Monday, December 13, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas

I enjoy creating texture in my artwork. Much of my educational publishing work is done with this technique.  I’ve also created a few picture books, using a textured surface to create the artwork. Though much of my art is more realistically painted, I find a certain amount of playfulness and experimentation when working with texture in a more graphic approach to the illustration.

This snowman is a small illustration in a holiday series that I created a few years ago.  I wanted to incorporate a folk art influence and an overall texture in the painting.  I usually start with a piece of three-ply Bristol and apply a thick coat of gesso, brushing in various directions. When the gesso is completely dry, layers of thin acrylic color are applied.  Here, I start with a light brown wash, spatter the entire area with dark brown paint (using a toothbrush) then outline the drawing with black paint.

Now I paint semi-transparent washes of color (I like to see the spattering and under painting through the color washes) and dry-brush some shaded areas of the snowman with a light, gray blue. 

With opaque white, I start to create some form to the snowman, being careful not to cover too much of my line work.  I like to be able to see most of the paint layers, including spatters and under painting in the final image. 

After the color is applied and the rendering is complete on the snowman, I continue to add decoration. Snowflakes, rosy snowman cheeks and some detail is added to other areas of the painting.  I also start the placement of some hand-lettering at the top and bottom of the illustration.

Here is the finished illustration. After completing the image and lettering, I use an exacto blade to sweep across the surface of the illustration, scraping off some of the higher brush stroke ridges. It just adds a bit more interesting texture. I did this same thing a few years ago on the art for a book titled, Gorgonzola, A Very STINKYsaurus (Katherine Tegen Books- HarperCollins). This texture technique was also used on other books I’ve illustrated: Fun Dog, Sun Dog and Cool Dog, School Dog (Marshall Cavendish).

It’s exciting to wash, spatter, dry-brush, scrape and render, all on a single image. This technique is a nice break from my time consuming, tightly rendered painting. So grab your gesso, toothbrush and exacto blade... and have some fun!
Have a wonderful holiday and Merry Christmas!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bloggin' the Blues

The annual Granville Hot Licks Bluesfest recently rolled through town. I had the opportunity to contribute some artwork for the posters and t-shirts until this year. My schedule was so tight, I had to hand off to another blues fan artist.  This is a project that I really look forward to. I love music... especially the blues. I discovered the annual event and jumped at the chance to make some blues art.  I'm primarily a children's book artist and have been for years but I snag a project every once in a while that is outside the book.

Taking an assignment that is very different from your usual work load creates a chance to think a little differently, shift into another design and technique direction and just have fun creating something new that may end up in your portfolio. It may also lead to an exciting assignment in the future. I've done several other music related illustrations which I'll cover in a future blog entry.

The image below is a detail from the '08 poster. I am usually creating animal characters for my picture books so a chance to paint people is kinda' fun.

So, keep an eye on potential job opportunities outside of your usual stream of work. They may lead to other exciting assignments, add variety to your portfolio and create some additional self promotional venues. One of my blues poster images was accepted into the L.A. Society of Illustrator's annual exhibition. The painting was later displayed in a show at the Gallery Nucleus in California...the extra exposure was totally unexpected but extremely welcome.

Well, back to the drawing board.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bowers by the Banks

I just returned from a terrific book event. The Cincinnati USA Book Festival, Books by the Banks, was held on Saturday with over 100 national, regional and local authors (and illustrators) present.
 It was a great day of signing books and making new friends from the Cincy area and northern Kentucky. My featured book was Memoirs of a Goldfish, written by Devin Scillian (published by Sleeping Bear Press).

Even before the artwork was created, I cracked up with laughter when I read the manuscript. It's a really cute and funny story. The characters were a lot of fun to develop, including Mr. Bubbles- the deep sea diver, Mervin- the slime eating snail and Fred- the unsocial crab, among others. Each illustration was painted with acrylic paint on 3-ply Stathmore bristol. Here is an image from an interior page of the book.

It was done in a technique that I've used for years on various projects and is one I'd like to share. The example below was created for Sunrise Greetings as a Father's Day card. I always begin with a sketch of the idea. Sometimes that goes through several revisions before a design is selected and I can begin painting the final art.

After the sketch has been approved, I transfer a line drawing to my board, including crop marks and a bleed area (which is the art that extends beyond the crop marks).  

 When the line drawing is complete, I lay in areas of local color with thin acrylic washes. 

 Then I start to render areas, adding texture, dimension and depth to the flat areas of the design. 

I do this with additional layers of thin acrylic washes, dry-brush and scumbling techniques.

When most of the rendering of the image is complete, I add any other details that I feel would enhance the painting, including a bit of glazed color (as seen on the rosey cheeks of this little guy) and highlights (as seen on the eyes... my favorite part to paint). 

That's pretty much it.  I start with washes and add more opaque paint as I near the finish.  I've had a lot of fun painting this way and it's a pretty straight forward technique. Try it and see what you come up with.  Have fun!

So, I'm back from Cincy and ready to tackle another book project (which will be a future blog topic). It was great to hang with my illustration buddies from Cincinnati, including C. F. Payne, Loren Long, Will Hillenbrand and John Maggard (who came up with this years excellent poster design). I had to travel all the way to southern Ohio to meet a fellow Columbus area illustrator, Steve Harpster. It was a great weekend... now, back to the drawing board.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Christmas comes earlier every year.

Well, here goes... I've finally decided to dive into the blog-pool. I really enjoy visiting other blogs and can definitely see the benefits of sharing information, experiences and thoughts on a given topic. I'm still not sure how much time it will take to maintain this project and still make art (that's what pays the bills, so far).
Anyway, I hope my blog will be helpful and give a glimpse into what I do and how I do it. Thanks for visiting.
As part of my first entry, I'd like to share a recent children's book, hot off the press. First Dog's White House Christmas was written by J. Patrick Lewis and his daughter, Beth Zappitello. It was published by Sleeping Bear Press and follows a previously published book, First Dog. All of the paintings created for this book, were painted with oil paint on canvas.