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Results 1 - 25 of 362
1. Davy Jones

More from P is for Pirate as we count down to Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19th! I’ll be presenting a pirate program at Adams Memorial Library in Latrobe, PA, Friday & Saturday September 19th & 20th.

Here is D is for Davy Jones from sketch to final painting. Sorry about the color in my progress shots—must’ve been at night and I forgot to switch the flash on. You can see I based my version of Davy Jones on an 1892 ink drawing by John Tenniel from the British humor magazine, Punch. Tenniel is the guy who drew the famous illustrations for Alice In Wonderland.

Tight pencil sketch Ink drawing of Davy Jones from the British magazine Punch color sketch painting in progress… IMGP1680 IMGP1681 IMGP1682 Finished painting

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2. Prismatic Palette



Frank Mason (1921-2009) was a painter and teacher at the Art Students League who used a shelf-like palette arrangement for his oil paints called "The Prismatic Palette." One of Mason's students, Keith Gunderson, explained it to me this way:

Prismatic Palette by Leslie Watkins
"The value scale was the essence of the shelf arrangements, with emphasis on “Orange Value” as the unifying tone of the lights. The shelves were arrayed with a string of greens made from “Parent Green”; premixed value strings of Blue, Violet, and Grey to calibrate atmospheric perspective; a shelf for pre-mixed tints for the sky; and a “Control String” of pure colors squeezed from the tube, arranged by value from light to dark." 

"Modulating a color with it’s complement was often substituted by mixing grey or brown into that color... perhaps an influence of Frank’s teacher  [Frank Vincent] Dumond (1865-1951) and Dumond’s teacher, [Jules Joseph] Lefebvre (1836–1911)."

I have also heard "parent green" referred to as "vegetable green," the color of transmitted light through backlit young leaves.
Landscape by Frank Vincent Dumond
Here are a couple of paintings by League instructor and link to the French tradition, Frank Vincent Dumond, showing his very sensitive approach to color.
Dumond, Christ and the Fishermen, 1891
Leslie Watkins, another Mason student, describes the prismatic palette this way:

From Pinterest via Outdoor Painter
"It clarifies several strings of colors into even steps, with the lightest or highest values descending to the lowest or darkest tones." 

"The steps are based on pure colors from cadmium lemon yellow to alizarin crimson. The different strings of colors consist of grays, violets, blues and greens."

Another Art Students League teacher (and another Frank), Frank Reilly (1906-1965), also taught a value-based system of premixing palette colors, but it was different from Mason's. Reilly's lineage connects him to GérômeDelaroche and Boulanger

Both systems are descendants of a common practice among painters before the 20th century to premix colors in sequences of stepped values, analogous to the keys and manuals of a pipe organ.

I'm obviously no expert on the League instructors' systems, so I welcome further insights and discussion in the comments.

Previously on GJ Premixing Color
More on the Prismatic Palette by Leslie Watkins at the Art Times Journal

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3. Fox’s Garden

Fox's Garden by Princesse Camcam

by Princesse Camcam (Enchanted Lion, 2014)

It’s hot in Los Angeles. Like, super really really hot. That’s why this book is an especially welcome reprieve. A book with snow in it? Please. A book with cool blues and winter scenes? Yes.

This is Fox’s Garden.

It’s a lovely little book.Fox's Garden by Princesse Camcam

A lone fox, stark red against the white forest. A house in the distance, swirling with the colors of home and twilight. Frightened grownups chase him away. A boy cloaked in red, watching and waiting and caring. Fox's Garden by Princesse CamcamFox's Garden by Princesse Camcam

This boy loves animals. They are in sketches, framed on his wall. They are in mobiles and stuffed friends, in bookshelves and toy chests. Fox's Garden by Princesse Camcam

This fox, followed by her brood, leaves blossoms of kindness right back for the boy. It’s a tale of sharing and growth and unlikely accomplices. No words, all heart.Fox's Garden by Princesse Camcam

And the pictures. My French is un peu rusty, but according to Princesse Camcam’s blog, these have got to be cut paper illustrations, lit and photographed. They are intricate and textured, perfect layers for this story of a fox and his friend.

Remember when we talked about complementary colors setting the tone and mood? The rich red of the fox is set apart so dramatically from the snowy scene and the stark greenhouse. It’s a mood, and it’s a strong one. It’s so pretty, too.Fox's Garden by Princesse Camcam

Keep an eye on Enchanted Lion, folks. They are in the business of making beautiful books.

Be kind to a chased-away stranger today.

ch

Review copy provided by the publisher.

