Tag Archives: Mixed media

Endpapers (part one)

Endpapers are a particular favourite of mine, both old and new. I love to create the ends for the books that I illustrate. They’re wonderfully freeing, because they’re not required to go alongside an author’s text, nor do they need to follow along in the exact same style or medium as the other illustrations. They need to feel as though they belong in the same family as the rest of the book, but they can fly off in all sorts of playful directions, and frequently do.

Sometimes it’s lovely to take a purely decorative approach, using whatever medium seems complementary to the book, without direct reference to the story at all. Decorative endpapers may just be stripes, spots or splashes and can look beautiful, as though the reader is opening a brightly wrapped present – which in a way they are!

Mostly, I am so involved with the text that I can’t resist linking the ends to what’s inside. Sometimes I like to refer to a repeating motif in the book such as seagulls, and a little black cat as we see in Thunderstorm Dancing. Or I refer to the setting of the story, such as the forest in Leonard Doesn’t Dance. Sometimes I like to tell a bonus story without words, so that when the book has been read and the story is over, there is somewhere to linger and to imagine our characters in their next adventure or in their everyday lives.

Endpapers for Goodnight, Mice! by Frances Watts and Judy Watson.

Goodnight, Mice! is a bedtime book, so the ends are muted in colour and evocative of a pyjama pattern. But I really wanted to play around a little further with these sweet mice, so I made tiny, simplified sketches of all of the family members. It was fun creating shorthand versions of each of the characters. The twins of course, are causing mayhem with a pillow fight, and there are stylised feathers floating everywhere (made by pressing down hard with my poor, mistreated dip-pen nib).

Mitzi and Billy – up to mischief as usual.
I feel that Clementine will not be happy about this.
Books and bedtime go together like cheese and… mice. So I put lots of books on the ends as well.
I really hope Billy is not going to flush before Mitzi gets off the loo…
This is the original family from the internal illustrations. Still loose, but more fully formed. (That was not a toilet joke.)

The endpapers for Thunderstorm Dancing were originally to have been printed in two colours, which is why I set them up in black and blue, (black and red for the rear ends) but Allen and Unwin decided to print in four colour process instead. In the internal illustrations, I had sneaked in a playful visual gag where the cat is greedily eyeing off all the fish. I thought it only fair that he got to eat his fish in the end. So below you see him washing up after his meal. (The seagulls are not amused.) In this case, I decided to do the reverse of what I had done for Goodnight, Mice! Instead of shrinking and simplifying the characters from the book, I enlarged them and made them more naturalistic in style.

Front endpapers for Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein and Judy Watson.
Rear endpapers for Thunderstorm Dancing.
This is a detail of the cat as it appears, quite small, in one of the internal illustrations.
Front endpapers for Leonard Doesn’t Dance by Frances Watts and Judy Watson
Rear endpapers for Leonard Doesn’t Dance.

The ends for Leonard Doesn’t Dance are mostly decorative, but they also set the scene for the story. I wanted them to be sumptuous, because I enjoyed making Leonard’s forest world so much. The front and back ends are continuations of the same setting, except that the moon is lower in the sky after the birds have been partying all night. The party lights can be seen in the distance.

Endpapers from Searching for Cicadas by Lesley Gibbes and Judy Watson

These ends are mostly decorative too, but they hint that in this story we will be looking closely at the forest floor. They were a delight to make, involved a lot of glorious inky mess, and they have their very own classroom activity. You can find it here.

Now we get to my latest endpapers – the ends for When You’re Older.

When I was thinking about what kind of endpapers would be best for When You’re Older, one of my ideas included origami sea creatures, and one of them included a paper crown. They looked like this.

There were a few reasons why these ideas might have been fun and effective:

• Firstly, they are bright and cheerful and the scale of the images is large, which made a nice contrast with the fine detail of much of the book.

• Secondly, they are an easy way to communicate to someone choosing a book, that the story is suitable for a young child.

• Thirdly, they help set the opening scene in the homely world of the brother who is enjoying some paper craft. The crown concept shows us a close-up of what he is doing on the title and half title pages. The origami concept gives us an example of something he might do on a different day. And it leads the reader into the theme of sea creatures that repeats throughout the story.

In the end we decided that the treasure hunting scene (below) would be best, because it is truly dreamlike, and hints that we will be entering a world of the imagination. It reflects the illustration style of the adventure part of the book; full of detailed vegetation, creatures real and imagined and with our boys painted in silhouette. But it is subtly different, in that it is rainbow hued and uses blue instead of black for the details of the ship and characters. The blue has a hazy feel and helps to suggest the dream state. The feel of the endpapers is decorative, but it is really a ‘bonus story’.

