Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Process: End

Finishing the illustrations is not the end! I have to remember to leave time to prepare the illustrations for shipping. I've experimented with a number of preparation methods. These days, I am covering the images with vellum and shipping them inside a folder. I learned how to do traditional bookbinding in art school; various aspects of that process have come in handy for the folder construction.

It's somewhere around this stage that I begin kick myself for working traditionally. It's so much work to get a package together—not to mention the fear of it getting lost or destroyed en route. But I love to think about the recipient opening the package and spreading out the images. People can gather around and look at them all at once. Is there an equivalent moment when digital files are sent? It seems very different to me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Process: Middle

Following the previous post about the beginning of my process (stretching paper), this one is about the middle—making marks on paper.

From left to right: 
Wash brush (Aqualine Raphael, XL): I thoroughly lucked out and bought this at a huge discount—squirrel hair and so thirsty! The XXL version is on my wish list. :) 
Flat brush(?): I forget the technical name for this brush, but it is great for laying down water when working wet-in-wet. 
Painting brushes (Winsor Newton Series 7): I finally broke down and bought these guys after being reprimanded at a workshop for using cheap brushes. They are great for many things, but I must admit that I still like my cheap brushes for certain kinds of detail work. Even though the expensive brushes can have very fine tips, I sometimes find that the softness of the hair makes detail work tougher for me. In general though, expensive brushes are worth the cost for their ability to do beautiful washes. 
Waterproof ink and Speedball nib: I use this pen for most all of my line work.

My watercolor painting process has been cobbled together from various books and occasional workshops over the years. For a long time, I favored a very limited palette of transparent colors: cobalt blue, permanent rose and aureolin. Over the years, I've added others: thalo blue, manganese blue, raw sienna, burnt sienna, quinacridone gold and sap green. For my most recent project that included a number of nighttime scenes, I used indigo and also experimented with acrylic washes. There are a few other colors on the palette that I'm testing, but haven't really integrated into my work yet.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Process: Beginning

I've been thinking a lot about process lately. The next few posts will be focused on the nuts and bolts of my illustration process. I'm always curious about the details—how people do what they do. Please feel free to share in the comments if you have any good tips or tricks.

First, though, a bit of housekeeping: I've got a number of events planned for Zoe Gets Ready, which will be in stores on May 1st.

1.    Book Passage Book Launch, Corte Madera, CA: May 19th at 4:00pm. Please join me for a reading and treats.
2.    Children's Book World, Los Angeles, CA, June 23rd. This will be my first reading at Children's Book World, one of the most fantastic bookstores for children that I have visited. My daughters agree.
3.    Wyoming County, NY: I'll be back in my old stomping grounds for a week in June. I'm thrilled to be doing an event with the Arts Council as well some school visits.

And now that the housekeeping has been attended to...

I work traditionally in watercolor and ink. I begin by stretching paper. This doesn't actually involve any pushing or pulling (as is the case when stretching canvas) -- the simple process of wetting and stapling the paper down accomplishes that task. First, I cut the paper to size. Next, I soak it in the tub for a few minutes. I give it a few quick shakes to get rid of excess water, and then I staple it to a board. I let it dry for at least a day. I use a staple gun with the semicircular staples that are intended to go over wires. I find that these are easiest to remove when the painting is finished. 

Some folks like to tape down their paper, but I find that the water pools along the tape and "blooms" back up into the painting. (See image below. Blooming can happen with staples as well, but it's much more likely with tape.)

The downside is that I don't have a nice clean border on the image. This is not an issue when printed, but I'd love to come up with a solution that allows the painting itself to look a bit less rough around the edges!

The board is formaldehyde free plywood. It took a bit of work to find, but I decided that it's worth avoiding chemicals whenever possible; I spend a lot of time hunched over these boards.

I like the ritual of stretching paper. It's necessary to avoid buckling when I paint, but it also allows me to ease into the process of beginning an image. Each board with paper is an invitation to begin. Nothing makes me happier than a having stack of prepped boards waiting to be painted. Each stretched sheet also has a certain amount of value (for me) because I've spent time preparing it.

Every so often, I consider working digitally. At some point, it may happen, but for now, I am committed to paper and brushes and paints. I've found that I like limitations. What to do with unlimited undo and a new sheet of digital paper with every click of the mouse? If I could start over and over and over again, I'm not sure I would know where to begin or where to end. I like that each piece of physical paper feels precious to me. I like that each watercolor paint has very specific abilities -- there is so much that watercolor can do and so much more that it can't! I like finding solutions within those parameters.