Sunday, 30 September 2018

Children's illustration

I continue build my portfolio, twenty pieces of work for my website is my goal. I am reminded occasionally that my progress as an illustrator has been long and arduous. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, my development has covered many styles and as any artist will contest, there have been many howlers, experimentation is important in finding your niche and your style. There was a time when I became infatuated with new technology and dismissed  traditional working methods. However over time I realised that I was never happy with the feel of the medium. (tablet and pen) not least the long hours staring at a screen, to me  the craft was lost. drawing felt mechanical, touch and feel where compromised, in the end it made me unhappy and subsequently, the howlers were many. The ideas generated at this time where useful though and so I have been utilising some of them to create new work in my new style and approach. I have revisited a side project i started a few years ago now and I will keep plugging away at it, as a sideline to my main work. below are 2 examples from little jacks big adventure I have re imagined to encompass my new style.

                      Little Jack discusses his plans for his new adventure with his parents.

                                                         Little Jack meets the Bullies

My current work involves a lot of drawing from my imagination, I don't know exactly, what potential clients within the children's book industry would be looking for, but I have an idea of the things I can include in my portfolio that may inspire. There may be  moments from my own history as a young boy I can utilise. Also there is the standard, almost cliche narratives that are universal. I try to place my focus on imagery that a young child may enjoy. There is universal coding that can explain certain narratives that can enable the translation of imagery to young viewers. Namely, infantilization, large eyes, and exaggerated features can add to the humour content, as can the use of exaggerated colouration ( strong unnatural primary colours). Everything is parred down to a simplified naive aesthetic. I intend to have a separate category on my website just for drawings. This will show my process, and my skills in completing initial sketches for character design and initial layouts. for a brief, it will also show work in monochrome, that may be used for small insets within a story. I would like to have an equal amount of these as my main work, Below are a few  recent examples :

 The generation of ideas for final artwork sometimes comes from the initial drawings. I begin a drawing by seeing the final concept in my minds eye, I may lightly place the individual characters where I want them on the pictorial plane, usually just a tiny  indication, I then usually work from top to bottom, defining details as I progress. I realise the drawing process may be of interest for some and so I have plans to produce a video of me drawing from blank piece of paper  to finished drawing. (and upload to you tube) 

The above drawing was the initial layout for a new piece of work inspired by the recent change of seasons, entitled Its Windy! this concept enabled me to include all the seasons as ideas for future work. Below is the final artwork taken from the drawing.:

Its Windy!

I have tried a different approach with this work, leaving the characters free from any unnecessary background detail. I like this approach and will produce more work in this manner. In line with universal imagery that I wanted to include in my portfolio I have produced a work where all the different generations of a family  are present within one image, first I present initial drawing followed by the completed artwork: 

The miles family visited the countryside to look for a new family home to purchase. They enjoyed their walk in the countryside, and had found a lovely road with houses for sale. They liked very much one of the houses in the street, and where heading towards it, but Fred the family dog had his eye on another beautiful home.

After much deliberation I decided not to take up my position at university to study for yet another MA  this month. The reasons are many but the financial concerns are the main reason. I think I would of enjoyed the experience and meeting like minded people, however I do believe one MA is enough to validate my seriousness and professionalism within illustration. I also believe I have the imagination and ability to accomplish my goals within the children's book Illustration industry. I have around 14 pieces of coloured work and around 8-10 drawings. now and so I have 6 more full artworks to complete and another 10 drawings before I organise and publish my website. Although I am happier than I was with my new camera purchase results, it is still hit and miss, and so I am considering employing a professional photographer nearer the time to make sure I am representing myself and my work professionally. The camera just doesn't achieve true colours or the depth and detail in my work.  It also tends to over expose. My future goals involve sending out postcards to publishers, and so it is important my work is print ready and the best it can possibly be.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

New work old style.

