Tag Archives: sketch

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

Leonard dances on

Well, enough of that frivolous sewerage stuff for now. Time to get back to Leonard because I’ve got some roughs to complete! (Sorry to those who were enjoying  my inexpert comics doodles. I’ll try to fill you in on the end of the story at some stage. Evil snigger.)

woodpecker colour flat

Option B. Read on…

Now where did we leave off? I think I was drawing finches in all sorts of styles.

After that, I drew a few more birds of other kinds… That’s rather offhand, isn’t it? I’m skipping over about 16 species without even excusing myself…

And then I spent a day or so researching and downloading images of various dances. I am much more familiar with birds than I am with dances. Seriously, you should see me try to dance. But what a great excuse to get a book about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers out of the library.

Then I spent a day drawing birds dancing, putting it together. And all the while my days and nights were filled with mullings and musings about medium. That’s just too much, right?

I am a person who could spend a long time making up my mind. So I wrote this shortlist.

shortlist worksheet

There was a third option but since it had a difficulty rating of 5/5 it soon dropped off. 

The fabulousness ratings are important for me because I don’t feel there’s any point in making a picture book if I don’t at least attempt to make it fabulous. But they’re hypothetical, and of course totally subjective.

So. Being me, I started with Option Two. 

Brush and wash with digital blocks of colour. 

I have to thank Clive Hicks-Jenkins for accidentally reminding me of the brush and wash option. He posted my bookplate blog post on his FaceBook page. And when I looked at the bookplate again, I remembered how much I had enjoyed painting that chicken with brush and ink and how the digital editing changed it into something I rather liked, with very simple blocks of flat colour over the painted image. It was easy to do and retained the painterly look, which many digital treatments do not. But it wasn’t something I had considered as a treatment for Leonard.

sepia chicken judywatsonart lores

This particular image would be rather dark and heavy in a picture book. But it’s really just the background that makes it heavy. With a different background treatment and a lot of white space, it could work. I had a vision with lots of white space but with some painted plants strategically placed, in paler tones than those of the birds.

With the chicken bookplate, I converted the original art to a sepia colour; still very inky looking. But I could make the brushwork any colour that harmonises with the overlaid colour blocks. Indeed each bird need not be treated the same way.

I made some quick mock-ups.

finch flap lores

unhappy secretary bird photo

brushy sketch

unhappy secretary bird test

brushy sketch with flat colour

 

several finches with flattened background 2 col copy

a digital collage with brushy finches, a woodpecker and digitally applied colour wash

These brushy bird paintings were large. Nearly A4 size for each individual bird, so I wondered if I might be able to work at a smaller scale using a pencil for details like eyes. And made this quick  sample. I think I prefer the brush alone, but it will depend how practical this giant size proves, when working on entire page compositions.

bluebird test judywatsonart

brush and pencil bluebird with digitally applied colour wash

And I made a few brushy background vegetation sketches. I could have a lot of fun with these, adding some colour and layering. We could go a little 1970s…

feathery tester loresfruity tester loresginkoish tester loresgrassy tester lores

flower tester levels loresjointed flower tester levels

I think that will have to do for tonight. Option One tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wet Weekend

Yes, last weekend was sublimely sunny. A perfect summer weekend. But here, our experience had rather a wet theme.

This was how it began.

my sunny wet weekend-1 loresjudywatsonart

 

To be continued…?

I will say this though. This morning started in a very similar way. Me in pyjamas answering a knocking at the front door. But this morning it was a school morning, I had slept through the alarm, and the kids were due to leave for school in 15 minutes.

Comics seemed the only way to express my feelings for the way our weekend went.

 

 

 

Leonard’s Friends (part 2)

the finch who has forgotten the next step

Yikes! It seems there is a lot going on quite quickly, and I haven’t been keeping up with my blog posts. By the time I find a few minutes to write, I have a backlog of several things to write about and most of them are out of date!

Ah well. One step at a time. Or perhaps one Two-Step at a time in the case of Leonard Doesn’t Dance.

I seem to remember promising to post more on my visual exploration of the bird species of Leonard Doesn’t Dance; the finch being next bird on the wire. So here they are first.

I think the page of coloured birds below was my very first page of finches. I was sketching quickly, trying to keep loose and have fun, while getting the general idea of their shape. The ink was water soluble, which bled into the very saturated colour I was using, and the effect is not so great, especially in a group. It’s a bit like an over-cooked rainbow stew. Or perhaps something that a child might create with a mud pie and food colouring…

saturated finches

Another notable point about learning to draw finches is their beaks. They have a particularly fierce strength about them. They remind me very much of a crescent wrench or adjustable wrench. In this first page of finches, I had not yet cottoned on to the beak thing.

adjustable wrenchcrescent wrench

Wrenches. Distinctly finch-like. Compare with the two top right-hand images below.

Here you see where I cottoned on to the beaks. I did a series of head sketches, playing with character, expression and finchy beaks. I was pleased with this page. I think at this point I was also pondering whether Leonard might have a little finch buddy who is a more confident dancer than he. A non-speaking role. A kind of Cyd Charisse.

finch faces

I then went on to exaggerate the beak further, and added some wash over the pencil sketches. I drew this stolid fellow below. (That amused me, drawing a stolid finch.) And then the finch at the top of this blog post, who is more lively, and still with that lethal looking tool on the front.

the stolid finch

Next up, Christmas happened! Determined to wrestle every possible bit of finch drawing out of daily life, I painted finch Christmas cards for family and friends. Using a faint pencil guideline, I avoided all conflict between watercolours and inks.

