Saturday, January 9, 2016

Little Red Riding Hood

Here's an illustration I did last November, but have only just got around to posting, because things got busy. I did it for the SCBWI Tomie De Paola Award (I didn't place, but I wasn't expecting to. But you've got to be in it to win it, and anyway, it gave me something for my portfolio and an excuse to paint!). The brief was to draw Little Red Riding Hood 'as if he was meeting her for the first time', to have a unique visualisation of the character without being too 'designed' and without copying the images that are already out there. We were also given text (up to the point where she first meets the wolf) from Phillip Pullman's Fairy Tales From the Brother's Grimm – which rather precluded setting the story somewhere exotic, or anything like that, which was a pity, as I enjoy doing that. 

So I went back to the roots of the story, which has been traced back to 10th Century French peasants, and set it somewhere in the 10th to 12th centuries. The line I chose to illustrate was 

"Her grandmother, who loved her more than anyone, made her a little cap of red velvet that suited her so well that she wanted to wear it all the time." 

I thought it would be nice to show the relationship between Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, as often she doesn't really feature in the story. I wanted to give a glimpse of their lives through the details in the illustration, and decided that the grandmother created fine fabrics for the nobility, thus solving the problem of what a peasant is doing with red velvet. I researched medieval peasant cottages, looms and spindles so that I could cram as much in as I could. I really wanted to put chickens in as well, but thought it might be too busy if I did. 

Here's a progress animation showing the stages I went through:

I started with a digital sketch, which obviously went through a few hideous and messy stages before I ended up with the clean linework shown here. I then did a digital colour study. I like to do my colour studies before I start the traditional linework so that I can check that everything looks okay. I then inked the linework over a lightbox, using a brush and sepia ink. After that it was time to paint, and finally I scanned it in and did a bit of digital adjustment to enhance the lighting and generally clean it up. 

Winsor and Newton watercolours and FW Artists' Acrylic in Burnt Umber on Moleskine watercolour paper with Winsor and Newton Series 7 brushes. About 25 hours. 


  1. Love the old style you used here, and the amount of research! I quite understand your desire to cram as much as possible in – I am constantly fantasizing about drawing artisans surrounded with all the different stages and tools of their craft, but that'll have to be for another life...

    1. Thank you! I enjoy researching the little things - it can take a while, but if I'm going to do something, I may as well do it well! I just love cluttered desks/rooms full of interesting impedimenta, they can tell so much!
      Why is there never enough time to do everything we want to do??



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