As an illustrator I am constantly searching for new ideas. This is especially true at this particular time as I build my portfolio. Not all of the work I present here on the blog will make it to my final website portfolio as some pieces I am not entirely happy with. The work may require extra tweaking, a process I dislike doing  because I have high standards and to me an illustration should be right the first time, not withstanding the practical problems of working on an actual brief where tight deadlines may be present, this would not be a good time to adjust things generally. besides I don't know where my inspiration will take me, how good the ideas will be and if the final artwork is up scratch.When searching for ideas, I have a number of methods to inspire inspiration. Namely, I either produce quick arbitrary sketches and develop them further if the idea is sufficiently worthy. The majority of the time I have an idea in my minds eye and draw it as a concept/layout drawing for the final artwork. Recently, I was looking through some of my old digital illustrations, and realised that although I dislike them tremendously, mainly because 1 they are full of problem areas, that have become more apparent after another look, but also because I don't intend to produce completely digital work any longer, also  I don't posses  the technology  any more anyway. The work I present today is based upon some of these older works, I realised that some of the original ideas/designs where sufficiently acceptable and that because I needed to produce a consistent style/body of work for my portfolio, and rather than waste decent designs, I decided to re use the concepts, and some of the elements to make new work, and I refined and simplified them further to fit within the children's book aesthetic. oh and I have saved my pennies and purchased a decent camera that I am really pleased with, its a cannon powershot SX720 HS, and so my work should look better represented now, anyway I have photographed what i've got again, and re uploaded them .

Little Jack meets the good witch Inca who had been jailed by the evil king.

Timmy is nearly swallowed by the Loo monster! dad comes to the rescue

Concept drawing for Harry, his grandad, and the clever rats

The above  drawing was produced from an amalgamation of two old works and combined further with extra elements. At this stage, as with all my work, I generally 'see' in my minds eye the final colouration, I build up layers  slowly, laying in washes of watercolour, on top of each other becoming progressively darker and opaque in tone. if a colour doesn't work for the final design balance, I have the opportunity to change it at the watercolour stage. Building further with various coloured pencils,graphite and acrylic. I am trying a few other ways to give the proposed text room on the page, and so as you can see I am cropping more of the design/ composition so that the  illustrations are more in line with an inset rather than a full page artwork.

                          The finished artwork for Harry, his grandad, and the clever rats


                                 Concept Drawing for sticks and stones may break my bones

above is another earlier drawing I produced for a possible finished artwork that I have cropped/fazed out at the top corner. Before I commenced on the children's book illustration specialism, I, not unlike every other artist/illustrator went through a great deal of other drawing styles before settling upon my current work with a naive aesthetic designed for children's literature. I guess its part development,  part practise, and part experimentation, although  I tried very hard in the past to 'find myself' and my style. eventually after much time effort and experimentation I arrived at the conclusion that my style was really how I naturally drew. and no matter what style of drawing I tried to accomplish I always ended up at work that was ultimately mine.below is a very small selection of previous work in various styles and media from my drawing history. Not unlike any artist I started my journey when I was old enough to hold a pencil, as a boy I constantly drew and my mum would often complain that I did it too much and should be out playing with my peers. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Children's Book illustration in progress

My progress so far within children's illustration has enabled me to reflect upon the possible problems associated with this type of imagery. my research has informed my understanding of the complexities and the psychological reasoning and constraints present for an illustrator of children's literature. For example, I am naturally concerned about the form and content of any work produced.  I enjoy creating work that has a strong meaning or with a moral bias. However, I am conscious of the fact that the work has to be sensitive to the particular age group of the children for which it is intended,the illustrations content and  iconography should be sensitively orchestrated, enabling a positive other than negative outcome for children. 
                                                            As far as my style is concerned, I have recently had some criticism from a couple of members from my social media.  They have variously pointed out that my work is too sophisticated for children's books and also that my style is rather traditional, and not of our time, informing me that I should rather push visual boundaries. I pointed out to each of them that this was my natural drawing style and that I have utilised this further to hopefully add to the finished  work, if the final work has a traditional aesthetic, then I am happy to stay with it as my basic principles are upheld. Namely, I see thousands of children's book illustration through my research and that even if the work is extremely naive, this does not detract from the highly professional status in form and technique, as opposed to the mass of work that is at best fairly well done. I believe in high standards and professionalism, any visit to an illustration agency will show very high standards of work, and this is where I want to position my self. I believe that excellent drawing skills are paramount, as is good design, and the ability to compose and finish an illustration utilising all the traditional skills. Secondly, I do not wish to follow a path where I am once again experimenting ,trying to find a new way of visual representation. I recently read a research article where a vast number of children where asked whether they preferred abstracted or realistic illustration. the majority voted for the representational (realistic)style. I do believe that children respond more positively to more realistic work that has a strong narrative, that entertains, and that embellishes the story, without becoming overtly literal. Most Children, (including myself when i was a boy) love to poor over detail and have a fascination with how things work. My work may not be to everyone's taste, but as long as it is effective then  that is the best scenario.  
                                                             Building my portfolio is my main goal presently, I require at least twenty pieces of work a body of work that is consistent in style, and that illustrates my ability to be diverse in subject matter,  different age groups, ethnicity, animals, vehicles etc, landscape, portrait, urban environments. along with various action and dynamism scenarios.  Recently I have decided to revisit anthropomorphism or personification I enjoy this work especially, not least, because it has extra challenges, but also because it is a powerful tool in explaining or adding visual dynamism.  during the process of producing these images form conception to drawing to finished artwork, I am constantly evaluating and re evaluating the aesthetics of the various elements adjusting as necessary to ensure that the form and content adhere to the naive, simplified encoding. Below are three recent illustrations I have produced that have followed a small piece of self initiated text. 

