Catching That Expression

When your characters are going through extreme emotions sometimes you have to really feel their pain…

…then sketch the results! Selfies are so much better than using a mirror, because you don’t have to hold the pose while you draw.Michael faces

Michael really likes to get under each character’s skin when he’s drawing, so he often acts the story out to see how they move and express. He fills page after page of his sketch book, staying ‘in character’ as he draws, which means he’s muttering and exclaiming under his breath as he works. When he’s working on a text by Barbara Bottner that can make for some pretty noisy drawing as Barbara writes characters with full-on emotions and strong opinions. Annoying ABC (2011) had 25 preschoolers working themselves up into a group melt-down – that made for quite a bit of face-pulling and grumbling on Michael’s part.

The little girl in the book Michael’s currently working on is a typically feisty Bottner/Emberley creation. She goes by the name of Priscilla and she’s every bit as ornery as Missy from the Miss Brooks Loves Books books.  The photos show Michael playing out Priscilla arguing with her parents and teacher, trying to make them see things her way.

Miss Brooks Story Nook – the art (part 4)

 

missy 2 jacket finalb 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. Miss-Brooks-studio-4b

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.paint dots

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…

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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. IMG_0260b

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. IMG_0240

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Below is the final, fixed spread as it appears in the book with the new art on top.

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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.

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See also:

Miss Brooks Story Nook – book page

More on the art for this book:

Miss Brooks Story Nook, The Art – Part One.

Miss Brooks Story Nook, The Art – Part Two.

Miss Brooks Story Nook, The Art – Part Three.

Miss Brooks Story Nook – the art (part 3)

missy 2 jacket finalbIn parts one and two of this blog entry, I  talked about creating the sketches and then the finish pencil drawings for the children’s picture book, Miss Brooks Story Nook (where tales are told and ogres are welcome).  In this segment I’ll talk more about bringing the art closer to the finished, full color, printed artwork, some abandoned ideas, and evolving final layout.

Below are the finished pencil drawings for the spread in the book I’ve been using as an example. The scene is near at the end of the book, where the main character, Missy, confronts her nemesis, Billy. One of the themes of the book is about the power of storytelling.  As you can see, there is an element of fantasy in the book, where Missy’s story telling is meant to be so vivid it comes alive. This was a complicated idea to illustrate, but it happens a lot in children’s books so I’ve had experience dealing with it before.

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Missy, who is telling a tale about her neighbor’s snake she has been given as a gift, needs to be seen as both, “giving Billy her best ‘snake-eyed’ look”, but she cannot actually turn into a snake because I was told she couldn’t. At this point I can’t remember who rejected that idea, there are so many back and forth exchanges when I’m creating the art with the editor, designer, author (and possibly sales people). but it was one of many ideas that was shelved for one reason or the other.

But you can see in the finish drawing and sketch to the right, I still used the “snake-eye” idea as a three part point of view sequence, but removed it and any other suggestion Missy has become part snake. So I ended up using just two visual interpretations of Missy manifesting a snake through her storytelling – eyes and scarf.Miss Brooks bw scans057

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In the sketches above and left you can see me working out the extent of cartoon vs. realism for the snake, and the rejected “missy-snake” idea.This one even has a scarf like tail… The snake popping out Billy’s eyes so that they bounce down the sidewalk(pavement) is in the text and in the final book art, but without glasses and hat. I rather like the Missy snake. It certainly looks nightmarish enough to scare away a thuggish brute like Billy.

The scene to the left is also in the book but again, the snake is not wearing a Missy hat and glasses as here…

Then there was a idea of what the snake was supposed to do to Billy. Before the text changed to popping his eyes out, it was a basic, “It’s gonna eat you up!” or something like that. So I drew that scene too. I like the idea of the bully being devoured. Like so many rejected ideas, maybe I’ll get to use it in some other book.

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On Friday, in part 4, the painting begins.

See also:

Miss Brooks Story Nook – book page

More on the art for this book:

Miss Brooks Story Nook, The Art – Part One.

Miss Brooks Story Nook, The Art – Part Two.

 

Miss Brooks’ Story Nook – the art, part 1

missy 2 jacket finalbIn my new book, Miss Brooks Story Nook, (written by Barbara Bottner) the illustrations took me over a year to finish. Which is not unusual for me. Why so long? Well, I’m slow, for one thing. But in general the work of illustrating a picture book is not constant. There are several stages you need to go through, from rough sketches of characters, layouts, final sketches, line drawings, then color, with breaks in between for the publisher, (editor, designer), and author to review what I’ve done, and send back comments, which I will listen to, or, ignore. They will listen to me and agree or disagree, and so on, back and forth, until we have negotiated the final look of the book.  Sometimes a decision is made by the author or editor, based on what I’ve drawn, to change the text. And sometimes a change is made to the text while I’m drawing. This all adds time.  So where do I begin? First I read the latest text over and over. Sometimes the editor sends just the written text, and sometimes the text is roughly positioned on layouts in the chosen typeface, as it might appear in the final book. This is helpful as it gives me an instant idea of how much room I have for art, and how the editor sees the page break down. This may remain unchanged, or, more likely, I will change things around a bit. For example, look at a spread below, where the main character, Missy, is staring down her nemesis, a boy named Billy, giving him, as the text states, her best “snake eyed” look. Missy book nook054b I almost always begin the sketch process right on the print-outs of the text layouts. As you can see above, I’m already working on ideas. This is a character I’ve drawn before so I did not need to completely re-create her for this book. The hair, glasses, overalls and stripe hat are a carry-over from the previous book. Missy-BillybNext I move on to sketch books, working at home, or in coffee shops, creating the characters first, then thinking about different scenes each character must “act out”. You can see the date of the above sketch of Missy and Billy, when I began the process – over a year and a half from the book’s publication date of Aug. 2014. This drawing (above) is one of the first sketches I did for this book. This seemed like the pivotal scene of the book, so I’m focusing on it. I still love this drawing, and as usual, I seldom get as good, and as fresh a drawing in the final book as I get in the first few moments of visualizing a story. Sigh. Snake eyes4b Missy book nook014b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above (left) is the original sketchbook page and the detail on the right of Missy in the “snake Eye” scene. As you can see, I work on many ideas at once. So only one small drawing on this page is from this scene. Notice the unused raincoat outfit for Missy. I love the coat, but there was no room for it. Below I’m trying to visualize the “camera angle”. Notice I’m playing around with the idea of a long winter coat and scarf for Missy. The scarf acting like a kind of snake. Below that I’m developing the idea further but this actually will be the blueprint for the next page, due to changes in the text.

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Miss Brooks bw scans001b Snake eyes b Above is a further refinement of the actual image to be used. Focus being on face front, and the view point of the eyes. Below you can see how I developed a new layout with a focus on the eyes/faces of both, in a cinematic “animated” panel sequence for the right page of the spread and a scene, (still desperately trying to get in that raincoat on the left). Changes like this often occur as the text changes because each new spread layout is considered as a whole. And there were more than the normal amount of text changes in this project. Miss-Brooks-Book-Nook-12b(Below) I went back to a face-on Missy on the bottom left, and fooling around with the idea, ultimately rejected, of her wearing a different hat than that in the first book. Also see refinement in the sequence of the two staring each other down… Miss-Brooks-Story-Nook-30-31flatbMiss Brooks final line 009b And here is the final BW pencil drawing for this spread. Notice the stripe hat is back but she is still in a long coat – which will change before the final book is printed, as will the drawing of Billy… More on the finish art in The Art – part 2…