 


Tagged: color theory, complementary colors, cut paper, enchanted lion books, princesse camcam

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4. Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum and an interview with Zack Rock

Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack Rock

by Zack Rock (Creative Editions, 2014)

Zack Rock and I haunt some of the same circles on the internet. I have a tshirt with his work on it thanks to Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves (how cool is that header?), and I have long admired his work thanks to some tea time at Seven Impossible Things here and here. And once upon a time in 2012, Zack wrote a hilarious joke for a Hallowtweet contest run by Adam Rex and Steven Malk.

I remember that well, cause in fun-facts-here-at-Design-of-the-Picture-Book both Julie Falatko and I were runners-up in that contest, and the real prize was getting her friendship. Start of an era, for sure. (Although Zack did get an original piece of Adam Rex art, and we’d both admit to coveting that a little. See below!)

So. I’ve had my eye out for this book for years. Years! And I was so happy that Zack spent some time chatting with me about this smorgasbord of stuff and story. He also said he “answered the living daylights” out of these questions, so I sure hope you enjoy the living daylights out of them like I did.

Welcome, Zack! (That jovial picture is from his blog, where he has killer posts like this one on bad drawings and perspective. Check it out!)

IMG_9253breakerHomer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack Rock

One thing I know that’s true of kids is that they love a billion teensy and scrutinize-able details in books. Your book starts out with such cool stuff on the endpapers, that I almost (only almost) don’t want to keep going! Do you have any kind of catalog for these curiosities, or did you just create anything and everything that felt right? Is there a backstory for each of these elements?!

I drew whatever felt right, “right” being subject to how exhausted my imagination was at the time. And though I’d like to leave the history of the curios up to the readers’ interpretation, I carry a backstory for each in my mind—some more convoluted than others.

For instance, in the museum there’s an antique, penny arcade cabinet inspired by the Musée Mécanique, which houses scores of these old contraptions in San Francisco. So to honor them, I fitted my museum’s machine with a tiny, top-hatted automaton of one of SF’s most curious citizens: Norton I, self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States of America (a real guy). So plenty of thought went into that curio.

On the other hand, another curio is an apple with a faucet sticking out of it because I was thirsty when I drew it.Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack Rock

(I love the way this whole book starts. I feel like I’m in really good hands.)

Thanks! I like to consider myself the Allstate of illustrators.

What’s your studio like? Do you have trinkets and tschotskes or a cool window view?

Believe it or not, I’m allergic to collecting stuff, so my studio is bare as a monk’s cell. My mother, however, has a fondness/compulsion for antiquing in bulk; almost none of her massive collection of furniture and doodads got past the door of my childhood home without having first seen several generations of use. It lent the crowded house an air of the same well-worn nostalgia that permeates the pages of my book.studio

Surely you’ve hidden some easter eggs in these pages. Any hints? Any behind-the-scenes stories?

Now I regret not hiding an actual Easter Egg in the museum. Honestly, nearly everything in the book is an Easter Egg, since there’s a secret story encased in each curio. But instead of cracking those open, I’ll share a behind-the-scenes tour of the book’s present day setting.

I created the book while living in Seattle, and Pacific Northwest references are littered throughout it. The license plate on the VW Bug in the first scene reads “FRMTTRL,” an allusion to the massive concrete Fremont Troll lurking beneath the Seattle’s Aurora Bridge. The museum exterior is based on the old town hall in Bellingham, WA, and the fictional island it crashed on is named for Washington State’s notorious children’s writer, Sherman Alexie. A Washington State ferry, the Olympic Mountains, a totem pole from Pike Place Market, and a handful of other Puget Sound souvenirs also make an appearance in the book.Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack Rock

This book has a real undercurrent of ignored things being a treasure with a story. Are you a treasure hunter or a treasure-leaver-for-somebody-else? (I think that’s what making books is, so you are that one for sure. I guess what I’m asking is why do you think HHH was such a collector of stories, and do you see any parallels in your own life of creative curating?)

Ooo, books as treasures to be discovered, I like that! Makes me sound like a pirate.

Homer is an underdog; nobody would look at him and assume his adventures extend beyond an expedition to the local sushi restaurant. He identifies himself with the object’s he curates, so he surrounds himself with the lost and neglected, and by exhibiting their rich history to the world he literally shares his own biography.

And I’ll leave the parallels with my own life to the armchair psychoanalysts.Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack Rock

What came first to you in this story: words or pictures? Can you talk to being a picture book creator who deals with both parts? (And in case anyone’s wondering, my favorite line is this one: My luggage may be dusty. But my hat still fits.)

Ha, that’s the one line written entirely by my editor Aaron! He suggested it while editing the book, and I thought it was great too, so we kept it in.

Being an author/illustrator isn’t terribly different than being solely a writer, the main distinction is that you have a visual language to express the story as well. So I can employ the duel butterfly nets of text and images to capture the picture book ideas that flutter into view, jotting notes alongside small thumbnail sketches as I try to pin down plot/character/theme details. It becomes a balancing act of seeing which of the two, words or images, best conveys what needs to be communicated.Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack Rock Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack RockWhat’s your creative process like? Any weird routines? What’s your medium of choice?

