Starting a new Year and a New Book
(for best representation, do not view in wide screen)
Working On Book Three:
To inform and entertain you on the journey of creating a book
(I began this "journal" when starting on my 3rd book, which is now finished, hope you enjoy the journey!)
" Concerning storybook illustration, the ability to delight requires as much artistic skill as that required to create " fine art ". After a while " serious art " can get terribly tiresome."
Paraphrased from "Myth, Magic and Mystery"
Beginning work on a new piece of art is always exciting. Beginning work on a new book is even better. Such an ongoing process of creativity, hard work and design (which will take me more than a year ) makes every day an adventure! You could say I am new to the book world, as I have only two completed books under my belt. But I am not new to the art world, I have made my living as an artist for nearly 30 years. Books are simply another form of art, one which I have taken on with great enthusiasm and dedication.
"Deep into the woods of Hopalong Hollow, there is a path that you can follow;
Winding neath cool canopies of leafy, gnarled chestnut trees-
Past river bend and crystal spring , where woodland thrushes nest and sing;
Just up and over the Blackberry fell.... where Mamsey Bear and Mopkin dwell...."
Come with me.
So begins my story introduction of a tale of two Bear. Please visit me on these pages, as I work on the illustrations for my newest book featuring a mother bear and her young cub, Mopkin. Of course, I don't want to spoil the story, so I will be concentrating on showing you bits and pieces of the art as it progresses and sharing information about how I create a book.
Welcome to my studio, the little room at the top of the stairs.
Please, do come in!
After years of working at the old walnut table in the dining room , I have a room of my own.
A small room at the top of the stairs has become my new "studio". It is tiny but it is bliss. Firstly I have painted all the walls, (spring green), stripped the old stain off the baseboards, restored the wonderful old 8ft long oak table ( from a turn of the century printers shop) and pulled it up to the one and only window. From this window, I can see Croaky Toad Creek, where my ducks play and my geese amble, and one of my gardens, (at this time of year, nothing but brown skeletons where once stood purple coneflowers.)
My little room is well lit and I can fill it with my favorite things, including over 150 books, which I use for reference and inspiration. I surround myself with beautiful art, whether it be on an antique postcard, a book, the wallpaper, the pattern of the rug beneath my feet or an antique Easter egg. There are so many wonderful artists that have created so many lovely objects, it is impossible NOT to be inspired to creativity! I have a collection of natures tidbits, feathers, bugs, eggshells, birds nests, turtle shells, all manner of lichen and moss, etc, etc. these things come in handy when I begin to draw and paint.
These OLD books have THE most beautiful illustrations!
I fill drawers, boxes, baskets and shelves with art supplies and miscellaneous STUFF. You never know when you will need a model to draw from, whether it be a pincushion, a pinecone, a straw hat, or whatever.... I have a little bit of everything.
These are antique chocolate molds I use for making painted chalkware and pouring beeswax. That is a project for the Springtime, but I like having them visible from where I sit because I really like them!
My favorite children's book author and illustrator is with me, here in the room.
And I have some little friends to keep me company......
The room is filled with pleasant scents...
And my chair is pulled up to my worktable with supplies at the ready.
I am often asked what comes first, the story or the pictures . Sometimes I'm inspired to write a story based one a particular piece of art I have done, but in general, it is the story that comes first. In the case of this book, I have been writing and rewriting the story for months! I use a large leather bound blank- paged book to write my stories, take notes, make sketches and collect photos for the future book . I will fill several pages with words and phrases that I love, and try to use them somewhere in my story. Words like "bamboozled" and "wistful" and "peevish" will undoubtedly appear on my book pages. Aren't some words just wonderful?
My story is of a mother bear and her cub. "Mamsey" is mother bears name. One of my favorite books as a child was a classic ,handed down from my grandmother, called " The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew", written by Margaret Sidney in 1881. In the book, the widowed mother of five is called mamsie, which is simply a name for mother, or mommy or mama. I changed the spelling, but I love the word.
