Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Cover for Hairt Before Dawn or It All Started with a Dog

Hairt Before Dawn written by Grace E. Howell

Cover Art by Alison Davis Lyne

You could say it all started with a dog.....this old mutt of a coon hound called Copper Top.....who was wandering around in our neighborhood, looking for his lost love.



But that wouldn't be exactly right. It really started when I got an email from an old SCBWI friend Grace Howell, who had just finished her novel, Hairt Before Dawn and wanted me to illustrate the cover. We discussed the concept for the cover and Grace sent me the book jacket blurb: 

Darkness hides evil lurking to destroy.

In 1904, the Black Patch Wars set neighbor against neighbor in a violent struggle between tobacco farmers and against big business. Fifteen-year-old Harriette Lindstrom, known as dumb Hairt, is caught up in the conflict. But nothing can stop Hairt—not blindness, ridicule nor shunning, not fire demons nor the evil Mr. Dayton. Determined to prove her worth, she follows the spirit of Maybelle her birth mother and leaves the farm, her adopted family, and her faithful coonhound Mutt. At blind school, her dream becomes a nightmare. Only the song in her heart, her love for the boy with the magic voice, and her strong will can pull her through the burning fires of rejection and isolation to face the guns of the dreaded Night Riders.

So with the concept of showing Hairt holding her arms open for her faithful coonhound Mutt, in place, I pulled some reference photos I had on file. I pulled the pic of our neighborhood coonhound, and one of some local woods in a mysterious dawn light, along with a old family pic from Grace Howell. She had drawn the inspiration of how the main character, Hairt, would look from that photo, and I just loved the image. Here I have just started painting the back lit dawn kissed woods. The soft dawn light would be brushed over the dark trees later.



I painted the cover image at a bit bigger than the required size for the cover, 6 x 9 inches allowing enough “wiggle” room for the printer to comfortably place the title and cover text. 



Now you can see most all the important bits are in place, the woods lit with a soft dawn glow, and a bit of a blueish mist of the loving spirit of Hairt's mother, faithful coonhound Mutt and of course Hairt herself.



Now comes the moment of truth for an illustration, when you remove the tape holding the bristol board down to the rigid board, and see what it all looks like. You can see a small bit of buckling from some juicy acrylic washes....but the bristol board does lay flat in the scanner bed.....whew!



One bit of detail in the cover I particularly like is Hairt's gaze. Hairt is going blind, and she wouldn't see very well in early dawn light....yet knowing Mutt is close.....she turns towards the dog, but gazes right past Mutt. This bitty detail gives a hint to the casual viewer that something is a bit “off” with Hairt to provoke the thought of “what's going on here?”

I really love doing book covers. Talented authors, like Grace Howell, get the fun of writing all the lovely bits of their story using many thousands of words. Us book cover illustrators only get the proverbial “one picture is worth a thousand words”, to render a snapshot of the book. 

Here's a link to the book: 

Here's a link to Grace Howell's webpage: 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

She's a Good Egg....or Beginning Sketches


This blog is a bit about sketching techniques we all learned long ago....but might have forgotten about. This is my take on sketching faces, not necessarily how I do it now a days, but more of how I think about sketching and painting people.

I grabbed a couple of HARD BOILED eggs from the frig and took a sharpie pen and drew three lines on the shell. One vertical line and two horizontal lines, one about a third of the way down and the other a third of the way up from the bottom. 



I then drew outlines for two eyes, a nose and a mouth over the guidelines. Really simple. (Note: no eggs were harmed in the making of this model.....but I make no promises about lunchtime.)



I took a pic of three sides....one full face, one from above and a third three quarter view, and lined them up on my table. 


I took a sketch pad, and with my pencil I drew a rough egg shape, and sketched in the three lines for the eyes, nose and mouth......then I copied off the ROUND egg shape onto the FLAT pencil drawing how the eyes,nose and mouth looked. In other words I located on a flat sketch where I saw the eyes, nose and mouth on the 3D egg shape. 

I then went the other way and grabbed a piece of tracing paper and a few reference photos and traced the egg shape and lines over those photos. I then could see where the eyes, nose and mouth fell on the “egg head” sketch, and it took just a quick pencil line or two to have everything placed like it was needed.