My only real habit—creative or otherwise—are the nightly walks I take after work, allowing my legs and mind to wander. In fact, I got the original idea for Homer Henry Hudson during one of these constitutionals.

And for picture books I work almost exclusively in watercolor, though for other projects I work in pen and ink, digitally, or with accidental food stains.

Who are your literary and artistic heroes?

They’re all in the book! Along with Shaun Tan, Maurice Sendak and Lisbeth Zwerger—who I painted into a restaurant scene—there’s references to Søren Kierkegaard, Jorges Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Renee Magritte, Herman Melville, JD Salinger, George Orwell, Ingmar Bergman, Charles Schulz, and of course, Homer. Even my favorite comedian, Paul F Tompkins, whose podcasts kept me company during the long hours of illustrating the book, has a cameo as a pipe-smoking painting.Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack Rock

Do you have a favorite piece of artwork hanging in your house? Or a favorite tune that feels like art?

A few years ago, Adam Rex held a contest to see who could fit the best Halloween haiku into the constraints of a tweet. To my surprise he picked mine, and to my utter flabbergastination he went on to illustrate it and sent me the original art! It’s incredible. I framed it above my art desk as a reminder that, with hard work and dedication to my craft, I may one day hope to be the poor man’s Adam Rex.

Why books for kids?

One of the most valuable skills to possess is the ability to approach the world and its inhabitants with wonder, curiosity and interest. What’s great about kids is that they do this naturally and without being self-conscious. My hope is that Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum and future books will be something readers carry with them as they grow older and are tempted to lose that wonder, reminders there’s so much more to the world, the things in it, and yourself to discover if you approach life with an open heart.

Plus, I have nothing to say that couldn’t be said by a talking dog.Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack RockWhat’s next for you?

Another book for Creative Editions about the power of stories, this time from the perspective of an acrobatic pig.

How can we buy your book?

Through your local struggling independent bookseller. Or Powells.com. Or, sigh, Amazon.com.

What did I miss?

There are humanoid pears hanging in the first illustration of the museum interior, bottom of the page. Look past the table leg and Grecian urn. See that? It’s a butt!Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum by Zack RockbreakerI’m pretty sure that’s the first butt mention on this blog. Have any treasure-hunters? Or fans of hidden picture art? Since we all love talking dogs, this book is a great choice for all readers everywhere.

ch

 

 


Tagged: adam rex, color, creative editions, pattern, repetition, zack rock

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5. Color Corona from a Bright Sky


I'd like to wrap up our extended Watercolor Workshop Week by talking a little more about a light effect that I mentioned on the video "Watercolor in the Wild."

While I was painting this carriage house on location, I tried to convey the feeling that the sky was both very blue and very bright. I wanted to simulate an effect that I have noticed in photography, where a bright sky bleaches out the camera's receptors and then spills over into small forms, making them take on the blue of the sky. 

I painted a very light cool wash in the sky, and then laid in the turrets, tree trunks, and branches with a mid-range blue. I also used a blue-gray watercolor pencil for the branches. 

The scene didn't actually look this way to my eye—the sky actually looked like a light to mid-range high-chroma blue, and the branches looked extremely dark. I had to consciously override what I was perceiving and paint an effect that I was imagining. 

While I was painting the picture, I took a photo to see if the camera actually did see it that way, and sure enough, the small forms turned quite blue.

I used the same basic idea of colorizing small forms against a bright sky when I painted "Churchyard," the final demo on the video. This time, though, I wanted the sky to look warm, so I laid down a very light yellow-ochre wash and then drybrushed the branches using a dull orange watercolor.
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6. The Wonderful Egg and an interview with Flying Eye Books

The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar(image here.)

by Dahlov Ipcar (Flying Eye Books, 2014; originally published 1958.)

The great folks at Flying Eye sent me this book a while back, and I’ve been staring at it for weeks. Months. It’s enchanting. And simple. And complex. And a huge restoration effort, which was a bit mind-blowing to understand. That’s why I consulted the experts.

But if you don’t know Dahlov Ipcar and her bright body of work, check this out first:

breaker

Because her original plates were lost long ago, Flying Eye figured out a way to bring this story to many new readers. It’s remarkable. Here’s my conversation with Sam Arthur, Flying Eye’s Managing Director. And of course, some really beautiful art. (Click any of the images to enlarge.)

The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar

Can you describe the original way the art was created? I understand it to be color separated plates, but is that the best way to describe it? Sort of like a silkscreen process?

