Hazel Mitchell's TOBY
I’d like to share a little about how I created the art in TOBY published by Candlewick Press Sept 13th 2016. It ‘s a departure from my previous books, which have tended to be brighter and using more digital creation. As the author and illustrator of TOBY (my first solo gig!) I knew the feel I wanted for the book from the get go and that was to create an emotional mood in the illustrations, coupled with a retro look. People have commented that it feels very ‘British’ in tone – which is fine by me! (As I’m British).
Pretty much all of my art is created first using graphite, usually something soft in the 6B -9B area, or in some cases with dipping pen. In Toby I used graphite on 300lb Fabriano hot press paper. In previous books I’ve used cold press to get a rougher feel, but I wanted a smoother look for Toby. I start, as we all usually do, with thumbnails, rough sketches and incomprehensible scrawls, the meaning of which sometimes even the artist has no idea about! Sketches and visuals came first for me with this book.
When sketches (and revisions) are approved I move on to finals. Always an exciting moment! How will I create the looseness, not get too tight and detailed, create the mood I am looking for? I tried a few samples pieces and decided on the following technique:
In a previous book (Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown Wood, publisher Charlesbridge) I’d used a technique most commonly seen in oil painting (although J.W.M Turner used it in watercolors too) the grisaille. First I lightly trace the sketch onto the final paper on my lightbox then complete the pencil work in soft graphite. Then I paint the grisaille, which is a monochrome underpainting in one color, often burnt sienna or prussian blue or gray. My underpainting for Toby was in burnt sienna which gave me soft lights and darks. I didn’t stretch the paper because the watercolor wash I was using would be fairly light and without salting or much texture work. (In Imani’s Moon I stretched the paper, because I punished the paper quite a lot to get texture).
Hazel Mitchell has always loved drawing and still cannot be reliably left alone with a pencil. She has illustrated several books for children including Imani’s Moon, One Word Pearl, Animally and Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? ‘Toby’ is her author-illustrator debut from Candlewick Press. Her work has received several awards and been recognized by Bank Street Books, Learning Magazine, Reading is Fundamental, Foreword Reviews, NYCReads365, Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, Charlotte/Mecklenburg , Chicago and Maine State libraries among others. Originally from England, where she attended art-college and served in the Royal Navy, she now lives in Maine with her poodles Toby and Lucy and a cat called Sleep. She still misses British fish and chips, but is learning to love lobster. See more of her work at www.hazelmitchell.com. Repped by Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd.