Tag Archives: roughs

Studies in blue

Today I have been working on the mid section of roughs for Leonard Doesn’t Dance. It’s a difficult time for poor Leonard.

As I was drawing, in search of the right feeling in his posture and expression, I thought it might be interesting to picture book enthusiasts to see some of the thought that go into each illustration. So here we go.

Leonard RHS studies lores

An A2 sized page of studies for a vignette on page 15. (8 scans later, boy do I wish I had an A2 sized scanner!) I have numbered my drawings in order in case you are interested to see the progression of ideas.

I’m not sure if you’ll be able to read my notes on the page. Leonard is feeling sorrow, resignation, defeat, regret, longing. Expressions I want to avoid include alarm, fear, guilt, anxiety or furtiveness.

Those who draw will know how a tiny variation in the curve of an eye or eyebrow, or the tilt of a head may change an intended sorrow into an accidental horror.

L sad 3

No.3. The heavy line at 10 o’clock on the eye gives the expression wretchedness. Otherwise the large, round eye looking backwards might have indicated a fear of pursuit.

 

L sad 4

No.4. This is my preferred facial expression. It says best what I think Leonard is feeling.

L sad 1.jpg

No. 1. The expression seems a mix between extreme mortification and horror, with a bit of disgust thrown in. The up-curving neck shows too much energy. I want Leonard to look a little defeated. 

L sad 6.jpg

No. 6 Although I like the body posture with raised wings, the face here is not quite as good as  that of No.4. The head tilt is less submissive, more head-butt. The crest is more raised, the eye less miserable.

L sad 2

No.2. Utter dejection with 1920s silent movie era eye makeup! Leonard is not even looking back, just downwards. I think I’d rather he looks wistfully backwards as it indicates a suppressed longing to join in. I don’t want our boy to be completely bereft of spirit. Poor lad.

Sometimes a thing like this can be positively excruciating if you can’t get it right. But today I enjoyed it. Leonard is  very accommodating.

In Leonard’s case, I have the eye to work with and also the caruncle (a patch of coloured skin) around his eye, which acts as an eyebrow or an underscore for the expression in his eye. And living with a flock of chickens has taught me what a sick or miserable chicken looks like; the hunch, the fluffed up feathers, and sometimes the dropped wings.

L dejected.jpg

But with Leonard’s crest I depart from the nature of birds. A fluffed up crest in the real world might indicate bird misery, but I’m using Leonard’s crest more in the way of ears like a dog, that drop when miserable, raise when interest is sparked. That is probably a language more readily identifiable to children, since more have dogs than chickens… in Australia at least.

So that covers the face. What about the body?

dejected posture.jpg

He’s retreating, so he’s best drawn partly from behind. The fluffed up hunched shoulders, I mentioned earlier. He should look clumsy, so I experimented with leg postures. He has just alighted so I need to suggest the flight just finished. And he’s walking away and downwards, so I have to suggest the forward downwards movement as well.

One challenge is the wings. Raised wings (6) could suggest a certain lifting of spirits. Spread wings look nicely clumsy (5) but tend to get in the way of the main subject (his lowered face). Lowered wings (2, 4) may be best for misery but are not so good for movement and flight. (In 2 he looks positively beaten. It’s a bit much.)

wings raised.jpg

Today as I was working on this, I once again remembered my fabulous school art teacher Cecily Osborn. I remember her explaining how artists can seek to depict movement in a motionless work of art. She used the ancient Greek sculpture of a discus thrower Discobolus by Myron as an example. The sculpture doesn’t depict any real life movement employed by an athlete whilst throwing a discus, but instead attempts to creatively suggest the movement that came before as well as hinting at the movement to follow the instant in time depicted by the sculpture. The sculptor borrows our imagination to evoke a movement that he can’t create in reality.

roman bronze reduction discus_thrower_Myron

A Roman bronze reduction of Myron’s discus thrower. The original artwork was made around 450BC.

“The potential energy expressed in this sculpture’s tightly wound pose, expressing the moment of stasis just before the release, is an example of the advancement of Classical sculpture from Archaic.” (says Wikipedia)

I’m very serious today, aren’t I? Do you think I am overthinking this?

I don’t think so. These thoughts take longer to describe than they do to think. All this and more goes through an illustrator’s head as he or she is drawing. And a lot of it is subconscious too. But it’s part of what makes the pictures work, it’s part of observing our world, and how the experiences of life feed into an artist’s work. I love that about my job.

But here are a couple of over-excited woodpeckers, because I wasn’t just drawing misery today.

Cheerio!

woodpecker black and white judywatsonartwoodpecker judywatsonart

Bird Immersion (2)

This is another quickie post. It’s all terribly busy around here.

Even the birds are looking a bit concerned.

call duck

I’ve often seen ‘Call Ducks’ advertised when I have been browsing the chickens-for-sale ads (as some of us do). I feel this may be what they look like.

 

worried galah

And this galah barely knows which way to turn.

light box in action

I’m still excited about my new light box. It’s much bigger than the trusty old one. It gets brighter or dimmer if you hold your finger on the power button! Sometimes I do that just for fun.

You may be able to see that one spread looks rather a lot like the (empty) stage of a theatre. It’s not a stage, but I quite like that it looks like one. And I like that I can sketch the characters freely on a separate sheet of paper over the top of the scene. I suppose this is what animators used to do all the time.