The original separations would have been created on drafting film or trace paper. In this way the process is very similar to preparing artwork for a silkscreen process. The main difference being that offset lithography allows for subtler more detailed textures than most screen printing processes as the ‘screen’ (meaning dots that make up the image – also known as half tone) is made up with smaller dots. I think Dahlov made her original artwork using mixed media, collage, pastel brush and wash.The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar

So the original art was unavailable, I assume? Can you describe the steps in the process to remaster the work?

The original artwork had been lost over the years, so our challenge was to recreate the new book using artwork from finished books that were from the original print runs (printed in the early 60s). All of the information we required was in these books. Most publishers would have simply scanned the images and printed them using standard CMYK reproduction (a composite image made up of dots using cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Our intentions were different, we wanted to produce the book in the same way as the original, which used 4 different special spot colours (or Pantone colours as they are now called).

In order to reproduce the book using the original printing technique, we had to recreate the original separations from the flattened, printed artwork. That was the tricky bit, we had to scan the artwork at very high resolution and then using photoshop un-pick the colours and put them into separate layers. The difficult thing is where the colours overlap each other, sometimes it’s difficult to see and it helps to have the original book to hand. So in the end the process uses photoshop selection tools, but also hand retouching. It’s a skilled job. The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov IpcarThe Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar

How many people worked on this? How long did it take and how long was it in the works?

The first book we did was The Wonderful Egg and it took 5 weeks to complete all of the images. There were two of us working on it, but we had a tight schedule and when it came to working on I Like Animals we had to call on three others to help us meet our deadline.

Was the way color was printed in the 1950s and 1960s drastically different from today? How?

In the 50s and 60s most of children’s books that were illustrated were printed using separations created by the illustrator. As time went on and technology improved illustrator’s artwork would be photographed and translated into CMYK separations using a photographic process. In the early days presumably this process was more expensive than simply asking illustrators to provide their own separations. Many children’s books also had a 4/2 colour scheme – meaning half of the book would include 4 colour images and the other half would have 2 colour images. This would save money in the printing process and also give the illustrator slightly less work to do on the 2 colour images. It does give these books a nice rhythm as you turn the pages. It was a practical consideration that has fed into the aesthetic, that’s quite interesting in itself.I Like Animals by Dahlov Ipcar

(image here.)

I’m curious if you got any backlash for republishing something with incorrect factual information? As a reader (and a librarian!) I love the choice, and see such value in preserving a particularly lovely era in picture books, but I wonder if you received any negative feedback. (Hope not.)

We have had a few comments, not really negative ones, more observations of the change in thought on the origin of dinosaurs etc. I think most people realise quickly that it’s an old title, so there is different kind of appeal when reading it. Also as I stated above the key story behind the egg, is still relevant in today’s thinking.I Like Animals by Dahlov Ipcar I Like Animals by Dahlov Ipcar

Why did you all decide to remaster this book, and are there plans for others as well? (We are thankful and we are hopeful, too!)

We decided to remaster this book as it felt quite contemporary in it’s treatment of the subject matter even though knowledge of the subject has changed, but the key message is still widely accepted in palaeontology. The illustrations are beautiful and we wanted to Dahlov’s this work to a new generation. This year we also released her book I Like Animals, next year we will be re-publishing Black & White and Wild & Tame Animals also by Dahlov Ipcar.I Like Animals by Dahlov Ipcarbreaker

Cool, right? What a legacy! Big thanks to Flying Eye for gathering us all around the campfire in celebration of great stories.

And speaking of color separations, check out this post at Seven Impossible Things for a look at how Jonathan Bean is doing the same thing in a contemporary picture book. Unreal. But very real, which is the great news.

ch

Thanks to the folks at Flying Eye (Tucker, Sam, and Emily!) for the images in this post. I received a copy of The Wonderful Egg, but all thoughts are my own.


Tagged: CMYK, color, dahlov ipcar, flying eye books, lithographs, printing, remastering

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7. Long Distance Swimmer

Long Distance Swimmer Illustration Christine Marie Larsen

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8. 'Girtin-spiration'

In the "Greenhouse" segment of my new video, Watercolor in the Wild, I mentioned that I ignored the green colors and painted the scene with browns, ochres, and blues instead. 

Why would anyone want to do that? Why not paint what you see? Let me explain that decision a bit more. 

Here's a photo of the scene as it appeared to the camera, with fairly strong greens.

This was the gamut, or range of colors, that I was interested in painting instead. It's a complementary slice of the color pie that ranges between blue and yellow-orange. Greens and reds are excluded.

What I was after was the most basic color scheme possible, just one step away from a monochromatic rendering.

I wanted to focus on the most basic dimension of color, warm vs. cool.