Endpapers for When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna and Judy Watson

I had a second idea for a bonus story and I hoped to have different ends front and back, telling two dream adventure tales. But it would have taken too long to complete. I hope to make the second illustration as a standalone, and if I do it will be available as a print. (It involves a giant squid, deep sea diving and more treasure!)


Musings on drawing and architecture from a non-straight-liner

From Tansy Magill by Carol Ann Martin

Some people can draw any building or interior with a sensitivity that invests it with warmth and personality. I truly admire them. For me, all those straight lines are problematic. I don’t feel any love for drawing architectural shapes, even though I love architecture itself. I prefer the outdoors and organic forms, including people and animals. The surface textures, the curved lines and the movement of figures or landscape are much easier for me to successfully express.

Most illustrated books require at least some built spaces to be drawn, and I’ve dealt with this in different ways for different book projects. Here are a few of them.

Cover design by Sandra Nobes for ABC Kids (HarperCollins). I remember getting emotional when the publisher suggested the mice could be printed with a spot varnish. I felt that being soft and velvety creatures, they shouldn’t be made hard and shiny! I get quite attached to all the characters in my books and become a bit protective. Embarrassing, but true.

In Goodnight, Mice! By Frances Watts, I made the house organic, the walls, doorways and furniture curved. I took my inspiration from straw bale homes, wattle and daub homes, and hand-crafted furniture. Using a dip pen and ink, there was little opportunity to be overly fussy. Drawing with a dip pen sometimes feels like trying to control a half wild pony that’s running away with me.

The opening scene from Goodnight, Mice! showing a very small house with an enviable chimney.
Getting ready for bed, and selecting a book from a rather quirky bookcase.
The kind of bed that inspired the mousy furniture. (The mice must have used much smaller sticks!)
Sandra Nobes also designed this cover, for Allen and Unwin.
The book has just been re-released in paperback. Hooray!

With Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein, I was happy with the small drawing I did for the back cover (below). Perhaps it worked for me because of the loose lines of the dip pen but especially because of the small size. There’s no room to fuss with a 30mm wide building. Snuggling the building into the hill and embedding it in a stormy sky helps to give it a certain ‘rightness’. It takes on the personality of its surroundings.

A small windswept beach house and matching chook shed for the back cover of Thunderstorm Dancing.

The veranda was perhaps not as successful as I would have liked, being rather stiff, but I made the focus the stormy lighting; the contrast between dark clouds and the golden late afternoon glow of the beach and figures. I added texture to soften it a little. Eep!

A lot of straight lines for a non-straight-liner! Hopefully the focus remains firmly on the atmosphere.
An interior that had to look warm and cosy, yet storm-lit. My selection
of furniture reflects again my need to put curves in wherever possible! And it is funny to me
to see how often my colour scheme is a soft, bright red and a greenish teal.
This lovely cover design is by Amanda Tarlau, for Walker Books.

My garden shed from Searching for Cicadas by Lesley Gibbes, was created in a similar way. Mostly pencil and wash, but with added texture and digital colour. (Note the soft red and greenish teal colour scheme!) My architecture leaves room for improvement, but hopefully the warmth of the characters on the page, the light, foliage and pets set the right tone. And on the next page, we happily marched off into the bushland away from human structures! Phew!

Another black cat. I have a one-eyed black foster cat climbing over my drawing board as I’m typing this
and my three-legged dog Noodle appears in the illustration, proudly flourishing four entire legs.
Off into the natural world.

I also have an unpublished project, where the my buildings again reject straight lines. Based on the trulli of the Puglia region in Italy, they have lovely domed roofs and soft curving interiors. I even stayed in a glorious trullo here, and did some research for my illustrations.

Trulli from a dummy book
Trulli homes in Ostuni, Italy.

But it was exciting to take a different approach to the house in When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna. Here I used the straight lines of the room and other man-made objects to my advantage. I accentuated them, taking inspiration from the marvellous Ezra Jack Keats and pared them back to simple blocks of colour that mimic paper collage. Now they acted as a foil to the scenes beginning on the next page, where the story moves into the imagination and benefits from a strong contrast in style.

I know you’ve seen it already, but here is the cover of When You’re Older,
designed by Sandra Nobes for Allen and Unwin. Out 1 March 2022.
Straight lines, no regrets. The opening bedroom illustration in When You’re Older.

In the bedroom at the start of the narrative, we have animals and ships on wild seas contained in frames that have been reduced to a series of rectangles with no attempt to suggest a hook or a natural hanging angle. The boy too is sitting, waiting in a rectangular room like the paintings in their frames. But the small animals dotted around the room, the houseplant and the two kinds of boat (origami and painted) have fed his prodigious imagination which breaks loose as we turn the page.

