Saturday, August 29, 2015

Illustration: Polkadots and Moonbeams

Shield your eyes, this week's Colour Collective was 'chartreuse'!

I wanted to continue my fadeaway girl and moonlight theme, but it was tough to shoehorn chartreuse in! In the end I went with Polkadots and Moonbeams by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke as my theme.

A country dance was being held in a garden
I felt a bump and heard an 'Oh, beg your pardon'
Suddenly I saw
Polkadots and moonbeams
All around a pug-nosed dream

The music started and was I the perplexed one
I held my breath and said 'May I have the next one?'
In my frightened arms
Polkadots and moonbeams
Sparkled on a pug-nosed dream

There were questions
In the eyes of other dancers
As we floated over the floor
There were questions
But my heart knew all the answers
And perhaps a few things more

Now in a cottage built of lilacs and laughter
I know the meaning of the words 'Ever After'
And I'll always see
Polkadots and moonbeams
When I kiss the pug-nosed dream

The song is a pretty romantic standard, but I decided that a fast-paced swing dance could easily result in an accidental bump on the dancefloor (and then a segue into a slow dance), so I added silhouettes of a few other girls dancing to set the mood. And the chartreuse background was just crying out for a beautiful African girl to look stunning in the bright colour. 

The fadeaway effect is less prominent here simply because of the polkadots, but it does have a precedent in Coles Phillips very first fadeaway girl magazine cover in 1908:

He spent a lot more time on his polkadots, clearly, but I wasn't going for a fully realistic placement, which would clash a bit with the flatness of the pics I've already done. 

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Illustration: Blue Moon

Continuing my theme of Coles Phillips inspired fadeaway girls inspired by standard song titles for Colour Collective. This week the colour was Payne's Grey - rather more blue than grey really, and therefore a perfect opportunity to do an illustration based on the song Blue Moon by Rogers and Hart. 

Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue moon
You knew just what I was there fore
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper 'please adore me'
And when I looked the moon had turned to gold

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

This was an interesting exercise in cool skintones - I wanted it to look like night time but not wash out all of the skintones, which would make the whole illustration look very cold, so I went with mauve tones with paynes grey added into the shadows.
Blue Moon was originally written in the early 30s, with three different sets of lyrics before it actually became Blue Moon with the fourth set - but most of the classic recordings of it are late 40s and 1950s, so I went with a fun 50s party dress and ponytail combo.

I was mucking about in Photoshop and decided to make a small animation for the line 'and when I looked the moon had turned to gold', just to see if I could make it work (animation effects are not my forte)

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2
About 4 to 5 hours. 

Here are the three in this set that I have done so far. I think they look quite nice all together. 

I need to tweak the first one slightly - it was done much more quickly, and I'd like to adjust it so that it matches the other two a bit better in terms of moon size and the like. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Process of a Picture Book Spread

My last blog post was about the picturebook The Suitcase Cyclist, which I illustrated. This post is to show the process we went through to get from initial thumbnail to finished spread - it's my usual process for a project of this type.

This was the first page I did, as Barbara, the author, was not used to commissioning illustrations, and I wanted to work up a sample of what the spreads would look like, so she could see how my idea of having black and white linework backgrounds would work. 

1: Thumbnail
My initial thumbnail was very rough, and was done at the very beginning of the process, when I had the text, but no idea how many children were involved - so there are only two children visible. The basic idea was to have the children and grandad dancing with Elvis on the set of Jailhouse Rock. I did the thumbnails for the whole book before meeting with Barbara, and talked through my ideas with her when I met up with her.

2: Rough layout
After a meeting with Barbara, I leaned that there were five grandchildren to be included. Barbara didn't want me to draw them specifically, but gave me their genders, hair colour and ages, so I went away and did a very rough sketch in Photoshop (in red) to see how I could fit everyone in. 

3: Rough Draft
I then worked that  rough sketch up into a slightly-less-rough draft (in blue). Ordinarily, it would be at this point that I would send it to Barbara for her approval to move to the next stage, but as she had never commissioned an illustration before, just for this sample I moved ahead on my own - because it was just a sample, and I wanted to show her that my ugly draft would turn into something better. The draft stage can scare a lot of private clients, as they are always so rough and ugly, as it is at this point that most changes happen, so I don't invest too much time into making them pretty. 

4: Sample pencilling & digital colour
Next I pencilled, using the draft as a guide, so that there would be something tight and semi-finished to show Barbara. 

