Friday, April 9, 2010

From Start to Finish...almost - Mother Nature

These past few weeks I've learned quite a few new tricks to the trade, which include actually finding a working process that WORKS! (for me, at least)  So I've decided to do a series called "From Start to Finish," that will show all the steps of creation on my current projects, and I will begin with my Mother Nature project!

In Children's Book Illustration 2, our first project was to illustrate two double-page spreads of either a poem or story, using watercolors.  Our teacher supplied the text, which was to be illustrated so that the text itself had a white background.  Our art was to be vignetted, but could not bleed into the text area.  We had to have a good reason for the art to "stop" around the text, using line and shape.  I chose the poem about Mother Nature, who changes her clothes based on the season.  I won't repeat the actual type here for copyright reasons.

We first began doing little thumbnail sketches on tracing paper.  I didn't think I would like doing this, but it was actually very useful, because: 
1) I used restaurant sized parchment paper, which is super inexpensive and is available to me at both my home and at work, so I always have paper no matter where I am, and 
2) Doing sketches on tracing paper allows one to print up a text layout sheet and not have to waste good paper or ink printing up new ones all the time.  Just trace them!  

Then we moved on to enlarging our sketches to fit the actual text page.  I chose the scan-and-print method:



From there we improved our drawings, and finalized them, with the help of the critiques we had done in class.  Then our final images were ready to be transferred to our watercolor paper!

But before we did so, Cheryl taught us a few tricks with watercolor.  We learned how to do a Flat wash, and Gradients, and how to use things like salt, liquid frisket, and other resists.  But the coolest thing was that she had us all stretch our watercolor paper!  I had heard of that method, but didn't have the guts to try it on my own.  We all got some thick cardboard, (I had got mine from work, cut it all into panels, layered three pieces together and alternated the corrugates to strengthen the board.  I then duct taped them like crazy in a lovely teal shade!), and a pan of water, and soaked our 140lb paper for 3 minutes.  After blotting the paper lightly, we then stapled our sheets down to the cardboard and let them dry completely.  The we taped off the edges and used the sample sheets to play in class, trying new methods.

So with Mother Nature, I measured the border and crop marks to the project's specs, then transfered my art to the paper with my handy dandy light box. Here's a tip, which I learned too late, when stretching your paper:

Be sure that your pencil lines are where they should be before you stretch your paper.  When the paper soaks, the fibers open up and trap some of the pencil marks so that once dry, the marks are extremely hard to erase! You can draw and erase all you want once the paper is dry, so if you haven't decided on something yet, then either save it for later, or don't soak your paper.

Here is one of my two spreads, all taped up and drawn... (here you can see how I stretched the paper) both are inked and masked off...

(tried doing them side by side, but it doesn't want to go!!) underpainted.  We learned to use Winsor Blue or another staining color (we could have used ink too) to underpaint the art, so that it gives the image both depth and it also helps the artist to pay attention to values (light and dark).  It is a good idea to watch your shapes, and make sure edges don't get lost- you can do this by putting dark edges next to light edges.

Our teacher also had us do color studies, and we critiqued them in class, which was helpful.  She advised us to always test our colors and color combinations before committing them to the final piece of art...something I tend to do for the most part with watercolors, but it was still a good reminder.  She also told us to do the "squint test," to check our values so that similar color intensities don't end up confusing the eye.  Smart trick!  

It's almost done!  Just a few more finishing touches on the first spread...

...and quite a bit left to do on the second spread....

...but you will see my final piece (when it's finished) here, in my Recent Art page.  As of Today, it still isn't done.  I wanted to try to finish this week, but duty calls at my full time job, and I'm stuck doing double shifts until next Thursday... but I'll let you know when it's done!

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