Thursday, December 19, 2013

Little Knitta Kitteh - Found Object Doodle


This is my just finished doodle in the "found object doodles" game started by  Debbie Ohi.  I saw on FB what cute doodles she and Hazel Mitchell  had come up with.....and I just had to try it out.
My Little Knitta Kitteh is busily knitting herself up.....from her tail up to her waist so far.....she's making herself up in rainbow colored yarn.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

White on Black.....How do you get there?

This is a itty bitty blog post about the color white. As in how do you get a really good white base to work on, in the middle of a BIG black colored pencil board?

I've started another colored pencil piece using black illustration board as my base. It's sorta like the old Elvis prints on black artist gets to take advantage of allllll that lovely black background to paint or draw on. Any colour we use will just POP! Right off the canvas.

My coloured pencil piece called for some areas of really brite colours and others need to be a bit more subdued . I figured a bit of experimentation was called for. I wanted to try a combination approach, but keep the piece mostly all in slightly to really subdued colours.

I took a waste piece of board and laid out three leaf shapes. The first was just a filled in outline of a white coloured pencil base coat. The second was a thin bristol board inlay. The third was a two very light layers of gesso. Gesso is an acrylic primer that painters use on their canvases to seal the fabric canvas and to make it extra white.

The white thin bristol board inlay was done by laying the bit of white bristol board over the black illustration board, and using an Xacto knife held perpendicular to the boards, cut out the entire leaf shape, thru both surfaces. When finished I had the white bristol board cutout EXACTLY the same shape as the shallow cutout in the black illustration board. On the black board, I took the knife and gently pulled up the top black layer of the illustration board, spread a bit of glue (in this case acrylic gel medium) and inserted the white bristol board in the hole. After a bit of burnishing around the edges, I had a lovely inlay of white bristol board in the sea of total black illustration board.

I then drew the yellow leaf with a bit of shadow, in coloured pencil, using the same colors on all three sample leaves.

The first coloured pencil leaf was the most subdued of the three, but just fine if you wanted to stay with coloured pencil throughout the entire piece.
The second leaf (with white paper inlay) ended up being both the brightest and the cleanest in shape. I don't know about the archival quality of this technique....but I have to assume it would be about the same as the entire piece. 'Bout the only drawback is I sometimes would run over the slight ridge of the inlay. Next time I might use a brayer to further flatten the surface and get it flush with the black illustration board.
The third leaf, with the gesso coating as a foundation fell somewhere in between in terms of brightness.

For the inlay technique, I wanted to give a hat tip to Rob Howard, who wrote the Illustrator's Bible. It was originally published all the way back in 1992, but many of the traditional media art techniques it gives still hold up today. This was waaaay before Photoshop saves of today. His index didn't even list computers! He gave the inlay technique as a way to save an illustration “gone bad”.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How I am learning NOT to Draw ALL the Details

How I am learning NOT to Draw ALL the Details (with a big hat tip to Scott M Fischer)

OK.....the first Art Director that I showed my art to (waaaay back in the '90s) said: “Save your details for pen and ink......go bold and impressionistic with your colorwork.”. The most recent Art Director I showed my work to said: “Loose the details on your color illustrations......I like the details and modeling on your black and white work.” So I'm seeing a trend here......over 20+ years or so. I know....... it DOES take me a while to take advice.....but finally I'm working on adding less detailed styles to my repertoire.
After going back to basics in my sketching and drawing, I'm finding out that I don't HAVE to draw every little detail......I just like to! But I can change.....if I have to......I guess! (Hat tip to Red Green's the “Men's Prayer”.)

After a few years of experimenting I've come up with some neat ways to run end runs around my detailing obsession. After reading an article by Scott M. Fischer's in a 2011 issue of International Artist magazine, I became interested in his illustration technique of the moment.

 In that article he took a sketch and made multiple paper copies, and cut out stencils of each color component/block. He then lay down opaque color, whatever (often messy....) way he chose without fear of overlap or loss of form. He would then hardline outline his figures. His loose style allowed and encouraged “coloring outside the lines”......something I'm trying to learn to appreciate.

So my “style of the moment” is to also take multiple sketch copies and do paper cutouts, then apply colors with my sponge brush technique, in the various sections. Just right there I eliminate a LOT of detailing......I mean, you want to cut out as few of blocks of colour as's to avoid too much time spent “fussy cutting”. This also forces me to draw and plan my sketches with as many “broad colour blocks” as possible.

I use the stencils to apply transparent color washes, in my case acrylic glazes. Then, (as suggested in Scott Fischer's article)........

I put my master sketch under the bristol board with the colour washes, onto a light box. I can see thru the transparent colour washes on the thin bristol board to draw the few “location lines” I allow myself. 

After this step, it's onto refining the color washes to achieve a bit of depth. I prefer that kind of “detailing” rather than using a hardline outline. The softer finish seems to suit me better. I will often take the finished drawing into Photoshop for further refinement.

This technique allows me to side step the detail issue somewhat.....and hopefully find a new kind of freedom and lightness in my style. It's an ongoing learning experience......learning “how NOT to draw” the details.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Art of Thinking Visually by Nancy Kelly Allen

Today I'm posting a “BlogCross Post” by the lovely PB writer Nancy Kelly Allen. Please enjoy “The Art of Thinking Visually”

written by Nancy Kelly Allen, illustrated by Lisa Fields
Pelican Publishing

  At first glance, writing a picture book seems easy. Even after a second or third glance, a picture book seems so simplistic that the text could be scripted in a matter of minutes. But glances can be deceiving. As a writer of 30+ picture books, I’ve learned that there are no rigid rules for writing these books. Every rule can be, and has been, broken. But there are guidelines for structure that benefit any writer.

  The hardest part of writing picture books for most writers, especially me, is the art of thinking visually. Writers are usually not geared to think in pictures; instead, we paint pictures with words. Writing picture books is a totally different set of guidelines. As writers, we have to “tell” enough of the story to get the point across, but leave out enough of the story so the illustrator can “show” the remainder. If that’s not complicated enough, the writer and illustrator usually don’t communicate until AFTER the book is published.

  Picture book text needs action, enough for 14-16 scenes. In “telling” these scenes, I use lyrical language and wordplay in tight writing. For me, tight writing means no excess of words. Picture books have concise text and every word must push the plot/story forward. In my book, BARRELING OVER NIAGARA FALLS, I used this wordplay: When the sizzle fizzled out of teaching music, and the fizzle sizzled out of teaching dance, sixty-two-year-old Annie had no job and little money. “Sizzle” was used first as a noun; then as a verb while “fizzle” was used as a verb and later as a noun. This wordplay has a rhythmic sound when read aloud and all picture book manuscripts should be read aloud just to determine how they will sound as books. After all, picture books are meant to be read aloud.

My goal in writing is to entertain and inspire the reader, but most of all I want to tell a story that children want to hear again and again with illustrations that they can look at over and over and find something new they had not noticed earlier. Text and illustrations work together in this “marriage” called a picture book.

I’m so happy to be a guest author on Alison’s blog. Thanks for the invite.

You can find out more about Nancy at: 
Writing Workshop blog:

BARRELING OVER NIAGARA FALLS recent listing on Smart Books for Smart Kids, Best Picture books list

Thanks SO much, Nancy, for playing BlogCross Post with me!