All of this is a fun practice that either reminds us of things we've learned but might have misplaced in our busy days.......or might suggest a new way to approach your own sketching.

With a few practice sheets you can train your eye/brain to look at anyone in person or photo and automatically “locate” the eyes,nose and mouth in your mind. Also drawing a rough egg shape to show where you want your drawing to actually be on your paper keeps you from not having enough room to complete your drawing.


Bonus points: On the photo below of the Abraham Lincoln sculpture, trace off a egg shape and draw your locator lines at the eyes, nose and mouth. What's the first thing you notice about the shape of the egg outlines? (I'll answer that in the next blog post of this series)

Shout out to my uber talented husband, Frank Lyne, for the use of his lovely sculpture.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Walkies or Social Distancing on a Sunday Morning

Walkies


11 x 14 inches acrylic paints on gallery wrapped canvas

Tho' it doesn't look it, this painting is inspired by another of my outdoor festival photos. It seemed to be a day for doggies......big doggies, bitty doggies....doggies in tutus! I liked the simplicity of this girl walking her pup in the bright sunlight. I wanted to capture the gestures of both the girl shepherding along her new pup pal, and the lovely dog who is obviously having a ball trotting along checking out all the sights and smells. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Idea Bounce, A Technique Talk blog post

Etruscan Girl
8"x10" acrylic paints on stretched canvas

This blog post chronicles how a visual idea can bounce from one person to another or even within just one artist's mind. And how easy it is to take a second idea bounce and make a new Main Character, even from a really old clay statue. 

In a recent fb feed, Tracy Barrett (author, SCBWI RA coordinator, dear friend) showed a photo she'd taken of a “Terracotta statue of a young woman: Etruscan, 3rdcent B.C.) in the Metropolitan Museum in NY

The first thing that struck my eye was the statue had chin length hair, rather than the usual long bound hair of that era. Her eyes looked HUGE, with a slightly “sulky” look to her mouth. Right then I began to “see” this young girl in modern dress. 

Based on yet another recent fb share, I remembered seeing some work by an artist that imagined what long ago folks might look like if depicted with today's digital media. 
So I thought I'd take a try at a “statue update” on this Etruscan girl, using my preferred “old school” media, paints.


The finished sketch looked similar to a image of Julius Caesar done by Becca Saladin at https://mymodernmet.com/royalty-now-historical-figures-modern-portraits/


I went on with the full painting you see at the top of this post. I added grown out, multi colored hair with blue tips, some lipstick and a t-shirt with suspenders.But looking at those HUGE eyes I wanted to try to go a bit anime. I sketched out my character, still with the sulky lips, and giving her wild blue hair, rose blush cheeks, generous nose and big highlit eyes.


I did this sketch combining acrylic paints and watercolor paints and pencils on watercolor paper. That way I could easily work in any direction that the drawing needed, without being bound by a single media's limitations.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Meet and Greet

Meet and Greet

11 x 14 acrylics on gallery wrapped canvas

This painting was inspired by a photo I took of a produce seller's sidewalk sign. Unnoticed by me at the time, in the background was this charming vignette of a young couple getting to meet and greet over tables of veggies and flowers

I loved the set up, but did extensive adjustments to the two main characters and the surroundings. Then I painted over and smudged a lot of the details I just can't seem to help painting! To enforce the sense of distance of the viewer from the encounter I added in the foreground a row of produce filled baskets, painted in sharp detail. 

I really enjoyed painting this vignette and working with the body language and gestures. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Memories of a Blue Market

Memories of a Blue Market

8” x 8” inches acrylic paints on gallery wrapped canvas

This small square painting tells my made up story of a couple meeting at an open air market, their afternoon flirtation, and their breakup.....all in one day. I painted the figures using the market setting and gestures from “real life”, but played with features and such to suit my story telling. 
I especially had fun painting the three “fool the eye” photographic images, making them look like they were “taped” to the canvas. They show a head shot of the guy the girl was flirting with, a candied image of her feeding him a cookie and then her view of him walking away at the end of the afternoon.