I was lucky enough to get a spot in the SCBWI webinar with Giuseppe Castellano. The assignment was the same one he gave to the artists in the gorgeous book, “A Celebration of Beatrix Potter” – to imagine any of the characters from Beatrix Potter’s work in your own style. I had so much fun doing research for this piece – reading back through all of those amazing books, and even discovering some new ones.
This is the sketch that I handed in for feedback.
It’s always funny when you re-read a childhood favourite, and find that it is a totally different experience as an adult. I still loved the characters and the predicaments they found themselves in, but this time I was really struck by those moments when she inserted herself into the work. When she uses her own wheelbarrow in Samuel Whiskers, and then claims she never gave them permission to use it, or when she claims to know Mrs. Tiggy-winkle personally, to leave you wondering.
I couldn’t resist putting her into my image, too – she is so much a part of those books.
First I made each of the characters individually. I start with a base of painted paper, which is cut and layered into the right shape. Then I add the details on top of that with pastels, pencils, and crayons – until I am happy with each one. They are quite delicate at this stage, so I only do this when I have the house to myself!
Giuseppe commented on my sketch that I should be extra careful in taking this to colour, to make sure that the background colours were balanced with the characters. So instead of starting with the background, as I usually do, this time I started with the characters. This allowed me to make better choices about what needed to be behind them, and, I think, helped me keep everything harmonious.
Next, I put it all together, and added in the final details, like whiskers, and prickles. And here is the finished piece:
It was such a lot of fun to create, and really interesting to experience what it might be like to work with an Art Director. Usually I do a sketch, and then dive right into the piece, but I found that handing in the sketch, and then waiting for feedback before creating the final art was actually a really nice way to help me clarify what I wanted out of the final piece.
Next up: handing it in, and waiting for the last round of feedback! Whatever might happen from here, I am delighted with this piece, as looking at it brings me right back to the feeling of reading her stories. I hope you enjoy it, too!
Tara Luebbe from BeckyTara Books asked if I would do a follow-up post for them about my experience as a Writing With the Stars Mentoree (Mentee? Hmmmm…)
So I did!
Here’s the link, for those who are interested in what Lori and I got up to!
Illustrators are often told that postcards are one of the best promotional tools available to us. Editors and Art Directors at publishing houses will save their favourites, and refer back to them when looking for illustrators, and so the hope is that your postcard will be pin-worthy! (The rumour is that they will pin them on the wall if they like them!)
With Lori Richmond’s fabulous guidance, I wanted to prepare and send out my first set of postcards, but it seemed like a lot of pressure to put on ONE image! (well, two images, actually – since the back needs to tie in nicely to the front – story-wise). I sketched and sketched and sketched. I wanted to show that I could do kids, and animals, interaction and environments. And I wanted to tell a story. I chose four thumbnails to draw up into bigger sketches, and submitted them to Lori for an educated opinion…
She thought #2 was the strongest – it had the most storytelling to it – but then wondered if I really wanted to do more gnomes? (You may have noticed I have a predilection for gnomes!) With visions of becoming the “gnome girl” I went back to the drawing board. The swan princess wasn’t quite right, and neither were the mermaids. And, while I wasn’t quite to the point of tearing my hair out… I wasn’t that far away, either!
On the bright side, I was coming up with all kinds of new portfolio pieces. But still no perfect postcard. I studied the postcard posts on Sub it Club (https://subitclub.com/postcard-post-archive/) and pored over Pinterest looking at other illustrator’s promotional materials. While on Pinterest, I got sidetracked by looking at cute animals (a not uncommon occurrence), and that’s when it hit me. I could replace the gnomes with a cute animal! From there, it was a short journey to what I ended up with.
So I sent my files off to the printer (I used vistaprint.ca), and, while I waited, got to work on compiling a list of names and addresses. Once they arrived, I spent several nights, watching tv with my husband, and addressing postcards, and then a couple of afternoons adding the stamps. I may have gone a little overboard with the stamps!
And then, with a kiss and a prayer, I sent them off into the World. And… I’m already thinking about the next one (you’re supposed to do 3 or 4 of these per year!) I can already tell it will be far less painful the next time. Part of the pain was just fear – plain and simple. I’m so glad and grateful that I had Lori’s encouragement to help me through the process. And now I have a backlog of pages and pages of sketches to draw from if I ever feel at a loss for something to do (hasn’t happened yet, but I like to be prepared!)
Hopefully a couple of them will have little pinholes in them in the not-too-distant future!