I've determined how to spread the text over the 36 pages and drawn my layout . I have a pretty good idea of how each page will be illustrated but a lot of ideas don't come to me until I am actually working on the final drawing. That's the point I am at now . I always begin the artwork on page 1, which is the Title page. I leave my front cover art and my endpaper art till the very last.
I've measured and cut my paper and I'm ready! Using Fabriano cold press Watercolor paper, 140 lb. I'll make detailed drawings directly upon the watercolor paper using mechanical pencils and 2H, 0.5 lead. It is really hard lead and doesn't smear easily. I go through lots of erasers, love erasers! Even though my lead is really thin, I sometimes need an even finer point, so there's always an emery board nearby to file the lead to a teeny point when doing exceptionally detailed drawing. I also work under a magnifying light.
Although this story is about bear, I am actually starting my illustrations with,,,, MICE! Good thing I have all my reference books at hand, there are no mousey models available today!
Another great book for reference is this 1955 copy
of clothing through the ages , from Egyption times to the early 1900's. The lovely fashions from the period between 1760 and 1860 are my favorites and the ones in which I dress my characters .
From rough sketches in the Green Book, to detailed drawings on the watercolor paper. This took about 4 days from start to finish.
Meet the sweet "Lil Miz Mouse", she plays an important role in the story and is seen here on the title page in the lower right corner.
I have finished my drawing for the title page and it now goes off to the side. I won't do any painting until all 36 pages are drawn.
Next, I will working on the page with the Dedication , copyright and Intro . It will be a full spread, ( that is 2 pages for one illustration).
It is nice to show the homes in which my characters live, for example, the Bushybottom's have their wonderful treehouse, the Hopalongs live inside and beneath a hollow tree. I am going to take advantage of these two pages to show you the home of the two bears. This will really be fun! I get to design a home, deep in the woods, made of log and stone and timber and plaster... a home worthy of two fine bear folk. I'll need to leave room on the page to fit in a dedication and all pertinent copyright info. Okay, back to the drawing board!
.A winter head cold has slowed me down a bit, but here is my progress thus far on the bear home. I started by drawing this little stone tower entrance on the left and then decided I didn't like it.... I will use it on another page. Instead I am using the little entrance on the right, I think maybe it will become a door to the cellar. My husband likes to help me out with my perspective and bought me an expensive dvd series with a college art course focusing on PERSPECTIVE> I really hated it! I think I watched for about 15 minutes and then went back to my own way of doing things I am not trying to do architectural drawings here and if things are a bit crooked and off balance, well, that's the way I want it. I must confess, however, that I watch U tube tutorials on drawing perspective because I am so weak in that area.
It's good having lots of templates and rulers at hand. The bristle brush is for wiping away all my eraser bits.
In the drawing below, you can see why I need to sharpen my pencil lead sometimes, just to get the detail that is required in the tiny bear head "woodcarving".
More later on......
Just about finished with this drawing. I am going to have fun painting this one! This is where the bear live, I would love to have this home in the Woods! I am especially fond of the canoe parked out front. Unfortunately, I will end up erasing many of my angles and redoing them......it's that pesky perspective again, oops! Mamseys house is completely askew, thank goodness for erasers.
I am getting ready to draw my bears for the first time, so I have gathered together my Bear books and photos galore. I will need to refer to these from now on .
When working, I may be listening to music.....Loreena Mckennet, Cara Dillon, classical music, or something equally soothing. Can't listen to jaunty celtic or 1940's when drawing, or I'll be bopping around and tapping my feet, that's "CLEAN THE HOUSE" music. Often,I will play one of my favorite movies with the volume turned down low. This will likely be a Masterpiece Theater series, or something historical. But I absolutely love listening to books on tape. If you are not familiar with LIBRiVOX, look it up on the web. You can download novels, short stories, anything from Shakespeare to Jane Austin to Winnie the Pooh, for free. This will be old literature in the public domain usually published before 1920 and, read by volunteers from all over the world. You can even become a reader if you like.