I scanned in my pencils, darkened them to simulate inking, and added some digital colour, so that Barbara could see the general effect of a finished piece, without my having to work this all the way up to the final without any approval. 

I then sent screenshots of each step in the process to Barbara, so that she could see exactly how a picture progressed, and made it clear when were the best points to ask for changes, and which stages I would send to her for her approval (at the thumbail and draft stages, with option to make smaller changes at the pencil stage. After that, working traditionally, changes would mean starting over.)

4a: Pencils
Barbara liked the sample, but there were some changes to be made: She had decided that she would like the children to look more like her real grandchildren, and had decided to add in the youngest, a toddler, as well. She provided me with some photos, and I did a new set of pencils with the kids changed. 

5: Inks
I sent the pencils to Barbara for her approval, and as she was happy, I used a lightbox to trace the pencils onto Moleskine watercolour paper with Artline Drawing System Pens. I put the file into a special dropbox folder for Barbara to see the process. 

5: Watercolour
I then added colour with Winsor & Newton watercolours.

6: Typesetting
Finally I scanned in the finished result and added text in Adobe InDesign CC.

Here's the finished spread in the book:

After this initial spread, when Barbara was clear about how everything worked, I set up dropbox folders for drafts, pencils, inks & watercolours, so that she could check over things at her leisure. I also sent through a number of dummies at various points, so that we could check that everything flowed properly.

Picture Book: The Suitcase Cyclist

This year I had the honour of working on Barbara Swingler's first picture book. It was a personal project, with the initial print run only for family and friends, but that was no reason to give the project less love than I would give a commercial project, and I had a lot of fun. Barbara was great to work with, open to suggestions and discussion and interested in the process of creating a picturebook. I know my vision for the project was different to her initial one, and it was great that she was able to see past her original ideas and work with me to come up with a final product built on the ideas that both of us had. 

Excitingly, this is the first book I have worked on that has been printed in hardcover - with a lovely matte laminate. It looks lovely!

The story involves a group of children asking their Grandfather what is in his large black suitcase. He teases them, telling them that it contains all of his favourite things, including, among others, a cafe, a pumpkin patch and a football team. The children are sceptical, and he eventually admits that the suitcase in fact contains the folding bike that he takes on cycling holidays, and leaves on a new trip, promising to be back soon. 

I thought the story was charming, and wanted to involve the children - Barbara's own grandchildren - in each scenario. Barbara's initial idea had been to just have single-page illustrations showing each thing in the suitcase, with the text on the opposite page, but I felt her story had the scope to be integrated more with the pictures, and I'm glad she was open to that idea. As the book was essentially for her grandchildren, I wanted to show them in the book as much as possible. We didn't want things to be too realistic, but Barbara provided me with a few photos of each child so that I could draw them with at least a partial likeness. I'm told the kids are pretty sure who is who, so that's good!

To separate the real world and the world 'inside' the suitcase, I illustrated all of the suitcase spreads with only the children and grandad in colour, and the background and any other figures in black and white, to tie in with the black suitcase, and had anything Grandad said within that particular scenario in a speech bubble, rather than as traditional text. 

By having the detailed backgrounds just in linework, not only did it separate the real and the imaginary, but it also cut down on the time I spent on each spread, which was important, because the longer I spend, the more it costs, and I always try to work with my clients to keep costs down if possible.

To ground the children in this imaginary linework world, and to keep the story moving along, every suitcase spread features something that is heading off the right-hand page and which appears again in the next spread. In the case of the cafe spread, there are ants on the floor, which reappear in the next spread, the pumpkin patch:

It was sometimes difficult to incorporate six children and Grandad in each spread, and to give them all something to do and something to interact with in the background, but I enjoyed the challenge. 

When the text was divided up, we found there really wasn't anywhere to show the bike actually assembled, so we added a vignette at the end, with Grandad on a new adventure.

My next blog post will show the process behind one spread of this picture book. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Illustration: A Sleepy Lagoon

I had such fun with last week's Colour Collective that I decided to continue the Coles Phillips Fadeaway Girl theme with this week's colour, which was Magenta Haze. I'd titled last week's illustration with an old song featuring a moon (Moonlight Serenade) and this week I decided to go with another song, A Sleepy Lagoon, which has always struck me as a purple-sounding piece of music. I play it on the piano and it was written by Jack Lawrence and Eric Coates. 

