This is a very exciting post for me to be able to write, as it’s the culmination of a lot of work and a little bit of secrecy! In March I attended the Bologna Book Fair for the first time (read all about it here) …and I came away really wanting to experiment with my style. I had lots of ideas and mainly wanted to try focusing on graphite pencil in my work and using digital techniques to colour. I felt this would allow me to get back to the tonal work I do well in pencil, which often gets lost in my watercolour work. I also wanted to experiment with muted colour palettes and more subtlety of colour… something I rarely try to do as I love bright colours. On my trip to Bologna I also met the lovely German illustrator Maria Bogade who over the summer started a fantastic collaboration between 4 international children’s book illustrators and allowed me to find a perfect way to debut my new illustration style! Our group project is called Storybook Brushes, and we’ve collaborated to produce this beautiful 2013 calendar which features three illustrations by each of us on the theme of Fairytales and Myths.
Above: Our fantastic logo created by Juana Martinez-Neal!
We’ll be using the calendar as self-promotion and sending it out to publishers, but we’ll also be selling our excess stock at a VERY reasonable price (just $10.00/£6.45/€7.80!) If you’re a fan of children’s book illustration it’s a fab thing to have… obviously it’s useful & practical as it’s a calendar, but you also get 12 brand new, exclusive illustrations for just over five pounds! Any money that we earn from sales will go towards our printing costs, or the cost of producing our 2014 calendar. It’d make a great Christmas present too! ;o) You can pre-order the calendar at my etsy shop here. Pre-ordered calendars will be sent out by Christmas as long as you order with enough time to spare for postage!
The other illustrators involved in this fantastic project, who have become really great & trusted friends along the way, are Maria Bogade, Juana Martinez-Neal, and Angela Matteson. Over the coming weeks we’ll all start to make our calendar illustrations public… so to start off with, here is my first illustration! I’ve chosen to illustrate three scenes from Sleeping Beauty. With this scene I wanted to do something very dramatic to show the exact moment that the princess brings the curse upon herself by pricking her finger. I thought I’d also write a bit about my process here too, as it’s been ages since I talked about my process on this blog…
I was particularly inspired by the idea of bringing in some aesthetic elements from black and white movies… particularly Film Noir and melodrama. I’ve always loved the darker side of fairytales & I’ve also always loved movies from the 40s such as Mildred Pierce. With this scene I knew I wanted to make use of dramatic angles and melodrama in the princess’s expression. I also wanted my Sleeping Beauty character to have a touch of glamour, and I knew I wanted to give her Veronica Lake hair (though I wanted her to look much more innocent than Lake!)
I also wanted to use a technique I’d occasionally seen in children’s book layouts of having a separate panel on one side of every double-page spread, to allow you to play with different elements of the same scene within the illustration. After showing my rough sketch to my calendar collaborators for feedback I made sure that the princess looked young enough to be 15 by slimming her down, and adjusting the size of her head and hands compared to her body.
A lot of my inspirations came actually during the making of this piece… not before. I always sketch my basic composition before looking for visual research to avoid being influenced by things. My plans for the skirt in this image were rather vague… I just knew I wanted it billowy and voluminous, and that I wanted to add some collaged texture of actual fabric once the drawing had been scanned in. Then halfway through the pencil stage I came across this photo of Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a Versace dress, and I liked the tulle-ruffle effect (although in the end the ruffles I added were much more subtle as I wanted just a suggestion of the texture… nothing too defined.) It also made me think that I wanted some greyish tones in the colour scheme eventually.
One inspiration that I wondered afterwards if I’d had in the back of my mind, was the ball-room scene in Labyrinth. I had always thought along the lines of muted browns and pinks and off-whites for the colours for this scene… and it turns out that both Sleeping Beauty and Sarah in Labyrinth are the same age – 15!
I thought I’d also show the finished pencil drawing I did before adding colour in Photoshop. I left the background and the princess’s skirt fairly minimal as I knew I was going to add texture digitally. In terms of colouring, I made the pencil drawing into a separate layer and coloured it using the colorize tool. I also set it to ‘multiply’ and then painted the colours on separate layers underneath, keeping them all mostly separate to allow for final saturation and colour-balance adjustments once the colours were all in place. I also played with layering semi-transparent colours on top of each other, and also adding faint colour and texture across the whole image. I had fun in all three of my Sleeping Beauty pieces with adding textures in Photoshop and playing with the blending modes! With this one, I added lace textures to her dress and the spider’s web motifs. I also added a wooden floor-board layer very faintly to add some extra perspective and texture to the background… I imagined her sinking down to the floor in this moment and wanted to suggest the floor stretching away behind her.
So that’s my first calendar piece… I’ll be posting about the second in about a week, and in the meantime the other ladies will also be blogging about their pieces. We have a website www.storybookbrushes.com where you can read about the illustrators involved and will eventually be able to see photos of the printed calendar. If you’re interested in buying a copy you should also have a look at the site, where you can find instructions on how to buy. Whichever illustrator you purchase from will include a little free gift with your calendar. If you work as an Art Director or Editor in the children’s book industry and would like to be added to our mailing list to receive the calendar free of charge, please click on the ‘subscribe’ button at the top of the site.
Finally a little teaser from my next instalment!