Rampant curves and movement take over the book from here. (Do I spy soft red and greenish teal?)

Here everything has broken out of its containment and we see the beginning of an undulating landscape, teeming with life and with an exaggerated forward slant like a slingshot that has just been released to propel our characters forward into the world.

I’ve used the solid graphic shapes here and there through the book, most often for man-made things like bikes, ladders, tents, and the fanciful double-ringed shape that suggests a view  through binoculars. So the contrast between rampant texture and solid graphic shapes continues. But on the pages dedicated to the immense power of nature, it is not really in evidence at all, and expressive brushstrokes set the entire scene until we return at last to our original bedroom.

Upcoming events to celebrate When You’re Older

Wednesday 23 March to Tuesday 19 April
Colour, Line and Collage: Mixed media works in and around books.
Exhibition of original works including the patchwork paintings featured in When You’re Older. Some prints of the illustrations will also be available to order.
At Streamline Publishing and Gallery
22 Commercial Place, Eltham 3095
Open Wednesday to Saturday 11am – 4pm, Every second Sunday 1pm – 4pm.
Enter from the Town Square.
Above Eltham Bookshop

Saturday 26 March – kids’ drawing / collage workshops and signed book sales.
Frankston Library
60 Playne Street, Frankston
Phone 03 9784 1020

Sunday 3 April WORKSHOP 2.30pm – 5.30pm
STORYBOARDING – taking a text and moulding its shape on the page.
A book illustration workshop for adults and young adults.
This three hour workshop will be hosted by
Eltham Bookshop and held at Streamline Publishing and Gallery
22 Commercial Place, Eltham 3095 (Above the bookshop)
To coincide with the launch of When You’re Older and the exhibition
Colour, Line and Collage: Mixed media works in and around books.
I will take participants through my process: How I responded to Sofie Laguna’s text and, together with the publishing team, brought her words together with my ideas to create finished art for the book. After a short break, participants will use a sample text to create a storyboard of their own.
Entry $80 includes a signed copy of the book, light refreshments and all materials.
Bookings can be made through Eltham Bookshop
Tel: (03) 9439 8700
Email: books@elthambookshop.com.au

Mad Experiments with Blobs

Now I know how Dr Frankenstein felt… It’s all good fun until you create a monster.

This is surely the Weirdest Blob Ever.

Firstly, I don’t know what this blob is made of… While the kids were doing their homework (boo!) and I was cooking dinner (actually it was cooking itself) I found a piece of paper in the kids’ art and craft drawer with this mysterious stain on it. It had no odour, nor any bloody fingerprints, so I assumed it was safe to use without notifying the police.

weird thing stage 1 lores

The first thing I saw in it (although I was looking at it rotated 90 degrees anticlockwise) was the shoulder, face and tiny wings of a beast. He had strong haunches and was clearly crouching on top of something (invisible) and looking down.

weird thing stage 2 lores

I drew him in. But what was the fragmented blob beneath him? He was not crouching on it. It might be something fighting him for the whatever-it-was in between them. Then I saw the woman’s face with the veil over her head. The woman was confronting the beast. So I drew her in. I decided she was some kind of Earth Mother figure and they were fighting for control over the Earth. So I drew the Earth in… and some decidedly weird explosions….

By this time the dinner was no longer cooking itself and needed some help, and the kids were asking questions and giggling and pushing each other at the homework bench. (That’s my lame excuse for the state of the Earth Mother’s hands… or claws.)

So I beat them all soundly and sent them to bed.

No, I mean I fed them, played Trivial Pursuit with them and sent them to the shower. (I lost at Trivial Pursuit of course.)

‘Now I’ll fix this weird blob with a bit of discreet colour’, thought I. ‘The colour will work its magic…’

weirdest blob ever lores

I have no scan of the first coloured phase. Sorry ’bout that. But you’ll have to take my word for it that the colour made the blob look even weirder. Especially since the space fight was going on (at that stage) in a completely white environment.

I’m not sure why they are fighting as the Creature looks quite amiable and isn’t even raising a paw against the Earth Mother. Maybe He is trying to protect the earth and She is the one who wants to destroy it with storms, hurricanes, asteroids and plague. I would ask them if I could, but they wouldn’t hear me.

Then I added watercolour to create dark space around them but it wasn’t dark enough and the contrast became so low that the effect was one of a brownish blob surrounded by a larger greyish blob. I added some Prismacolour black pencil as a quick experiment in increasing the contrast. It succeeded to a small degree. Too small a degree.

