Crow Not Crow Pencils!

I will be sharing pencils with the publisher of Crow Not Crow tomorrow, and I thought I'd walk you (and them) through my process for this book. I say 'this book' because rarely do I do things the same way. But this is the process that seems to work for this one, so here goes.
     The book is full of birds and will be vetted by ornithologists, so I have to get the birds right. So my first stage was drawing birds, tons and tons of birds.

     For the layout I'm going to share, I did this crow.
     I've also been playing with thumbnails, going back and forth between drawings. They can be quite crude, something only I would understand - like this.
I start drawing the elements that I see working in the drawing. For this one, my husband posed for me. I also looked up leaves. Working with hand sketches and some digital, I came up with this.
     But this is still a mess. I don't like the tree I chose, the branches are too delicate. And I want all my elements to feel like part of a whole. I printed this stage out to an A4 piece of paper, then put it underneath a thin marker paper because I can see through it without a light table.
     This is the stage where several things happen. First, I changed the leaves. Second, I added atmospheric elements. But probably most importantly, I softened up the bird. Because, while I want the bird to be correct, I don't want the book to be so tightly drawn that it looks too realistic. If I wanted that, I could just take pictures. I want my artistic, illustrative hand to come into play, to stylize things. This is how I hope I'll find the happy medium between being anatomically correct for the ornithologists and artistically inspired for myself.
You'll notice I bumped the contrast, and played with value to make you look where I want you to look. I'm also seeing the transparency of the colors I'll be using - but that part is in my head for now.
     But wait, I'm not done yet! Again, to balance the anatomically correct birds, I really needed to use some photo reference for the people. So, I arranged a photo shoot. Well, I tried to arrange a photo shoot. What ended up happening was quite off the cuff.
     A friend from studio agreed to pose for the father figure - Antti. For the boy? I walked out of the College of Art to the sidewalk as kids were heading home from the George Heriot school. (Yes, that's the one that supposedly inspired Harry Potter.) As luck would have it, a mom and her son of about the right age were walking by. I asked if he'd mind posing, with mom's permission, and VOILA! And yes, his name is Harry! Here's the pose for this layout. The binoculars were cans of spray mount.
     I put those poses into my storyboard...
And then it was back to the drawing board, literally, again. Just drawing them this time to drop into the illustration digitally. Some of these I did larger to maintain the same level of detail as the birds, but in this case, they'll be seen at a distance, so too much detail would be contrary to what the human eye would see anyhow. And again, there's that opportunity to stylize.
So, with all that done, I come finally to the final sketch for approval. You'll notice the characters are now much smaller in the layout than before, and they may need to go even smaller to make the perspective believable - a challenge throughout the book in trying to show the birds and the people, all main characters after all!
     This was the process for all of the drawings in the book - the cover, title page, and all the interior spreads. At this point, every drawing in the book has been done and redone about three times overall. And, of course, there could be changes. Because all of this has to make Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple happy (the authors) as well as the publishers. Fingers crossed!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Graduate!

     I did it! I am finally graduating with an MFA in Illustration from the University of Edinburgh. Woohoo! CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Culzean! Part 6... Secret Gardens

I told you it would take a while to share all that was this wonderful place Culzean (p. Cul-ANE)! After the beach, I thought surely that was it. But no, we hadn't yet seen the Camelia House!
It was a simple pavilion with windows reminiscent of dew-wet spider's webs. Inside, waiters urged us to eat the canapes from an event that had just finished.
Beyond the Camelia House, we came to yet another surprise. Past the magic tree...
Past the thatched-roof hut...
And through the magic tunnel...
We found the Secret Garden. Yes, there were palm trees, and enormous leaves, and lush vegetation everywhere. It was like Land of the Lost.
Some of the plants were ones I'd never even seen before, like this Handkerchief Tree in full bloom and ready to help with your sneezes or tears.
It was a trick that the way out was so much more clear than the way in.
Finally, Culzean had shown us everything, or nearly everything, or maybe just a little bit. For truly, some things were closed for the archaeological dig, like the Orangery. And fields beyond the parking lot hinted that we'd only seen the beginning of this magical place. Oh, how I want to go back and wander the grounds for days and days like Rosie did years ago. If ever there was a place you need to see as a storyteller or artist, this was it. I can't wait to go back.
     Meanwhile, my deepest, heartfelt thanks to Rosie and Dick and Hendrix for sharing their special place with us. We are so lucky and grateful to have you in our lives.

Culzean! Part 5... The Beach

After lunch, we wandered down to the beach - yes, the beach. Culzean had more surprises in store!
It was a perfectly splendid beach tucked between rocky outcrops.
Hendrix loved the water as Dick threw stick after stick for him.
We played and then we sat on the sand. I had to take my obligatory feet on sand shot.
Off in the distance the Isle of Ayr sat like an inviting blue shadow. Rosie and Dick had lovely stories to share of friends and artists who live there. Now I have to visit there too.
Can you believe all of this exists in one heavenly place? I so badly want to arrange a writing or illustration retreat in this corner of paradise. Who would come?

