his skill with making tarts. Once a fortnight he goes fishing and takes a picnic lunch with him which is made by his partner Phil. He enjoys taking a little time off cooking on those days. But if he catches a fish, he returns home with renewed vigour and invents a new fish dish every time. All of them are simply delicious. fishing dog judywatsonart lores

 

This is Phil. (Irish Water Spaniel) Phil lives with Gabriel and is an indifferent cook as he gets very little practice. However he is a keen gardener and drives a lorry during the week. He’s also a bird fancier, but sometimes when he is watching birds too closely he has an irresistible urge to yap, which he finds mortifying. garden gate dog judywatsonart lores

 

This is Madison. (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel x Cardigan Welsh Corgi) Madison lost her tail in an accident when she was only 3 months old, but she is wagging on the inside. girly dog judywatsonart lores

 

 

This is Adrian (Scottish Terrier) Adrian loves listening to Jazz FM on his new radio and has been known to bite the vet. radio dog judywatsonart lores

 

This is Jean-Paul. (Irish Wolfhound x Cairn Terrier. His parents separated due to irreconcilable differences.)  You needn’t be alarmed for Jean-Paul because he is demonstrating for 25 young pups at puppy swim school, and is not really in any danger as long as he stays in the water. SOS dog judywatsonart lores

 

This is one of the puppies at Swim School. I can’t remember his name. He has just smelled a fart and is checking to see if it is his.

spooked dog judywatsonart lores

Experiments with Blobs in a Moving Vehicle

Don’t try this at home.

It must be done on the train or, if you are really brave, in a moving car.

1. Take some freshly painted blobs. (see my earlier tutorial here)

2. Now sit down in a crowded location, preferably with somebody looking over your shoulder.

3. Take a fine point felt tip and turn the blobs into creatures. Do not wibble-wobble!

train blobs judywatsonart lores

Page 1. I added the watercolour later. I will give 20 extra points to anyone who can do the watercolour bit on the train as well. (I am stingy with my points.)

Hot Tips: 

• Don’t worry too much about the person looking over your shoulder. Jiggle your page sideways until it nearly bumps them in the face. They may lose interest. Probably not.

• Do the fiddly bits when the train is on the straight and not about to pull into a station. This will work best if you know your railway line.

• Make your journey a long one. If you are worried about missing your stop, you will lose concentration. Do you have an auntie who lives a long way away in the country? Go and visit her.

Here are some close-ups, because I don’t really have any more to say.

Inspector Dog. (Giant Schnauzer x Greyhound. Possibly could be categorised as a lurcher. But this one only lurches when the train pulls into a station.)

Inspector Dog judywatsonart lores

 

Ernest. (Maltese x Chihuahua x Pug x Papillon)

Ernest judywatsonart lores

 

Noir Dog. (Beagle x Whippet x Wire-haired Fox Terrier)

noir dog judywatsonart lores

 

Muddy Madge. (Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. Yes, really.)

muddy judywatsonart lores

 

This is Finn. It’s always good to have a fish in your repertoire.

Finn Judywatsonart lores

 

This is Foxy. I could have called him Finn too. His friend is Frederica.

foxy judywatsonart lores

 

This is Dodette. She is uncomfortable with publicity.

dodette judywatsonart lores

 

This is Herman.

hummer judywatsonart lores

 

This is Gene.

chirpy judywatsonart lores

 

This is a Woman of Mystery. She has laddered her tights escaping… what? No. No. You’ve got it completely wrong. She carries a pistol in her pocket and is dodging out of the glow of a streetlight while she trails a criminal. You’ll have to imagine the gloomy alleyway.

noir lady judywatsonart lores

 

This is Alberto. He likes pancakes and reading detective novels, but only if he can read them in a boat.

Alberto judywatsonart lores

 

This is Cymbidium Night Angel. She is rescuing a puppy from Gene. Gene was going to feed the puppy to his wife and family. Now Gene and his family will go hungry. But the puppy is very happy.

Cymbidium Night Angel judywatsonart lores

I did another page of blob dogs, but perhaps I’ll save that for another time. I was on the train to go to the HarperCollins Inaugural Author Workshop Day, which was very good. It’s good to meet some of the other people in the large team who make books, and it’s always great to talk with other book authors and illustrators.