In Parts one through three of this blog I talked about creating the art for the children’s picture book, Miss Brooks Story Nook, (were stories are told and ogres are welcome), from the very first sketches, to finished pencil drawings ready for painting.
Below are finished drawings clipped up on my studio wall. You can see two smaller drawings clipped to the top, which is new art for this spread, I decided on after I supposedly had, um, finished. I try not to do this kind of last minute endless changing, it can lead to madness. I’m never completely happy with what I’ve done anyway. But… sometimes it’s worth it. And this was one of those times.
For whatever reason I can only guess at now, I decided to paint the rejected drawings along with the new art meant to replace them. This turned out to be a dumb thing to do, as you’ll see later.
I used soft, tube watercolors for this book. start all painting for a book like this,figuring out my palette of must-have colors. For instance, I know for sure all the kids will have skin…, so I start by putting in the skin tones. It’s an easy way to jump into the process without freaking out trying to decide where to start. In this case a lot of that mock caucasian skin that looks a bit like the color of a Band-Aid. It looks a bit garish but experience tells me put it in stronger than might look right, because once all the other colors are in, if you make it look good alone on white paper, it will look too pale later. And I try to only make the same mistake 3 or 4 times before I wise up…
I mix the colors I will definitely need ahead of time – hopefully enough for the entire book. I’ll use good, expensive paint and brushes, and nice porcelain pots like the one above. (I think I might have stolen that one from my father years ago). It never pays to scrimp on materials. You always regret it.
I’ll mix skin colors for the main character, Missy, first, then certain specific colors for her blue overalls and the pink and green stripes of her hat, that have to be used as they are from the previous book. Then I’ll paint them all at once, so they look consistent throughout the book. I can spend an hour painting little green stripes. That’s why I put all the art up on the wall. So I can scan for every place the striped hat appears. And Yes, I do screw up sometimes and somehow not notice one stupid hat and have to try and salvage dried up paint to match it with the other hats as much as possible.
It can be frustrating to not have a single finished painting until the book is all done. But it’s the only way I know to do it without color shifts.
Below you can see one of my aging brain tricks, which is to mix colors and label them since I forget instantly what exact colors I used for something. And it even matters what brand of color you use. Rembrandt Rose Madder Genuine will not mix the same way as Windsor and Newton Rose Madder Genuine. No two colors are exactly the same, and mixing the exact same color twice is practically impossible, which is why I mix a bunch of some color I plan on using. If I do run out, I can try and remember what I used.
As you can see first I did Missy’s skin, hair, then the striped hat, blue overalls, and Billy’s skin hair, and turquoise track suit. Then the rest of the colors.
Below is the final color painted art. The scarf is in similar colors as her hat, but it was OK to paint them at different times, because they are not the same. The top image is not going to be used in the final book , but, as I said before, I painted them anyway.
And below is the right hand page of the spread. It’s particularly important to make sure pages that will be seen together, if they have the same character, in the same clothes, they need to be the same.
Below is the first printed proof for the book, with my notes, and with the wrong art on the top left. And it’s all because I inexplicably painted it in. Someone naturally assumed this was the correct art. Who wouldn’t? I covered it with a piece of paper taped over but it wasn’t enough.
Below is the final, fixed spread as it appears in the book with the new art on top.
By the time the book is finished, the studio is a mess, with palettes of color mixed paint, and test paint papers all over. A contrast to the small pile of neat illustrations to be mailed to the Knopf art director in New York.
More on the art for this book: