Friday, May 25, 2007

Getting to the Value Study Stage

We only have three more illustration classes left (sob!). The goal now is to come up with three finished pieces of art using the sketches we've done so far. I've selected two of the scenes. Not sure which the third will be. First, I'm going to do "Last to come in was the old gray cat." I posted a thumbnail for this sketch earlier. Here is a more developed sketch--I'm still not happy with the proportion/perspective:

I need to make the wedding party smaller to increase the sense of height in the room and not make the bugs seem out of proportion with the cats. I like how one of the cats is looking at the reader. I learned this is called a "cheat." I wanted to make sure the reader understood these figures as cats.

The next scene I am definitely doing is the proposal scene. I started by creating the finished sketch/value study for the protrait of Uncle Rat. Then I will do the scene with Froggy and Miss Mousie. One of the things this stage requires is fully developing the characters. I had to think about Uncle Rat. I want him to look stern and vaguely threatening in the portrait, yet still a bit comical, so he isn't terrifying. I'm pretty happy with this drawing:

I like how Uncle Rat is holding sheaves of wheat. I have decided he is a miller. Portraits done in the 1700s often showed a clue about the person's profession. I based this portrait on a few done in the late 1700s. I'll scan them in later to show here on the blog.

Next stage will be to do the scene with Froggy and Miss Mousie (see post below for explanation of how this spread will be laid out).

New Scenes from Froggy

Well, the next assignment in my class was to sketch three pivotal scenes in the story (Froggy Went a Courting). I had a very hard time with this assignment--definitely using some brain pathways I am not very familiar with. My drawing really has to come up to speed. What I'm realizing is that unlike painting, where you can kind of edit the composition to match your skill set, with illustration, there are just some things you have to put in. So here are some of my efforts, with notes attached:

The text for this sketch was: "He took Miss Mousie on his knee and said Miss Mousie will you marry me. Without my uncle Rat's consent, I wouldn't marry the president."

This was the only one of my three sketches that was really well-received. I had to agree, because the other two were just causing me all kinds of problems (as you will see later). The guys thought this sketch was good "storytelling," and they liked how I introduced Uncle Rat in the scene by way of the portrait. Their main suggestions were: crop the image to get closer, have the portrait spotlighted on the facing page, and only show a portion of it in the larger image. Here is the sketch the guys suggested:

The next scene I chose was: "Where should the wedding supper be, way down yonder in the hollow tree." I didn't hate this sketch--it has a nice layout, I think. The guys, however, felt it missed the main point of the text, which was to introduce the Hollow Tree--the scene for most of the action in the story. Here's the layout they suggested, which really shows the tree as a destination. One of the amazing things about my teachers is that they can come up with amazing visual problem solving on the spot.

I'm not even going to show the third scene because the issues are so similar to what I just showed in the Hollow Tree scene. I need to focus on the storytelling a little more and think about what I really want to say with layout.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rojankovsky's Cat

Feodor Rojankovsky won a Caldecott Medal for his illustrations of Frog Went a Courtin way back in the 50s. I thought I'd show how he treated the same text I'm working on. This is obviously "the moment."
Rojankovsky was a Russian who was obviously influenced by folk art. I believe my tastes were influenced by him at an early age, both directly and indirectly. Many of the books I loved that were published in the 70s took their cue from his line-heavy work; loose, rangy rendering; and flat perspective. Other books that came after that rely on this style include Just Right by Lilian Moore with illustrations by Aldren Watson and The Fox illustrated by Peter Spier (also a Caldecott winner). Rojankovsky also reminds me of the work of Roger DuVoisin, but DuVoisin worked earlier and contemporaneously with Rojankovsky, and the two must have been aware of each other.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Before/Moment/After Assignment

This week's assignment is to choose a moment in the text, then illustrate the moment, as well as the moment before the moment and the moment after the moment. Got it? The idea is that those moments can actually be more powerful than the moment itself visually, because they contain tension and release. I'm continuing with Froggy. This time, I've chosen the climax of the story, "Next to come in was the old gray cat, ate up the mouse and swallowed the rat." I've conceived of the cat as a British commander and Froggy as a revolutionary spy.

Before #1

In this version, the cat and his two cronies watch the procedings from outside. They are strategizing their attack. I like this version because it emphasizes their role as soldiers.

Before #2

This version of before is probably better. The composition is more interesting. It emphasizes the "catness" of the villains rather than the "soldierness."

The Moment

In this sketch, Mrs. Cow flees in horror as the old gray cat eats Miss Mousie (left), and the cat cronies hold Froggy pinned by their bayonets.


Froggy, having escaped, is running away, while one cat tries to shoot him with a musket.