Back to my bears...
Mamsey plays a lap harp......under the stars. Love drawing and painting the folds and creases of fabric and clothing. I am really going to enjoy "dressing" the two bear throughout this story.
I had to leave for 5 days to do a wholesale show up in PA. I am glad to be back to the drawing board and would love to introduce you to MOPKIN>
Here she is, lying in the cool moss, counting the stars. Still have a way to go on her, but I like her little face and her sweet dress.
The weather outside is just perfect, snowy, blowy and wet, wet, wet! This is the kind of weather that keeps me inside, free from the desire to poke around my garden beds and look for those little signs of Spring we all so long for. I have finished my first 5 pages of drawings.
Now, I am going inside the Bears home with them. What kind of furnishings will they have, how does Mamsey decorate, what kind of bedding does little Mopkin sleep in? This is where the fun comes in! I hardly know where to begin, but I will show you as soon I can!
Some little friends have joined me today, actually, some of them are modeling for me as well. Am having a bit of trouble arranging the furniture in Mamsey's sewing room. I have been working on current drawing for 3 days , trying to figure out how to include all the elements I need in this page...A big stuffed chair, an armoire, trunk, standing mirror, floor clock, etc, etc,...
Tis a puzzle to put together! Today I needed a little inspiration, so I popped "Miss POTTER"into the dvd player whilst I worked. Beatrix Potter was quite an extraordinary woman for her time. This movie is delightful, touching and visually gorgeous., albeit wee corny and sugary in some ways.
I love her artwork of Beatrix, it is soft and comfortable, and never fails to make me smile. Her stories were so beautifully written without being cutsey. If you like period pieces, a I do, rent "Miss Potter".
I wish I could find the BBC's, "ATale of Beatrix Potter", as it was actually a more accurate portrayal of Beatrix Potter. Someday, I will go the Hilltop Farm.
Here are Mamseys sewing things atop a trunk.
PROPS come in handy .
I would love to own this bed but it's a product of my imagination and an 18th century piece in a museum
Why am I showing you my kitchen? Because I am sitting in my kitchen today, where it is very warm, and drawing Mamseys keeping room/ kitchen. I have loads of items in this room that are just the sort of things dear Mamsey uses.
For the last few days, I have been boning up on perspective. For many years, I have created folk art, which looks best without proper perspective. That is what gives it it's charm .But in my books I like to combine realism and folkart. This new book has a lot of indoor rooms and I need to get my angles right!
A good size keeping room for the bears with all the amenities necessary to cook an excellent meal
Poor Lil Miz Mouse, stuck to the honey pot and struggling to get loose!
Drawing some Lace for Mamseys cap
My camera has been acting up and it looks like we need a new one, so until it arrives I can't post any more illustrations!
Hello again! I have to confess, I have been remiss in posting here.... even though I have my new camera! But.... It is SPRING! I had to prepare my garden beds. And that really is a good thing since the new page I am working on takes place in the garden. I have moved my "studio" outside to my porch. where I can watch the busy bees hover and the flowers bloom as I work.
Also. Mamsey Bear has a new potting shed. and I must draw it into the illustration. see:
She just loves it!!!!!
The Tulips are blooming all round us and the lovely little signs of Springtime are everywhere,.but our story starts in Late Summer, so I am actually drawing SUNFLOWERS on this page... and BEES.. and BIRDS..
When I paint this page, I will use bright and brilliant warm shades of yellows and oranges and olive greens. Mamsey and Mopkin are walking out into the morning sun and the garden will be ALIVE with color and warmth. This is a perfect time of year to be drawing these pages!
I've been drawing bees..... bees, bees, everywhere!
and fat cabbages and vegetables.....