20-21 muso initial sketches

These are my first drumming bird sketches. It’s been interesting to work out how the bird might play the instrument and how much to simplify or modify the instruments from those in the real world. I liked the bounce in the woodpecker trio at top left but I came up with a much better drawing later. The first one I drew here was the duck and that drum looks most unstable. I’m not sure it’s even three dimensional!

I worked out a great plan (my 25th) for the cover of Leonard Doesn’t Dance in the shower the other day. I often draw Leonard covers on the shower screen. It is an important part of my process and one of the more literal interpretations of bird immersion. Luckily I have imprinted the idea almost perfectly on my brain, because when I went back to the bathroom to photograph the cover design, it had melted away….

That reminds me, I need to buy another back-up hard drive for my computer.

And lastly, for those of you who are interested in bird immersion in general, (you may be the kind who browse the chickens-for-sale ads) did you know that some chickens can swim? Go here to see the most gorgeous Buff Orpingtons in a swimming pool.

It should be added at this point, that we had to rescue Stella from the fish pond a few weeks ago as she fell in and did not seem to have the required flotation skills.

(Why does ‘floatation’ look wrong?)

 

Bird Immersion

Sorry I haven’t been around in Blog Land.

20-21 Leonard with 2 heads

 

Happily, this is mainly because I’ve been so busy drawing my roughs for Leonard, (and turning 50, and looking after an extra child because we have an overseas student staying with us at the moment).

I have to say, despite the fact that I’m multi-tasking like crazy (bad) Leonard is really fun (good!).

I can’t show you very much (bad). Many of the roughs describe the finished image. And this book, true to Frances Watts’ Style, will be brimming with humour (good!). So by showing you the full page roughs, I would be giving away all the gags (terribly, terribly bad).

But I can share with you bits and snippets and here-and-there touches.

chickens lightened.jpg

It’s interesting that the roughs have reverted to pencil, maybe my most natural medium. And this will pose its own challenges when it comes time to make the final art with broad paint strokes. The roughs began as large paintings, then switched to charcoal, and finally, to pencil.

singing

swingin Leonard

And something I’m excited about is my new light box! Wowsers! It’s so cool.

But I’m going to leave this and write more later.

I’m multi-tasking, remember?

 

 

 

 

Putting Thunder Cats into Perspective

cat sketches for veranda spread lores redHere’s a little peep into the book illustration process for Thunderstorm Dancing as roughs are edited on the fly while final art is being produced. For this spread, the Cat Called Thunder, needed to be inserted into the veranda scene, and I played around with various poses and movements until I found one that had the right character and jaunty expression.

…I realise Cornish Rex cats are not really characterised by jauntiness in the face of a thunderstorm. But this particular one is a Picture-Book-Cornish-Rex. And they are a specialised breed.

The problem was that the little fellow I liked is in full profile, and the illustration required him to be viewed partly from above. This can be a tricky adjustment to make (especially with drawings of people). But I usually give it a whirl by dotting in some rough suggestions of where the skeleton and joints might be, and take it from there. It puts the character into a three dimensional space in my mind.

My improvised sketch to alter the viewer's angle of Thunder and my guesses at the location of the joints. I was wrong about the shoulder as I found out later.

My improvised sketch to alter the viewer’s angle of the Cat Called Thunder and my guesses at the location of the joints. I was wrong about the shoulder as I found out later.

Here’s what I came up with to shift the view point. And I was happy enough with that to move on to inking stage, and to add in any further detail during inking.

A cat skeleton showing the position of the shoulder joint at the front of the cat, rather than up around the area we would call the 'withers' in a horse.

A cat skeleton showing the position of the shoulder joint at the front of the cat, rather than up around the area we would call the ‘withers’ in a horse.

Looking at the skeleton above you will see that my shoulder joints were in the wrong spot, but as it happens it didn’t really affect the drawing. My made-up shoulders took a shortcut from the top of the scapula through to the elbow joint, skipping the humerus. (Very efficient, methinks;-)

The Cat Called Thunder struts across the decking as the storm approaches.

The Cat Called Thunder trots across the decking as the storm approaches.

Here’s the Cat Called Thunder redrawn in ink and in position against the un-inked veranda. I think he’s sufficiently jaunty for the most demanding of viewers, despite his overbite which would make orthodontists blanch.

Brian the greyhound with an overbite

Brian, the greyhound with an overbite

Here’s Brian with a similar jaw. I think the overbite gives these two a bit of an ‘oops’ expression.

Alice gets in on the action

Alice gets in on the action – sneak peek at one corner of spread 22-23

Funny how when you draw something upside down, your eye can lose its usual sense of proportion. This is the last in a series of head-stand sketches for Thunderstorm Dancing. In some of the earlier sketches, when I turned the picture the other way up after drawing, (so that the child was seen with with head upwards) I was amused to find that her head was enooooormously too large, and sometimes her body was extremely shortened.

However, I didn’t try drawing this picture the other way up. I felt the only way to get the right balance, weight and feeling was to draw her as she is to be seen on the page.

Lucy the whippet gets in on the action...

Lucy the whippet gets in on the action…

dance hands poppy re-draw

Poor Poppy. As I have a thumping headache at the moment due to a cold, I sympathise with his predicament :-)

dance hands lucy re-draw 1

Often it’s the quickest pictures that have the most life… And often the quickest pictures are pictures of dogs… Ahem

dance hands alice re-draw leg up

This needs to be re-worked and then ‘unworked’! But I’m trying for that look that Hugo gets when he is squirming with glee, half crushing whatever he is holding, and throwing his legs about from a safe vantage point… not quite ready to join in… The cat is getting closer to the right baleful and disgusted expression :-)

No respect for the arts

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