Culzean! Part 4... The Picnic at Swanie Pond

From the castle, we passed by the Swan Pond (or is it truly "The Swanie Pond" as Rosie called it?)
It was positively picturesque surrounded by lilies and irises.
It was surprising that only one swan was taking advantage of its namesake while we were there. (The white dot on the right.)
We found a sunny spot on a wash of grass and set up our picnic. The day had turned absolutely perfect for us.
Rosie had made curry chicken wraps and ham and cheese wraps. We had truffles and wine and crisps. So good! She took this photo of me post dining, in a state of ultimate relaxation and happiness. Hendrix too.
On our way back through, we even stopped by the Henwife's cottage for ice-cream.
But there were still more surprises in store, if you can believe it. Next, we headed for the beach...

Friday Links List - 26 May 2017

From Literary Hub: Bookselling in the 21st Century: When Your Store is a Photo Op (Via Bookshelf that shares another great image.)

From The Guardian: How William Shakespeare changed the way you talk - in pictures (Go John Shelley!)

From the Federation of Children's Book Groups: Using Picturebooks for Discussion and Critical Thinking

From Reading Changes: Dialogue of Opposites: A Jungian Exploration of Suzy Lee's Border Trilogy

From emu's debuts: After the Ecstasy, the Editing

From The Guardian: Ditch the grammar and teach children storytelling instead

From Quartz: The books every new graduate should read, according to a dozen business leaders

From Brightly: Books About Books: 8 Children's Stories That Celebrate the Joy of Reading

From Playing By The Book: Your dream library? Might it feature chocolate and kittens? (You've got to see this!)

Shadra Strickland's LOVING VS. VIRGINIA

written by Patricia Hruby Powell
illustrated by Shadra Strickland

e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it, and what is your medium?
The process is different for every book, but for Loving vs. Virginia, I used a tradigital technique by making the drawings with brush pen and adding color and texture in photoshop. The drawings were meant to look as if they had been done on the spot, so I drew with no preliminary sketches or erasing. If I was dissatisfied with the way one was headed, I would stop and start over.
      One of my favorite illustrations in the book “Gritty DC” (below) was one of those happy accident moments. I had been drawing the same city scene for a couple of days and wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it. I started drawing loosely on top of one of the drawings and really fell in love with it! I combined it with another drawing that I planned on discarding and ended up being very happy with the final result.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
“Heart Art” …hmm, for me, it is art that keeps the reader in mind. When we illustrate, it isn’t in a vacuum. I am always keenly aware of others as they experience the work; not in a pandering sort of way, but in a way that helps me add details that will hopefully show a thoughtfulness and concern while making it.

"Gritty City"
e: How did this book come to be and what was your journey with it?
Though Patricia Hruby Powell, author of Josephine, The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, wrote Loving vs. Virginia, I chose to illustrate it because I was intrigued by the idea of a documentary novel and had been hoping to work in reportage (visual journalism) for a while before Chronicle asked me to come on board. The story itself—a love story between two regular people having to fight a larger system for the right to be together—was so well written and Chronicle Books, the publisher, is known for making high quality, thoughtfully designed books.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
My biggest challenge is managing creative time with life. I am a professor full time at the Maryland Institute College of Art which is an extremely inspiring career. With most service oriented jobs though, it doesn’t end when I leave the classroom. In the studio, the biggest challenge is getting started. I usually take a decent amount of time getting into the mindset of each job. It’s usually just my own self-doubt getting in the way. The best way to move past the doubt and procrastination is to draw through it.
      My favorite part is seeing how far reaching each project tends to be. Patricia and I spoke to high schoolers at The Library of Congress recently with super librarian and educator, Deborah Taylor, and Civil Rights law expert, Elizabeth Hayes Patterson. I never imagined myself speaking about my work in such a holy place of books! When librarians and teachers thank me for my work, it is the most humbling thing ever, because they are the real superstars working with young people on the front line every day.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
The most valuable and exciting resource in this book for me has been the wealth of primary source material interspersed with the story and illustrations. The timeline of events within the civil rights movement, official documents that tried rationalizing racism and hatred - everything comes together for me in this book to really show how much the law shaped people’s thinking and how they lived their lives. It was also useful to see just how long it takes to change the system.

e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I am working many things at once now that school is out - a couple of shorter projects currently, and in the long run, my first authored book, JUMP IN! In the meantime, stay tuned for my next picture book, A CHILD’S BOOK OF PRAYERS & BLESSINGS, by Delores Jordan, due out this fall with Simon & Schuster. The book was done completely in linocuts over the course of a year, truly my most labor intensive book to date.
      Thanks for having me!
Lastly, this is my current studio. I moved in January, so it isn’t where I made the art for Loving vs. Virginia.

Culzean! Part 3... The Castle

After the smugglers' caves, we headed to the top of the bluff to see the castle. It's surrounded by an enormous lawn that is currently in the beginning stages of an archaeological dig. Ordinarily, the brown here would be green.
I wonder, can you see the palm trees? Yes, there are palm trees in Scotland! Especially on the west coast where the Gulf Stream hits land.
The castle itself is not terribly old, only built in the 1700s or so. And despite the battery of cannons, the worst it ever had to defend itself from were probably those smugglers. So it wasn't built for serious defence the way Edinburgh Castle was.
Although considering the smugglers' booty was probably alcohol and tobacco, there might have been some fair trading going on.
I still want to get a tattoo of a thistle one of these days. This is a good one.
Once again, stories are everywhere and scenes unfold waiting for ladies in billowy dresses and swarthy lads in tall boots.
Enough for imagination. We were getting hungry...