Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Last Week I Took an Illustration Class . . .

Study for The White Pony

. . . And now I can't stop drawing! 

Taught by multi-published, award-winning author/illustrator, Neecey Twinem, the week-long workshop was one I had signed up for a few months ago, thinking I had plenty of time to get my life, supplies (and brain) together before class started.  I couldn't have been more wrong. Before I was even halfway organized we were at our tables, pencils in hand and working on our stories. Talk about jumping in at the deep end. 

While the vast majority of my ideas for picture book illustrations were (and still are) floating around in my mind at the visualization stage, most of my fellow classmates had pre-written stories just waiting to be turned into full-fledged books. That was fine with me; I'm not in a race, although it would be nice to have a final draft in about a year's time

Despite my ideas being somewhat ambiguous, my main goal for taking the class was to get a fresh direction for The White Pony, my proposed children's picture book based on an ancient Chinese poem of the same name. Not only did I reach that goal, I also learned some excellent points on composition, the importance of value and line, and the huge necessity of leaving enough room on the page for the story text (something I forget ALL the time). I also found out:

How to use a template for "thumbnails" and story-boarding. Rather than messing around with a ruler, T-square and a lot of erasing, Neecy suggested drawing around a small rectangle. My husband made me this nifty little model complete with a handle for easy use. I love it!

I especially enjoyed learning more about gouache, or opaque watercolor, one of my favorite mediums. For a long time I kept trying to make it work like transparent watercolor, but now I have a much better understanding of what it can, and can't, do:

Going back to my story-boarding template, one of the elements I want to add to the book is showing the pony throughout the four seasons of a single year. To get a feel for how this might look, I experimented with splashing some color into four rectangles. I liked how they turned out, also proving that you don't always have to use words or even pictures to create workable thumbnails: 

Best of all was finally being encouraged to use transfer paper, something I've avoided for no reason other than it always seemed a bit like cheating. However, far from being a "lazy way to draw," transfer paper allowed me to make a detailed sketch on a rough piece of paper and then trace and transfer the basic shape/design onto some mixed-media sheets I had previously washed with watercolor. One version includes reins for the rider, the other leaves them out. I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet, but the technique now allows me to explore possibilities without ruining a good piece of paper with multiple erasures or changes.

All round, Illustrating Children's Books was a worthwhile experience that will stick with me for a long time. Great class and a great way to spend a hot week in June! Now for the next one . . .

Tip of the Day: Support your local instructors; take a class. Writing, art, whatever you've always wanted to know more about: workshops and classes abound. This particular workshop was offered through the New Mexico Art League, but there are literally hundreds of classes offered through your local college continuing education programs, libraries, and recreation centers. Sign up, meet new people, learn or improve a new skill. What could be more fun?

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