I scanned the whole blobby mess.

In an act of insanity (given the amount of work I have to do right now!) I added a further layer of tone (purple) in PhotoShop which more or less addressed the contrast problem, and added some stars and magic sparkles. (How low can you get?)

Finally, as if to confirm that I have lost my grasp with reality, I wrote this post about the history and evolution of a nondescript and very weird blob.

However, now that it has been so thoroughly described, it can no longer be deemed nondescript… at least in the 17th Century sense of that word which is to say ‘not previously described or identified scientifically’.

I feel there are still some holes in the scientific nature of this blob though, so perhaps a thesis?

Some Fishes

I recently looked up the correct usage of fish vs. fishes. I was pleased to see that fishes is the correct term when referring to different varieties. There’s something nice about the word fishes and it goes nicely with swishes and wishes.

If you happened to be a fisherman and you caught 25 fish they would all have to be  of the same species.

These fishes are not of the same species. Some might say they were not drawn by the same artist.

Sometimes I worry that I should have a single, recognisable style; that all my work should be instantly recognisable, like a trademark. You can always recognise a Quentin Blake, a Mondrian, a Mitch Vane, (to take a more local example).

Other times, I say to myself… whatever comes out, comes out. Art is a lot about the process of discovery, the process of play, imagination, exploration, invention. And when I wander into new territory, with an insatiable curiosity for (and delight in) new artistic approaches, I am glad to be a wandering artist… I learn new things all the time and that is a great thing to find in life.

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Detailed, or static styles are not, and never will be my strong point. I’m too impatient (and ambivalent) to invest much time in details, so my ‘detailed’ work never stands up by comparison with the work of those who specialise in that area. But every now and then I come back to it, and play around and there’s something satisfying in the process, even if the result lacks both the liveliness of my quicker work and the detail that would seem to be required. Often the honesty of the piece redeems it.

In this case, the vintage Collins Dictionary (with pages disintegrating and falling out) seemed to ask for a static approach. I think the single artwork above is unremarkable. But if I were to fill the book in a similar manner with various artworks, the book itself may become a thing to treasure one day. The fish will be swallowed by the larger beast.

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Here is a return to my much quicker approach. The prismacolour artstick strikes again. It may be partly inspired by political weariness… the idea of the dangling lure… leading to what?…

But mainly it was a very rapid experiment in the power of transforming a sketch with PhotoShop colour. I’ll be using this technique in my next book, so why not?

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Finally, a very quick sketch with watercolour. The first watercolour experiment I did (not shown here) was deader than a doorknob. This was a 10 minute exercise in proving to myself that I could do the same fish with a bit of life. Not sure what he is up to. I think he may have the same kind of determined expression I adopted when drawing him…

Equine Soliloquy (continued)

I haven’t touched this project for a while. But the 52 Week Illustration Challenge theme for this week is ‘horse’ so it seemed a good reason to do some more doodles in the horse book. Most of these were done in brush pen during the hour of the kids drama class, but I’ve worked them up a little more at home today.

Horse alive, horse dead

Horse alive, horse dead

snowy squiggle horses

snowy squiggle horses

The front horse was drawn with photographic reference in front of me. The rear two emerged on their own. I like the freer, more pattern-like quality of the rear two horses, but quite like the very typical attitude of the foreground horse’s head. The two types don’t really go together but it’s a point of interest for me.

I enjoy this squiggle style of drawing. I find I do it more and more. It’s fun to let my hand (seemingly) control itself and wander very rapidly all over the page.

equine soliloquy hunched horse

Little scraggy wild horse

This is the brush pen I used quite a bit for the Cornish Soliloquy. I must buy a couple more. They are very interesting to work with. The ink doesn’t flow very quickly so they tend to get a bit affronted by my drawing style. I draw pretty quickly and the ink flow goes on strike and demands a breather every minute or so.

wild horse, captured horse

wild horse, captured horse

I was really pleased with the way this little sketch worked out. I strangely like the way the gutter interferes with the horse’s hind quarters, and I  liked the cream, blue, burnt umber colour palette.

Anzac Day war horse

Anzac Day war horse

This was an accident really. I was dissatisfied with the original sketch on the left hand side of the skeleton horse spread, and cut this black horse silhouette out very quickly to place over it. In the meantime, I painted out some protruding bits on the other page to give myself a fairly blank canvas. But this led to a new sketch on that page, and hence no need for the cutout horse.

