Friday, June 09, 2006

Normal Rockwell Moments...

Last fall at Dragon*Con, Teresa and I sat in on quite a few lectures by fantasy artists about how they approach their profession. Much of what we heard was really helpful, but the one story that stuck with me was about American Illustrator Norman Rockwell. This incredible illustrator was rarely given the credit he was due for his incredible talent during his lifetime by other artists and the art community. One story that one of the artist’s at Dragon*Con shared was how each time Norman Rockwell sat down to start a new piece of artwork, he would be charged with excitement of how THIS piece was going to be his masterpiece. Then, as the work progressed, he would invariably reach a point where he was sure that he had ruined the work completely and that it was beyond redemption. He would work through the frustration and finally by the end of the work, he would decide that, considering how badly he’d felt about the piece at one point, it had turned out OK... but the NEXT one was going to be his best work ever!!

Wednesday, I got 4 pages of the pencil drawings traced onto the drawing paper and then began working on the one that will be part of the book’s cover. By late Wednesday night, I was still only about halfway through and my hands were very sore. I’d realized that I had accidentally traced all 4 illustrations onto the ROUGH side of the drawing paper rather than the smooth side I prefer! Not only did this eat up the colour pencils much faster and leave more flaky bits, if meant more layers to build up a smoother surface look. No wonder I had almost 8 hours invested in a drawing that looked only half done!

Nick talked me into giving up for the night and getting some rest. Yesterday morning, I dropped the girls at school with the cakes for the Family Fun Night Cake Walk and then drove home to start fresh. I retraced the cover illustration onto the smooth side of the paper and began the mix of coloured pencil and marker brush that I’ve used for a client in the past. This gives a wonderful look, is much more vibrant and, best of all, is much faster. Once all the colour is in place, I then add the black ink outlines where I need/want them. Kind of the opposite way that Teresa works! :)

I was thrilled with how everything was going until I picked out the very lightest skin tone marker and worked over the shading and detail I’d put there first in coloured pencil. Suddenly, my people looked like they were made out of fake, pale pink plastic!! “I’ve RUINED it!!” I thought in despair and almost had a good cry right there until I remembered how soggy tears can make paper. I also remembered the story about Norman Rockwell and decided that if a master illustrator could feel like that and work through it, then maybe I could save this picture. So after a tiny break to restore my breathing to normal and pace about the living room a few times, I jumped right back in.

Guess what? Once all the other details such as hair colour etc. and the inking were done, the faces looked pale by comparison again. Now the half finished pure colour pencil version looks wimpy and anemic! I was also able to get that drawing completed in a day... so we shall see what the author thinks on Monday. It may take her a bit of getting used to all the colour and detail after the soft watercolours in her last book, but she DID say that she wanted a change!!!

So here’s to perseverance and not giving up. I did rip up the other 3 illustrations that were on the wrong side of the paper and retrace those this morning, so I’m ready to dive into the next one. If the author has no objections, I might post some sneak peeks on the blog so that you can see what I mean!


Teresa said...

I remember that Dragon*Con panel! The artists shared so many great things about the inspiration, perseverance, and hard work involved with being an illustrator. It was so helpful to me to hear that even well-known artists have moments of self-doubt, and experience both ups *and* downs while creating their work. Thanks for reminding me! :)
It sounds like you're making excellent progress on the project... sending good vibes your way for your author meeting on Monday!
Keep up the great work, Jen!


Mire said...

Just managed to get all caught up on your latest entries.

Congratulations on the children's book!

Any idea if it will be available in the US? I may just have to add it to my daughter's school library!

Jennifer said...

The author has an ISBN block and this time, I'm helping her look into some of the literary bar codes that you can buy so that she'll be able to put the book on places like as well as The book should be out in early October, but I'll keep everyone posted and certainly reveal more details or illustration teasers if the author is comfy with that!

This is SUCH an adventure! Thanks for joining me on the ride!