Tom was always making things, one day he decided to take his new build, a go cart, out for a spin, Emily came too, down the hill they sped faster and faster, but Tom had forgotten to make..The Brakes!

Pete the fox was team leader for the fox and hounds football club, they 
where the best team in all the world.

The Hare bragged to Billy the chicken that he was the fastest racer ever. He challenged  the chicken to a race but the hare didn't  have a chance against Billy the whizz chicken !

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Children's book illustration progress

I have been working on my illustration style over the summer. I have been informed in the past that my natural drawing style has some of the qualities that are required for childrens illustration. I wanted therefore to specifically build upon my drawing skills, and try to harness further the naive aesthetic.I produced a lot of drawings, firstly, I concentrated upon character development. I wanted to stay true to figurative representation, with a semi realistic/naturalistic bias. I was also mindful of  the necessity of humour, and so I also utilised a semi cartoon aesthetic, to create my figures. The technique I employed was born out of much trial and error, which I am sure still requires more development.Although at the present time after much research I have found that my current style has a good degree of uniqueness which can only be a good thing. I spent a lot of time trying to refine my process. At first the drawings I produced, where traced and retraced to then transfer to the support. I realised though that this was cumbersome and a burden, not to mention time consuming, I had to find another way. I wanted to find a way to retain the freedom of my drawing in the final work. and so I had to find a suitable support because I had the idea to work in watercolour with some acrylic, the support needed to be able to take water based media. At first I tried canvas board, however I hated the feel and the final look of the work, I didn't like the tooth of the grain as I prefer a smooth surface not least because of the detail I wished to achieve. Canvas board always made me want to fill in the grain so to speak so that I could start  properly on the newly raised surface after building up the media. However, this was again cumbersome as it took too much time and the final result was not what I was trying to achieve. (too overworked, and too opaque) The drawing paper I had been using I liked because it was  heavyweight and the color was just off white which I liked. I figured out in the end that I could bypass the tracing ( I could of used a light box of course) and achieve a smooth surface from the outset, by transferring the original drawing to mount board using spray mount. The original  drawing could then be coloured. I have not worked with watercolor for a long time so a lot of practice ensued, I also by accident really found that the use of various coloured pencils could be utilised to build the color further and to work on details. From my knowledge of acrylic paint I understood that because of their opacity they could be used to accentuate areas that required it. I was always trying to keep a freshness to the work, retaining the original drawing gave a warmth to the work which I tried to retain. I was also mindful of Maurice Sendak's work ( famous illustrator of where the wild things are, etc) 

 Fig 1 and 2 . Maurice Sendak. From Where the Wild Things Are

His work is characterised by a warmth that is achieved through hatching and cross hatching in graphite and ink. I also wanted to achieve this in my work and so I continued to utilise graphite on top of the other media to to reinforce areas, recede areas and to give the overall aesthetic of a colored drawing, other than a painting. My own style has still  retained some translucency, however, my personal working methods and idiosyncrasies dictated that my work began to look more worked and developed.  I basically find it difficult to leave things alone, I tend to work and rework trying to achieve a feel that I believe is right, these are the sort of areas I need to develop whilst I am on the course. My work may evolve into a much more simplified version as it is now, but this would maybe take it to far into cartooning which i am trying to avoid. There is always the problem of how an image reads when reproduced digitally, watercolour does not translate well into the digital format, many works online appear washed out and not at all attractive. Photographing work is also a major bug bear for me. I currently use my i phone although good it is not perfect and when I see my work online it is not a good reflection of reality.I will have to think about purchasing a digital camera perhaps in the future. When I had an illustration agent in the 90's every time an artwork was completed it was shipped off to the photographer who could reproduce the work exactly ready for print. There are now other digital methods of achieving the best possible results. I am sure any agent operating today have this covered.  I may also consider pen and ink in the future. Below are a few samples of my loose sketch book pencil drawings, they are produced directly with an emphasis on a naive style they are produced quickly from my imagination, some are not successful and disregarded, but in the main the initial idea is quickly formed in my minds eye is realised. I think I will draw a man and it happens to arrive in my natural style. The bottom 2 are examples of were I have further worked them up into the style I was aiming for. of course for the final artwork to be successful the drawing has to be right for it to work. I can alter things later if necessary but its always advantageous to get it right first time.

