Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Start to Finish - Song of Spring, Part 2

It's Finished!!

Well, with the exception of the eye for the bird, (which I completely forgot), and I may or may not put a little shadow underneath the girl and wagon to ground them.  I've also been entertaining the thought of doing a dotted line/flight path for the butterfly, but I think I will wait until after the crit to decide on that one. Might fool around with it in Photoshop a bit first, too! Still would like to put in the words as well, but I've got to learn how to make a text path that curves in PS.

Here are a few photos of the transformation...


Whole piece, not yet digitally cropped.

...and if you missed the first half of the creation process, you can look here.

This project was a great experimentation process for me, because I learned that I get a little cranky when it comes to cutting things.  I have become to used to just BAM! laying it right down with paint or something, and there it is, all finished!  But with this process I had to trace my original image, then cut, then trace, then cut some more, then add a little paint here, and trace, and cut... you get the picture.  It's a bit more complicated doing it this way, but I am happy with the results.  I'm not saying I wouldn't ever do a collage like this again, I just am relieved that it's finished!

A bit of sweat and tears (and screaming while my husband laughs at my tantrums), and I can move on to the next project!  (I wouldn't say no to a job that required I use this method, though!)

Now I've just got to get crackin on that Mother Nature...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

From Start to Finish - Song of Spring, Part 1

As I have already mentioned, we have started a new project in my children's book illustration class!  The assignment is to do a double page spread of a cut paper/collage illustration, and must integrate the text in an interesting way.  Although we could pick a poem from Cheryl's collection, I chose instead to use my own words so that I may submit my work to Ladybug Magazine when it is finished.  The poem is titled "Song of Spring."

We began in the usual way, by drawing thumbnails on parchment paper to get a feel for the composition.  I had an image in my mind that I felt was a strong one, so I stuck with that.  I'm terrible when it comes to thumbnails- once I get the idea in my head it won't go away, and I've pretty much decided what I want to do.  I know this is a no-no...but what can I say, that's how I work!

It should go without saying - All words and art in this post are Copyright Melanie Linden Chan 2010.

I did a bit of research and sketching on the critters and things that are in my piece before I settled on this:

Next I did a color comp to get a better idea of what I was getting myself into:

( is in crayon...I was stuck at work with limited supplies!)

Then I stepped outside for a bit to make my colors!  I used old newspaper, in both English and Chinese, and taped them to cardboard.  Then my acrylics and I went crazy!  I also added a touch of nature here and there- such as crumpled leaves and grassy textures, made with (can you guess?) grass:

...and here is part of my collection of paper:

I chose to use canvas for my base, because I want to have a nice final piece that I can either put into a show or sell one day.  Of course I couldn't purchase a canvas size that fit my project's dimensions perfectly, and I didn't have the time or materials to make my own, so I settled with a 16x20, which is actually turning out pretty well.  I messed around a bit before I came up with my background, using acrylic and layered tissue paper:

Of course I lost my crop marks in the process, so I put them on the side edges of the canvas and made myself a little composition frame:

A little bit of cutting and arranging...

The squint test wasn't working so well for me, but luckily my camera has a Black & White option so I can check my values.  They definitely need some re-working! (plus the lighting is bad here)

That's all I've done so far...but this week is Spring Break!  Too bad it isn't Spring Break in the working world as well, but I will take what I can get.  Both "Mother Nature" and "Song of Spring" are due on April 26th, so check back in a little bit and you'll soon see the finished pieces!

~*~ In Memoriam ~*~

I recently found out that my lovely neighbor, Marilyn, from my old neighborhood, had passed away last week.  Normally I do not like to reveal too much personal information that isn't children's book or art related, however, I find that celebrating the life of another human being is something we all can relate to.

Marilyn was always so kind and sweet, and I have nothing but fond memories of her.  I am grateful for the company she gave us, and the friendship she shared with my mother.  It was a comfort knowing she was keeping an eye out for my family when I moved out during my college years.

Marilyn, you had a wonderful life, and you were are beautiful person!  May you rest in peace, and know that you were loved dearly!

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!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

ooooo!!! found a new favorite!!!

In my search of collage and paper cutout techniques for our next project in class, I have come across the AMAZING .....*insert drumroll here*.....

Mique Moriuchi! (ta daaa!)

A book she illustrated was on our book-share table in class, and I fell in love with the art.  I searched online for more, and more, and I'm super duper excited!!  I love finding new and exciting art :)

Also- somewhere along the way I found this other cute blog, where you can easily see the difference between various artist's styles.  Very cool.

Okay, now back to re-working my manuscript and cut-paper composition...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Much Ado About Language

This week in my Writing for Children class, we have been asked to re-work our manuscripts while paying more attention to language and words.  It sounds almost silly when I put it that way, but there is a lot more to a story than just the story itself.  The words need to have a rhythm, a cadence, and a flow to them.  We need to pay special attention to certain Literary Devices in our stories, and make sure that the way we use them also fits our story's theme or topic.

Some specific Literary Devices we've discussed:
Alliteration, Assonance, Repetition, Metre, Mood, Onomatopoeia, Rhyming, Dialogue, and the Rule of Three.  I won't go into detail on those, because I'm not a literary pro by any means, and I don't want to teach anyone out there who might be reading this the wrong stuff.  But you're welcome to look it up!

More information on other Literary Terms and Devices can be found here:

Some books that have specifically good Literary Device and Language usage:
"Where the Wild Things Are," by Maurice Sendak
"Wind-Wild Dog," by Barbara Joosse, Illustrated by Kate Kiesler
"Anna's Table," by Eve Bunting
"The Great Fuzz Frenzy," by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
"Here They Come!" by David Hyde Costello

Now it's time for me to get back to work!  Chop chop!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

found some cute blogs...

Picture Book Junkies:
Happy Art by Soo:
this one led me to the artist:

Visiting Artist: Judith Moffatt

Tonight in Children's Book Illustration 2, we had guest illustrator Judith Moffatt come and talk about her art.  Judith works with cut paper, and it is some GREAT art!  It was a fun visit- we got to see how she works from start to finish, and she brought in samples of original pieces as well as books that have been published.  She is a very funny and kind person, and we have lots of things in common- (like being a label freak, LOVING a piece of paper so much all I can do is horde it, and an awe of nature.  My favorite color for the majority of my life had been purple as well, although now teal has taken over!)

One of the coolest parts of meeting her was that I found out she regularly submits her work to National Wildlife Federation's "Wild Animal Baby" Magazine, and I have a stack of 23 of them!  Needless to say, I am now happily bookmarking every page that features her art in all of my magazines.  Judy, if you're reading this, Thanks for a fun night!  You can see her art here, on her site:  Ms. Moffatt also has a blog:

The main reason for her visit was to help the class understand a bit more of our next project...can you guess?  A cut paper, collage or other 3D technique.  It's going to be fun, but complicated.  All I have to do now is finish the first project... I'll have proof that it's done here on my blog soon!

We haven't done anything since "Old Pig" in my Writing for Children class, because the last two weeks have been cancelled due to illness, and then to the flooding.  Oh the flooding!  It's times like these I wish I was a millionaire so I could help all those people who are now homeless, or are in need of water heaters, or could just use a break from the mess.  My heart goes out to you!!