IMG_8415IMG_8425

I think I liked this smiling chap best (above). You can see he came directly out of the head sketches I drew earlier.

IMG_8423

Now we move on to another day in late January where I took my sketching materials to the yacht club to get some work done while keeping an eye on the boys in the water. I didn’t have any of my earlier sketches with me and Christmas and New Year had completely erased my memory.

(…) That’s what it looked like inside my brain.

I had only a very soft graphite pencil and a red pencil with me. I started by drawing this fellow, starting with the beak. He looks horribly fierce, mostly because of the dark shading above his rather narrow eye.

I had moved on from beaks and was experimenting with a simplified way of drawing the feet. I’m not really wanting to get too anatomical with my birds’ feet; I think that would become a distraction for me while drawing, and for the reader while reading. So I need to find a shorthand for them, that expresses the bird (and the dance) and doesn’t evoke a biology book.

IMG_7202

These chaps were next.

IMG_1574

I added red pencil over the beaks, on a whim. The red pencil did not like the soft pencil. More rainbow pie.

IMG_7204

Euwww! Is that egg on your chin?

By this time, I was noticing that many of the finches in the reference photos sported black eye-makeup and red cheek patches. What was I to think? They looked a little clownish.

pencil finch clowns

But wait! Maybe they are superheroes?

pencil finch superheroes

Posting these now, I notice that the clown finches have more weight on their cheeks and bodies with not much forehead; it’s a sagging, comical shape. The superhero finches have a more compact, athletic shape and more cranial space. They look speedier and sharper. I’m not sure how much of that was conscious, and how much unconscious. (…)

I was pretty comfy at the yacht club, and I continued on with some puffins (deplorable) and some woodpeckers (passable).

But enough for now!

pencil woodpeckers

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Dogs from the past

Looking at Liz King-Sangster‘s blog the other day, I so enjoyed her lovely paintings of her everyday surroundings. And it reminded me of a time when I used to paint with oils several evenings each week. That was long ago, when I was living in Brixton, London in a shared house, and working in the Aldwych Theatre box office.

During the evenings in the shared flat, comprising two floors above a lawyer’s office (and without a fire escape), wine flowed, cheese was consumed, friends chatted while I painted. Sometimes friends posed for my paintings. Many of those paintings ended up in the skip in the back yard of the rented property, before I caught a plane home to Australia. Some paintings came home by ship, and some went to the people who had posed for portraits.

That habit of painting continued after my return to Australia for a little while. Then work and circumstances called a halt. At the moment, while I am indulged enough by my family to have the largest bedroom of the house as my studio, (we sleep in the smallest bedroom) and there is space enough for computer equipment, drawing board and shelves, there is not room enough to paint at an easel, or even on the floor.

Looking at these two oil sketches of our dog Giddy the Hungarian Vizsla, painted not long after my return to Australia, I notice that it is nearly 20 years since I painted in oils! My goodness, I miss it, despite the fun I have with other media. I remember too, that these were painted after seeing some mid 1990s paintings of dogs done by David Hockney. No, don’t go and compare mine with his! Don’t!

Oh, damn.

You will.

Well, anyway, I loved it that he chose such a domestic subject as a dachshund and honoured it in oils. And I enjoyed capturing our beloved dog in oils in the same way that I had painted my friends in London. Note that the sleeping version is more ‘finished’ and see if you can work out why… Never work with children or animals they used to say in the theatre, but in my experience, they are some of the most rewarding to work with.

Red Giddy

Red Giddy

Blue Giddy

Blue Giddy

These two sketches are painted on wooden trays purloined from the science room of the old Banyule High School which was awaiting demolition at the time that I worked for Greening Australia in a renovated wing. The lip of the trays forms the frame of the paintings; a cheap alternative to proper framing. It’s time I took them to be framed properly. They remind me of the dog and the time.

And it’s also time I found a way to paint again.

Continuous line drawing with halftone

The theme for the 52 Week Illustration Challenge this week is ‘Black and White’. Not too much of a problem for me. Unlike last week’s theme, abstract. (aiiiiyh!!)

The boys and I went to the local hotel for a meal and took our sketch-books along. Mine was a dictionary of english phrases. I sketched the available people…. there weren’t many there! Then I scanned them, took out all the colour, and added some grey tone to give a bit of definition where my continuous line drawings were a bit ambiguous. But then I thought… black and white… not grey. So I converted all my grey to half-tone and I liked the effect. So that’s good! Trying something new with the altered books!

chatting girl b&w judywatsonart lores halftone

Chatting girl at the pub

This girl was as happy as anything and barely stopped chatting.

hoodie girl judywatsonart lores

hoodie girl at the pub

This girl listened. And chatted a bit too.

curly sunglasses guy judywatsonart halftone lores

Curly Sunglasses guy at the pub

Curly guy was a bit pensive.

Do you like my continuouslinedrawingsignaturesjustforfun?