Here is Mopkin, collecting the garden bounty
I am currently working on a drawing with Mamsey and Sir Percival. You Do remember Sir Percival, do you not? One of my favorite characters in Book 2.
One of the difficult things about illustrating a character over and over, is getting that character to look the same. I find it helpful to give said personage an identifiable characteristic. In Sir Percivals case, it is his monocle.
Here is the infamous fox in book two, and below is his drawing in book 3
He looks a little odd without his top hat, but he is, after all, answering his front door and has no use for a hat right now.
Sometimes, it is good to look at your art from another perspective. Something was really bugging me about him, he seemed short and squat. After taking these photos, it hit me. His vest is WAY to small, shortening his torso.
I added a 1/4 " to the bottom of his vest and it really made quite a difference.
Wattles are the fence of choice in Hopalong Hollow, and you will see them often..
I have actually built these before, they are charming, and don't seem to last for many years, but they last Forever in Books!
Okay, another drawing completed! But today, alas, I sit here looking at a blank page. I have my text for this page and have edited it as much as possible, but I still have a lot of verbiage. My dilemma is that I also NEED a lot of art on this sheet of paper, in fact, what I really need are 4 separate illustrations! Now I need to be creative to make that work out. I was able to successfully pull it off in the "Journey of Bushky Bushybottom".
But for now, I just sit here with a full pot of tea, a little companion ( who isn't giving ,much input) and a lot of disheveled ideas floating about my noggin.
This is Sasha, she is my lovely little pal, 11 yrs.old. Her mama and sister also live with us. She is a sweet loving kitty and a good model.. But I don't need a cat model today. She is simply here to give moral support.... and enjoy my warm lap.
I also made a trip to the Goodwill today in search of the perfect prop. I found it, an old jacket with the right cut and collar.... it WAS however, the wrong color and since I had a nice bottle of red dye, was able to change that problem straight away!
This "waist coat" will be used in the drawings on this page... in several ways.
How does a bear use scissors???? Well, I have to use my imagination on that one.
I keep a separate notebook to sketch the clothing for the characters. Since I watch a lot of Period Films I often see clothing styles and outfits which I know would look lovely on my Mamsey, Mopkin, Dimity Doormouse or Fionna (whom you will meet shortly).
And here, Mamsey is in her parlor...
In this drawing I am looking down on the scene. It seems a good way to use this small space and still convey the correct image of Mamsey laying out a pattern upon her fabric.
The blank space in between the illustrations is for text. So now, I have managed two separate illustrations on one page. I will now design the adjoining page to portray two more illustrations and more text.
If you live in an old, cold house as I do, I recommend a pair of these for your poor icy hands.
No matter that I have a heater in my little room, my hands are always cold without these woolies!
Here we are, working on the opposite page now. Me and my little..uh hmmm.. "helper".
Oh Dear! A commotion outside has me up and out the front door. What I discover is my little black hen, Plain Jane Black. beating the holy heck out of one of the Peacocks! What has caused this tiny hen to become a veritable powerhouse of ferocity??!
Now it is clear,this silly girl has hatched 5 babies in this gully!. She disappeared weeks ago and I thought she'd been a victim of Sir Percival. If it rains, as is predicted today, all of these little chicks will wash away into the creek! This gully will absolutely flood.
SOOOOOO..... I have to catch all of them, and SHE is behaving viciously! I got a net, and popped it over her, all the chicks scattered and I was able to pick them up and pop em in a cardboard box. Then I carried one and all to a special dry. spot in the potting shed.
I can see by the markings on at least 3 that we have some future roosters Darn!. Aren't they cute? I did not expect to see baby chicks in the wintertime! I am quite sure they would have met a dreadful fate had I not found and relocated them.
Now all is well and I can get back to work
To show the passage of hours on this page, I am using candles and a clock....
Nearly finished with this 3rd illustration on adjoining page. I will need one more beneath it.
Working On Book Three:
All Copyrights Belong to Jeri Landers © 2000