A sleepy lagoon
A tropical moon
And two on an island
A sleepy lagoon
And two hearts in tune
In some lullaby land
The fireflies gleam
Reflects in the stream
They sparkle and shimmer
A star from on high
Falls out of the sky
And slowly grows dimmer

The leaves from the trees
All dance in the breeze
And float on the ripples
I'm lost in a spell
That nightingales tell
Of Roses and dew
The memory of
This moment of love
Will haunt me forever
A tropical moon
A sleepy lagoon
And you.

Want to hear it? Here's Dinah Shore singing it. 

I kept to the same basic composition as last week, with the moon behind, but I started much earlier in the week and was able to add more detail. I enjoyed creating all the palm fronds, but the reflection of the moon was a bit tricker. For a while I toyed with giving her a white hibiscus instead of a red one, but in the end I went with red, as the addition of the warm red colour made everything feel a bit more tropical by heating up the whole colour scheme. I enjoy keeping to a limited pallette, however, so nearly every colour here owes something to magenta, apart from the white of the moon and the red accents.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Watercolour: Bèbè Daniels

Last night I just felt like doing some brainless drawing-from-a-photo before bed. I watched 42nd Street the other day, and decided that I would draw Bèbè Daniels, because she has a fabulous face, like so many 20s film stars.
And today I didn't actually have anything to do after wrapping up a picture book project with a client meeting in the morning, so I added some watercolour to my pencil sketch:

I used a lobby card from the 20s as my reference. It isn't stellar quality and I didn't spend very long on this, so it's not the best likeness I've ever done, but I quite like the result even so.

Image from Chuckman's 1920s Arcade Card Beauties
0.5 mechanical pencil with a #B lead, and Winsor & Newton watercolours, in a Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Illustration: A Wrinkle In Time

I did this as a personal illustration exercise. I was reading Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time and found the cover and internal illustrations rather bland, so I decided to set myself a project to make a new cover for it. 

This was a good opportunity to practice various things that I don't do too often - people floating, space, decorative text....

Here's a progress animation composed of various screenshots I took while I was working:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. I created some pose models in Manga Studio 5 as well, to give me a starting point for the unusual positions of the figures. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Illustration: Moonlight Serenade

The Colour Collective theme this week was 'champagne', which instantly made me think of the peroxide blonde hairstyles of the 1930s. 

Originally I had planned to draw a couple, with a man in a black tuxedo to contrast the champagne colour.... but there has been a virus going around, and despite my best efforts I managed to catch it... so my plan of starting this on Wednesday had to be abandoned. I only started four hours before the CC deadline, and so the poor gentleman had to be jettisoned. 

I added some deep red highlights to give this a little more punch - just the champagne and the skintones gave an overall effect that was just a bit too beige for my liking. There is also a tiny bit of electric purple in the highlights, because I believe in opposite colours. 

I was heavily inspired by the gorgeous work of Coles Phillips. I love his use of negative space:


Images from Jennie's Timeline

I'd quite like to do more pictures like this, it was good fun!

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Watercolour: Mary

I was cleaning out my studio drawers yesterday, and came across some A5 watercolour paper that I have never much liked. I don't even know what brand it is, I bought it as an unlabeled pad with no cover... but I figured I should try and use it up, rather than just leaving it to gather dust and take up room. 

We also went to a birthday party yesterday - a Frozen themed party for my cousin's daughter's 2nd birthday, where I took some photos, as I always do at events. So when I wanted something to paint, how could I resist this gorgeous girl?

She didn't have the tiara, I gave her that, because why not?

Here's my linework:

This was sketched out freehand from a photo that I took, and took about three hours, maybe three and a half. I adjusted the lighting while I was painting, because when taking candid photos of kids you can get a good shot.... but not necessarily in good lighting, and her face was in shadow. 

Winsor & Newton watercolours & Series 7 brushes, Copic Multiliners and Opaque White, and Ecoline Gold.  

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Colour Collective: Forest Green

I was going to colour my Jane Eyre illustration for Colour Collective this week, feeling that it could very well feature forest green coats... but the green really wasn't working for me, so in the end I quickly chucked together this little picture:

I used the Snow White I have drawn several times before, in a simpler costume suitable for going blueberry picking, but as I didn't feel like sitting at my desk to watercolour, I worked digitally. Mainly I just mucked around with the greenery. I like the grass. 

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2


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