As I was painting, I was thinking of (though aware that I was falling far short of) one of my favorite English watercolorists, Thomas Girtin (1775-1802). Girtin was a friend and rival of J.M.W. Turner, but, sadly, he died young, just 27 years of age.

Thomas Girtin, Interior of Lindisfarne Priory, 1797
His skills were so formidable in his short life that Turner said, "Had Tom Girtin lived I should have starved".

Girtin's paintings have a wonderful otherworldliness that I adore. Part of his appeal is the way he restricts his painting to those bones of color.

Thomas Girtin, Guisborough Priory, Yorkshire 1801
How did he arrive at that? He must have been looking at greens and ignoring them.

But wait—Is it possible that he used a wide range of bright colors, and that the greens have faded? Well, yes, there might have been some color loss, especially in the reds.

Thomas Girtin, Ouse Bridge, York
But if his palette was anything like Turner's, according to Winsor and Newton, there really weren't that many reliable greens available at the time. There were some green earth pigments, but none of the greens that we're most familiar today. 

Copper arsenates, Emerald green, Viridian, and Phthalo green all came into use after Girtin's death.

Girtin, Dover
More than that, artists of the day were quite deliberate about restraint of color in landscape.  Here Girtin gives just the barest hint of green. The painting's reserve gives it a quiet dignity, a storybook quality.

You can find this chromatic reticence in the work of Claude Lorrain and Richard Parkes Bonington and so many others. In our own time, artists such as Andrew Wyeth, Erik Tiemens, Alan Lee, Brian Froud, and J.B. Monge have worked in very restricted palettes with wonderful emotional effects.

The way to get those effects is to either 1) Bring fewer paints in your sketch kit or 2) Ignore the colors you see and paint the colors in your head.
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Resources
To watch the greenhouse segment and the rest of my new video, pick up your copy of "Watercolor in the Wild":
HD download: (Credit Card) 
HD download: (Paypal) buy
DVD: (NTSC, Region 1) 
Digital creators: Learn more about selling content on Sellfy.

Previously on GurneyJourney:
Watercolor Materials
The Green Problem
Read more about Girtin and Turner's colors in "Palettes of the Masters: JMW Turner, via the Tate"
Winsor and Newton's essay about Turner's palette
Catalog to 2002 Girtin Exhibition: Thomas Girtin and the Art of Watercolor

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9. Life Ring

illustration of people in rowboat looking at a life ring by Christine Marie Larsen

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10. Pruett Carter's Palette


 

While I'm on the subject of American illustrator Pruett Carter (1891-1955), I thought I would share some notes about his palette and his use of light and color.


Here's his palette. Ernest Watson writes, "Note that the colors on the palette's edge follow the color circle of the spectrum—from ultramarine through the blues, greens, yellows and reds to alizarin and rose madder. The colors on the inside row are extra or additional pigments to be used for their particular color identity. The earth group—ochres and siennas—are kept by themselves at the top right of the palette."


In his early career, Carter, like Loomis, Lovell, Rockwell, and other contemporaries, worked within the confines of restricted color palettes. These two-color schemes were usually determined by the magazine, which could only afford black plus one other color of ink. This painting, for instance, would have been printed only in black and yellow, so all the cool colors had to come from grays. This discipline produced great colorists when the magazines made the full printer's palette available later on.

During the period that Carter worked exclusively from life, he would pose the models in a section of the studio where he could black out the ambient light and control the illumination with artificial lights only. However his painting area was under a skylight. Between the two parts of the studio, he drew a black curtain, opened just enough to see the models posing.

One other note: as Stuart Ng mentioned in the comments, Pruett Carter taught at Chouinard Art Institute, where one of his students was Mary Blair, a stylist for the Disney films, herself noted for her bold color designs. There's an exhibit of Mary Blair's work at the Disney Family Museum through September 7 which includes a Pruett Carter original.

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11. Pandemonium 2000

Pandemonium 2000 illustration by Christine Marie Larsen editorial and kid lit

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12. Martin Pebble

Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble (Phaidon, 2006; first published in French, 1969)

by Jean-Jacques Sempé

I love this book.

I love the type on the cover.

I love the yellow.

I love the shape and the size and the story.

I love Martin Pebble.

He’s loveable.

(I picked this up on a recent trip to Once Upon a Time in Montrose, CA, which is exactly why shopping in stores is the greatest thing. I had to touch this thing to believe it, and I might not have seen this thing if it weren’t for the bookseller. Bookstores are like story petting zoos and museums that don’t give you the stinkeye if you get too close to the art.)

(Something like that.)

But poor Martin Pebble.

Martin Pebble could have been a happy little boy, like many other children. But, sad to say . . . he had something that was rather unusual the matter with him:

he kept blushing.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques Sempé Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble blushes for all the usual reasons and for no reason at all. The brilliance of Sempé’s color here is hard to miss. Black and white line work contains the red of Martin’s face, and that red occasionally extends to the text as well.