So he went onto a new page, and I started randomly embellishing him. I started with the halter, but war horses and Anzac Day were at the back of my mind and I started putting tassels and other structures into the picture (from an outdated botanical diary). Before I knew it the background had gone smokey, fiery and the final touches were some poppies and botanical bombs in the air. The bombs also remind me of a holy trinity of sorts, but since I am not religious, they are primarily bombs… or just fruit.

I seem to have returned to muted tones for the time being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equine Soliloquy

equine soliloquy B&W heads

Another soliloquy seems to be forming in odd moments… ‘The Tale of Two Horses’ went on the train into the city the other day as a sketchbook, and came back with several new horses in it. More will come when I have a little time.

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In wondrously poor condition on the outside. Inside, the pages are smooth and lovely to draw on.

This one is taking its own shape more easily than the last one. Sort of ambling along.

Some pages I will start by liking, and then not. Some the other way around. It won’t bother me. It’s contemplative. And because they are horse doodles, it’s a bit like climbing cosily back into my childhood for a while. (And I draw them exactly the same way now!)

Fun drawing a foal dance over other horses. Then a squiggly cameo shape and brushy, brushiness all about.

Fun drawing a foal dance over other horses. Then a squiggly cameo shape and brushy, brushiness all about.

I’ve just done a page that is more interested in pattern, shape and contrast than in horsey correctness. It was very freeing.  But I’ll play with it some more another time, and take the shapes and tones further into pattern.

This page reminds me of two things: The poodle wallpaper we found on the walls of our 1950s house after removing the 70s wallpaper; and my brief period of lessons with Richard Birmingham.

This page reminds me of the poodle wallpaper we found on the walls of our 1950s house after removing the 70s wallpaper. It could be much better if it went further away from the horse shapes I think.

Scratchings

Yesterday afternoon I locked the girls up to keep them nearby so that I could draw them. After they got over the idea that the paints, palette, brushes and water bowl might be edible, they carried on with their scratching, leaving me to do my own scratchings. Hilda, kept coming back to check though, in case I had just forgotten about the treat I was going to give them.

This altered book thing is a little like op-shopping… you go in hoping to find a little gem, and often, you do find it! In each case here, I drew the chicken first, and then found a few words in the text to compliment the picture. It seems to nearly always be there. Mysterious, happy chance.

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‘Charming’ felt tip, watercolour and gouache on vintage book page.
This is Vita, who is a Light Sussex Bantam, and thoroughly charming.

For sale on Etsy here.

'I have quite lost my appetite' felt tip, gouache and watercolour on vintage book page. This is Vita again. Vita is ALWAYS hungry.

‘I have quite lost my appetite’ felt tip, gouache and watercolour on vintage book page.
This is Vita again. Vita is ALWAYS hungry.

For sale on Etsy here.  (sold)

'Phoebe leaned forward' felt tip, watercolour and gouache on vintage book page.  This is Hilda really. Phoebe is her stage name :-) Here she is demonstrating the Pekin 'forward tilt' which is a sign of good breeding and general loveliness on the show bench. Hilda rocks the 'forward tilt'.

‘Phoebe leaned forward’ felt tip, watercolour and gouache on vintage book page.
This is Hilda really. Phoebe is her stage name :-) Here she is demonstrating the Pekin ‘forward tilt’ which is a sign of good breeding and general loveliness on the show bench. Hilda rocks the ‘forward tilt’. She is a black birchen Pekin.

For Sale on Etsy here. (sold)

I did another of Storm, but it needs a little further tidying up… or saving… so I’ll leave it off for now.

The book, by the way, is Georgette Heyer’s ‘SYLVESTER or THE WICKED UNCLE’ 1957. The mind boggles.

The Geebung Polo Club

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I picked up this book of ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s verse in the op shop the other day. It is past its prime as a book, in that the pages are all coming adrift, perhaps expressing their wish to break away and start a new life on their own. In this I intend to help them.

Having lived around the corner from the pub of this name many years ago, I started by reading this drily catastrophic verse about an epic Polo battle. It is really very playful, and much shorter than I had imagined. After one reading, the pages came out of the book in my hands.

I took the hint and obliged…

Part A. They were long and wiry natives from the rugged mountain side, and the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn't ride;

Part A.
They were long and wiry natives from the rugged mountain side,
And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn’t ride;

(sold)

Part B: Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed, When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road; And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone A spectator's leg was broken - just from merely looking on.

Part B:
Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator’s leg was broken – just from merely looking on.

Admittedly, both parts of the poem were originally to appear on the same page. But due to a serendipitous error, wherein I found I had glued the first half of the poem on the right hand side of the page instead of the left… well, we now have two works of art. He he.

I’ve just begun to list artworks on Etsy. You can find my shop here. (Although there’s not much in it yet!)