Darcy & Griff

In between spending time with family and enjoying the Australian Open tennis and gorgeous sunshine, I have been beavering away on my current book project. I can't really share much with you yet, except to say it is being published in the US and distributed in the US and Australia, so that is pretty exciting!

For now, here are the characters I am working with, who are not named in the text, but who I am affectionately calling Darcy and Griff.

I always like to make a colour sketch of my main characters to stick above my painting space, to remind me what they should look like! I've written down all the colours I use for the watercolours and also for the pencil details, to help maintain consistency.

With this book, I am going to be working slightly differently. I love using collage in my work, and am always experimenting with new ways to incorporate it into my paintings. This time I'm going digital for the collage process -- I'll miss not having millions of little bits of paper all over the place, but I'm excited to see what effects I can come up with... (all hail Photoshop!)

Stay tuned sports fans.....

I-F: Burning

Elsie's ears were burning after Stuart didn't return her feelings, and walked to class with Peony instead.

...I'm trying to get some more sketching into my life -- getting inspired by The Sketchables and this post by Alicia Padron. I haven't joined PiBoIdMo or SaeMo or anything, just trying to take 10-20 minutes whenever I can for sketching, no pressure.

I'm doing a drawing exercise that Sam Hughes told me about - she learned it from her critiquer Cecilia Yung at the SCBWI conference:
Have different jars with different scene elements, pick one out of each jar, and draw it! You could have:
Jar 1: Character (girl, dad, pig, rooster...)
Jar 2: Emotion (relieved, angry, sad, excited...)
Jar 3: Location (on the roof, under a tree, on the moon, in the supermarket...)
optional additions:
Jar 4 : Lighting/time of day (more for a finished piece)
Jar 5: Time period
Jar 6: Story twist (and then someone arrived, and then the dog got out, then it started snowing...)

The main one I am focusing on is emotion because I know I don't bring that out enough.

So for the elephant above my drawing was: The elephant was disappointed at school.

Below, the rabbit was relieved, on the roof when someone left.

Fun, no? Maybe you should try it!


I've gotten into the habit of doing a quick colour study in Photoshop before starting a new painting. I generally work out a colour scheme using either the Kuler plugin in Photoshop or the colour scheme designer which is very cool, or sometimes I'll even take it from the collage paper I want to use. Here is the one for Ashton's pirates painting which I am keeping in primary colours:

here's how it's looking at the moment:

I-F: Early

Here is an early sketch for a commission I am working on for a young boy called Ashton. (sorry for bad photo)
Here is even earlier one - very quick in a small journal to figure out basic composition:

I'll be showing the sketch to Ashton's mum tomorrow - hope she likes it!

**edit: she did like it! thank goodness :)

. . .
It's good to be back online after some weeks of computer troubles. Oh how I missed thee, internet, and invisible cyber buddies....

Surprise Monday : Week 8 : COLOUR! and hiccups.

Well I finally got to delve into some colour this week.... aaah... so satisfying.

Normally the first thing I would do is a colour study of all the characters and have it pinned up on my drawing table for the duration of the project, so that I am always referring back to correct proportions, colours, etc. In this case, the title page illustration serves that purpose really well, so I did that one first, as you can see here (sorry for terrible photo! - the colours are really bad, esp of their hair)

It's always so fun to 'meet' the characters in colour - their personality really comes alive...

There have been a few hiccups this week - the designer hasn't been able to open my InDesign files for some reason, so I don't know yet whether I've left enough room for the text in the illos. This most affects the pages with illustrations across the double-page spread, which is about half of them, so I've been able to start on any spot illustrations, but it's not the way I prefer to work. I like working from start to finish basically, and that way I get a really good feeling for the story. At the moment I feel like I'm putting the cart before the horse but that's okay - it's still fun and I just need to keep going with it.

I've worked out I need to be doing 2 illustrations a week, where 1 illustration can either be 1 double page spread, or 1 page with potentially 4-6 spot illustrations on it. eek! This would all be okay if I didn't also have a 3 day/week day job and still trying to have some semblance of a life! That's not true, it's still all okay, but no rest for the wicked as they say!

The other 'hiccup' has been with the cover. It is still not finalised and both Karen and I are unsure about it. I had been meaning to paint that first so that Karen could use it for publicity and distribution. but it is on hold for the moment as we mull it over. I'll keep you posted on this one. baby steps, baby steps :-)

Hope you're all having a great week and I promise to have more images for you next time! I meant to take photos of my process but forgot - I'll show you that next week and talk about what materials I use in painting.


Surprise Monday : Week 3 : Let's get physical

Who said illustrating isn't active?

I know when I'm sketching characters, I'm constantly jumping up and striking different poses to see how something should look, or hand modelling (my least favourite thing to draw!) or contorting my face in the mirror to see different expressions or angles. Sometimes, the best way to make something look real is to DO it so you know how it feels!

One of the harder things to capture I think is perspective and foreshortening. For instance, for this little illo of Alice drawing, I was having trouble getting her legs behind her to look right. Because we are down at her level, there is a lot of foreshortening going on, so I ended up drawing this one the floor with a mirror in front of me in the exact same position!

The only problem with that is that you end up drawing yourself instead of your character, but if you're having trouble making it look 'right', it's the best way to solve the problem that I've found!
Here are some of my feet, you can see how I turned them into Alice's by just making them a bit rounder (and less bony! yes okay I have bony feet the secret is out :-P )
I didn't get much time to work on the book this week, but got a fair bit done today, even in the 39 degree weather (yes, celcius.) Ack! my house is like a sauna! I can't even sit and draw without the fan on me, and it's now 8:50pm. We have one room in the house which has an air conditioner but I always feel too guilty to use the energy to turn it on. Well, I succumbed tonight. But it looks like there is a cool change in sight thank goodness.

Surprise Monday : Week 1 : Characters

Welcome to Week 1 of Surprise Monday!
Each Monday I will be giving a little behind-the-scenes look into my process in illustrating the book Surprise! for Miscellaneous Press (aka Karen Andrews).

This week I have been working on the main characters. For me it is really important to get to know the characters I will be illustrating as much as possible. I find that sometimes they take on a life of their own! I think the more you can draw them, the better you know them, so it's where I always start.

This book is sort of like 4 stories in one, with four equally important main characters - Hamish, Alice, Meg and Thomas. They are about 4 years old. Karen had provided a few notes on character traits, which helped a lot. Then, in reading the text over a few times, their personalities sunk in a bit more. I had pretty clear ideas of what I wanted for each character right from the beginning, except for Thomas, for some reason he was a bit harder. I wrote down several character traits, and kept referring back to them while sketching. I also looked at photos of 4 year olds to make sure I was getting the proportions right. Here is what I ended up with (with the character traits I used in the right hand corner):

When sketching, I mostly just did a lot of heads to try to capture the personality traits I had written down. For some, my initial ideas were it, but others surprised me. For instance, I was sure Meg was going to have pigtails, but once I drew this one (circled) I knew that was her.
It's weird creating characters, sometimes it's like they were always there, just waiting for you to find them. Does anyone else experience that or does that sound crazy? I promise I don't talk to them or anything! (not yet anyway!) Where do your characters come from? Do you like to draw them a lot first or just start the project and they evolve along the way? Do you use much reference or is it all from your head?

Next Monday:
Secondary characters and storyboards