Subtle. Striking.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéThe contrast Sempé crafts between Martin’s red face and all that black and white makes that blushing even worse.

Martin is in a pickle. He’s tiny and nearly lost on the page save for his giveaway condition.

He dreamed of fitting in.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéBut he always stood out.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéThen comes a series of sneezes, some very loud A T I S H O O s, and there he is.

Roddy Rackett, the new neighbor.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéWhen the story changes, and the hardships knock at the door, Sempé doesn’t just use the suspense of a page turn. He stops the story cold.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéRoddy Rackett’s family moves away.

When you are a boy, and when you are made normal in the quirks of another, you never really forget about it. You think about A T I S H O O s while you are doing grownup things like riding taxis and elevators.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéSometimes things get back to normal.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéI won’t spoil past that pink-lettered page.

But I love it.IMG_1250 copy

And!

Sempé himself sounds like a storybook character. He sold tooth powder door-to-door salesman! Delivered wine by bicycle! (More here.)

Click here for some of Sempé’s covers for The New Yorker. Lovely.

And this Pinterest board is a feast for the eyes, too. Enjoy!

ch


Tagged: color, contrast, Jean-Jacques Sempé, line, Martin Pebble, Phaidon, shape, size

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13. Shelling Peas

Christine Marie Larsen Illustration of a Woman Shelling Peas kidlitart

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14. The Queen of Colors

Queen of Colorsby Jutta Bauer (NorthSouth, 2014; originally published in Germany, 1998, as Die Königen der Farben.)

I love the work NorthSouth is doing, and this book in particular has stuck with me for a while.Queen of ColorsSo it’s a funny little book, but it’s also literally little, and there’s a lot of mayhem happening in such a small package. I think that’s smart.Queen of ColorsColor’s been on the brain a lot this week because I’m in the thick of teaching an Intro to Photoshop and Graphic Design class to kids. This has been a fun one to show them, because the colors in this book take on such a clear identity.Queen of ColorsBlue is soft and gentle. I love how the Queen is giving it a hug and kiss.Queen of Colors Queen of Colors Queen of ColorsRed barrels in and nearly knocks her over. It’s wild and dangerous.Queen of ColorsAnd then there’s Yellow. Warm and bright and sunshiny on her toes.

These colors have purpose, but when Matilda can’t control them, the whole mess turns Gray.Queen of Colors Queen of Colors It’s the same in art. Too many colors competing leaves you a whole lot of buzz and confusion. It doesn’t work.ThisDoesntWork(image source.)

This Gray sticks around for a while. It doesn’t work. Queen of ColorsQueen of ColorsBut it does make the Queen of Colors sad. Not gentle, not wild, not warm. Not colorful. 

So she cries. You’ll have to see for yourself what her tears do to the gray. Here’s a hint: it’s scribbles and stars and swirls. It’s a happy ending.

Color has a story, and it’s a story that matters.

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P.S.—Does Queen Matilda remind you a little bit of Queen Ursula from the Little Mermaid? I think it’s part her bossiness, and part her curves. I’m awful at remembering lines from films, but this is one that has stayed with me a long, long time. I think it’s thanks to the bubbles that shimmy out of her hind parts!

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Tagged: color, color theory, jutta bauer, north south

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15. another "fragile" idea

watercolor, gouache, colored pencil and collage



0 Comments on another "fragile" idea as of 7/10/2014 11:03:00 AM
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16. Jet and Bella

Christine Marie Larsen Illustration of Jet and Bella, black and tan hound and yellow lab puppy

I love doing commissions and this piece was especially delightful. Jet and Bella, though no longer with us, had a lovely relationship with Jet as an ever-patient mother to the young and rambunctious Bella. 

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17. Crosscut

Christine Marie Larsen Illustration of a couple with a crosscut saw cutting down a tall tree

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18. Poster Design for Pair

Poster design for Pair Food & Wine seattle restaurant. Illustration by Christine Marie Larsen

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19. The Birdhouse

Christine Marie Larsen Illustration of a woman and girl looking at a birdhouse in a tree. KidLitArt

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20. The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone (Candlewick, 2003)

by Timothy Basil Ering

I have a feeling this is one of those books that you either adore to hyperbolic proportions or is completely off your radar. 

I’m in the hyperbolic proportions camp, but it’s still a book I forget about. And then when I remember, I wonder how I forgot?!

So this is an origin story, one that starts in Cementland and ends in gritty beauty.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

The first spread is so perfect. A wide shot of Cementland, described as a dull, gray, endless place. A boy, arms open and striped in red, stands at your attention in the midst of all that gray. All of the lines and the stress and the mess lead you right to him.