Below are four illustrations I have produced recently which I am fairly happy with stylistically although certain elements of reproduction need to be addressed. Much research will be undertaken during my course and also more experimentation, my style may evolve further. I have followed a self initiated text in these cases which I have shown underneath.

Millies amazing Hair, grew and grew,  it was so soft little birds loved to make nests within it
Millie had to visit the hairdressers everyday to have it cut, but within an hour it had grown back even longer!

 Tom's  new friend Monkey was very naughty and because he was innocent he didn't understand the consequences of what he did, he was full of fun and was always getting into trouble.

The multi coloured egg Alice had discovered was left overnight in a box in a warm place. later next day a curious noise was heard from within, the whole family gathered in anticipation. The egg had hatched and a baby dragon had appeared.

The subject matter is at the present time down to self initiation, there is no exterior driver or motif other than a desire to produce images that I feel may offer an insight into my style and subject matter that may inspire an author or art director to ask me to illustrate some form of writing. I am an illustrator and have been trained to respond to exterior needs, and as such without this input currently I have to contend with building my portfolio and producing self initiated work. I am aiming for twenty new works, when I have achieved this I will re organise my website and re promote myself and my work as a children's book illustrator specifically. I am extremely open minded as far as what I would be willing to illustrate and I am trying hard in this respect to create a style that is quick, slick and unencumbered by any subject restrictions.The subject matter described here with this work and indeed in any case, is drawn from a number of sources, usually an idea pops in to my head on a good day, my imagination is usually in overdrive naturally and so I can cherry pick usually. I especially enjoy working on ideas of teaching morals. When on the relatively rare off day I rely upon little thumb sketches or previous work as yet unresolved, or from drawings from my sketch books that give me inspiration for larger work. I tend to draw everyday in sketch books, I like to produce my 'heads' where I practice and develop character designs. Recently, I have particularly concentrated on drawing children, I wouldn't say children where more difficult to draw, however they do present some challenges, that do require concentration and practice. Below is the initial drawing for the last illustration I present today. This is how all the work starts, drawing with a 5B graphite pencil (preference) into an A3 Sketchbook removing from sketch book and pasting onto white mount board with spray mount. I then utilise mixed media techniques to produce the final artwork. My current work is all under A3 size, although to compensate for pages within a book that require full page and/or double page spreads other than images with a body of text, I will be producing larger work to cater for this eventuality. My technique has enabled me to downsize the production time and currently this work from concept/design to finish takes around 24 hours. If It was a real brief then I could reduce the time down further with a tight deadline initiative.  With the technique described I can retain the initial drawing to a large extent, nothing is lost in tracing back and forwards. The method also lends itself well to the initial drawing stage production when the art director or client wishes an illustrator to supply concept drawings, at this stage any amendments can be undertaken or complete changes can be made quickly. Obviously the strength and success of an image is based not only on the concept and idea, the execution, and pictorial design is as important. Good Design is achieved through form, perspective, composition, and colour. I will produce another post which concentrates on successful design at a later date. I hope you agree that my new style is on the right track, and you actually like it and believe it successful for children's book illustration. As I have said previously, I commence my course in september for 2 years, I am sure I will be influenced greatly by my peers, tutors and surroundings, research and practice. There is an opportunity to collaborate with the practitioners on the Children's writing MA and so I am looking forward to producing assigned work other than self initiated . i am considering producing my own books also, and so it is important to hone my writing for children's books.  My work may develop further or it may just require a tweak here and there, which ever it is I hope you continue to follow my progress as at nearly 50, I hope and wish to gain a real and successful career in children's Book Illustration.

Lucy and her friends searched all day for the mysterious monster in the woods, what they found was a very different  person with a  gentle and polite manner. the boys didn't understand the man and threatened him with sticks they had found. Lucy was the first to object.

The observant of you may notice that I changed the knife points in the drawing to sticks ( Branches without the sharp knives) I realised that the knives would potentially not be very sensitive for a children's publication/audience.