This red-striped fellow believes treasure hides among the heaps of junk in Cementland, and in a triumphant moment finds a box bursting with color. Bright colored packages, but filled only with tiny gray specks.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil EringHundreds of them. Not wondrous riches.

He plants anyway. And after two or three minutes, nothing happens.

While he’s gone, thieves root and loot the plot. So this boy–this treasure hunter, gathers smelly socks, scraggly wires, and of course, a crown, and dubs his creation Frog Belly Rat Bone, the monster who will protect the specks. 

They are a duo with a mission and a patched together friendship that pays big rewards.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering 

That’s why Timothy Basil Ering’s use of texture is the only possibility for this type of storytelling. The art is the story. It’s stitched up. It’s not slick. It’s piled up and layered and cobbled together just like Frog Belly Rat Bone himself.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil EringThere’s warmth in the mess and intention in the scatter. It’s as beautiful as that treasure that the red-striped boy finds. And creates.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Eringbreaker

“…[W]hen I first made the dummy book for Frog Belly Rat Bone, naturally, I beat up some wood and sewed it all together. It gave it that nostalgic, cobbled-together look that’s just plain interesting to me. I wanted it to look like it was made the same way the little boy in the story makes Frog Belly, with just raw hand-stitching and splashes of paint.”

(That’s from here, which is a great read!)

It’s definitely one I want to share early in the year with our fourth graders who are the school’s expert gardeners. It would pair well with The Curious Garden (for obvious reasons) but also classic unlikely friendship stories. Isn’t a trash-made monster-thing with picky underwear a pretty unlikely friend? I’m thinking about Amos and Boris and Leonardo the Terrible Monster.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

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Giveaway Update: Thanks for playing! I’ve picked the winners, but I’m going to wait until my order comes in from the bookstore to share the spoils. We had to special order a few titles. Did you know your local indie will do that for you?! And then you get to go back. Stay tuned!


Tagged: candlewick, color, texture, timothy basil ering

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21. How to Hide a Lion

How to Hide a Lion by Helen Stephens

How to Hide a Lion (Henry Holt, 2013. Originally published 2012 in the UK.)

by Helen StephensLion5

 

One hot day, a lion strolled into town to buy a hat.

Of course he did. That frilly blue thing in the window is pretty fancy after all. This beast only has eyes for that bonnet, and bypassed the bakery without even a side eye. But while the beast has eyes for the bonnet, the townspeople have eyes for safety and decorum. They chase him out. 

And like any smart wild animal, he finds refuge in a kid. A kid who was not scared of him in the least. A kid who saw a problem that needed solving. A kid who saw her world differently. She knows he needs hiding, and I think that’s such a beautiful example of what it must be like to be a kid. You have this vague awareness of things that are problems for grownups, and yet you attack them as if those grownups are absurd. 

That’s kid truth. That’s a great thing for this lion.

There’s smushing behind the shower curtain, there’s lounging on the limb of a tree, and there’s plenty of bed-jumping. And still, when he overhears Iris’s parents saying there’s no such thing as a kind lion, there’s sadness.

But.

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The way Helen Stephens is using color in this book is both sweet and striking to me. This lion, large and yellow, takes up a lot of space on pages of close ups. And his girl, Iris, matches him a bit with her yellow arms and brown mane. That’s sweet. That’s friends who can see themselves in each other.

But the blues. Loose complements to the wild yellow of the beast, the wild brown of Iris’s hair. Ever notice when a book is cracked open, the edges of the cover frame it a bit? This one is blue, a lovely turquoise. The endpapers are a shade of sky and a deep navy. Those pages and that cover peek around the story itself.

A little touch of blue, giving this lion a hug.

Just like Iris. Lion3Lion2

These vignettes! The gag is a an unhide-able lion, right? It’s an impossibility that’s highlighted with the use of these orange-yellows and blues. 

After the lion escapes his Iris-refuge, he blends in to his surroundings. A camouflaged cat, if you will. He holds his breath between two marble-sculpted friends. I don’t want to show you the spread, cause Big Things Happen, but take a look at the colors of that page. His hiding is a success. No need for blues to offset his presence. 

Also, I love how this book is pretty big. That’s obviously not a very technical or artistic term to to reference trim size, but it’s true. A lion is tricky to hide, and the physical space this book takes up is the gentlest nod to the absurdity of that task. Besides, a lion wouldn’t fit in a smaller book, right? 

He’d be much harder to hide that way.Lion4ch

PS: Be sure to visit this post from Danielle at This Picture Book Life. There’s some secret-spoiler-y-easter-egg things on the pages of this book, and her post is the coolest.


Tagged: color, color theory, complementary colors, helen stephens, how to hide a lion, shape, size

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22. Flood waters

Flood Waters Illustration Christine Marie Larsen

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23. Over the Falls

Blue Dress: Over the Falls. Illustration by Christine Marie Larsen

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24. Flashlight and an interview with Lizi Boyd

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

by Lizi Boyd (Chronicle Books, 2014.)

I really love Lizi Boyd’s work. It’s this perfect mix of oh, of course and oh, I never. Once upon a time I wrote about Inside Outside over on Design Mom, and I’ve been looking forward to this new book for a good while. It’s a great thing to have room for more.

And can you stop looking at that cover? I can’t. It’s beckoning, it’s comforting, it’s hurry-up-and-get-adventuring.

So I was lucky enough to have a chat with Lizi Boyd about creating books, the sound of picture books, her process, and her dogs. Thanks for welcoming your book to the world with us this way, Lizi.

(Click any of the images to enlarge.)breakerCan you talk about where this book came from? Was it always in the pipeline along with Inside Outside, or did working in that form spark the idea for Flashlight?

One night when I was working on Inside Outside I realized the dogs had been out for a long time. It was very dark and I took a flashlight to look for them. I heard noises in the field and when I flashed the light suddenly there was color; their eyes, collars, the apples and grasses. It was so cool! And then I thought, oh, a book. I couldn’t wait to get inside and google around to see if it had been done. It seemed so utterly simple and wonderful. I began the sketches for it the next day. So, yes, Inside Outside influenced the idea because in working on that book it was utterly quiet and still in my studio and that encouraged the idea for Flashlight.Flashlight by Lizi BoydHow do you know when something is working, and how do you know when something is overworked?

When it’s a wordless book I need to just go along with a very quiet head and allow the idea to tell itself. I actually have to ‘see’, by making the drawings, where it’s going to take me. And I need a completely empty house because my studio is in our house.

Mostly I know when to pause and wait it out or take the dogs for a good long walk and think about what I’m working on. That being said I just filled up a box with sketches for other projects that are little beginnings and seem not to be ready to tell me what they’re about and where  they’d like to go.

Why do you think your stories are best suited to the form of the picture book? And specifically in Flashlight, I feel like a sensibility exists with the excitement and adventure of something so seemingly dangerous: the night, the dark, the strange creatures. Can you talk to that a bit?

It hadn’t occurred to me until I was making Inside Outside that a book and its story could belong to the readers ‘telling of the story’ not just the one the author is writing and illustrating. Picture books are all about this but I want to see how far I can stretch this idea. So I’ll surprise you by saying that the nighttime element; the dark, the strange creatures, a sense of danger was never part of my thinking. My sons weren’t afraid of the dark. The notebook I kept while working on Flashlight has these words; story + imagination + silence. Sound/elemental. A book one can ear if one really listens. (One does ‘hear’ books!)Flashlight by Lizi BoydCan you talk about the physical design of the book? The paper, the ink, how you got such lush blacks (which I think is difficult!) and how you engineered the peeks and surprises of the die cuts? Did the design of the book drive what had to happen in the story or vice versa?

I tried out several shades of gray / black papers and settled on the blackest one. I loved the way the beam of the light popped and the colors too, all of which needed to be painted over several times to get their finished strength. The die cuts were made with templates so on the finished illustrations there weren’t any holes just a tracing of where the cuts would be made. This part was difficult and there were quite a few changes done by Sarah Gillingham, art director, with her brilliant eye and computer skills! Many of the die cuts surprised us.

What are some of your favorite books and/or art from childhood? What is your favorite piece of art hanging in your home or studio?

I grew up in an artistic, visually inspired house. Our mother was a mid-century potter who moved her studio from NYC to VT. There were lots of books every kind; art, nature, children’s books and interesting objects of design all around us.

I love primitive masks and have a few real beauties. (A man recently came with his five-year-old son and said, “Do these masks frighten you?” – something that hadn’t occurred to me. His son was so busy with his iPad that I don’t think he noticed them. Maybe they could have frightened him away from his iPad for a moment?)Flashlight by Lizi BoydWhat modern picture books do you look to for inspiration and encouragement?

I have a stack of picture books in the studio. My friends, far and wide, send me books from everywhere; France, Italy, Germany. And I have some new ones from Chronicle, all exquisite; the printing, the paper and the design. Flashlight became the book it is because of Chronicle’s eye, care and hand in the myriad production details.breakerAnd take a look at this lovely trailer for more of a sense of Flashlight’s magic.

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To all of our boxes of little beginnings!

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Thanks to Chronicle Books for the images, a review copy of the book, and connecting me to Lizi Boyd. Thoughts and opinions my own. 


Tagged: chronicle books, color, contrast, die cut, flashlight, inside outside, lizi boyd, shape

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25. Neptune

Christine Marie Larsen Illustration of a sexy Neptune

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