Last year for Valentine’s Day, I wrote a poem about a smitten porcupine who marries a skunk- though he objects to her scent. If you would like to read (or reread) it, here’s the link: Will You Be My Valentine? And here is the new poem I wrote for today:
What Skunk Had to Say
Oh Porcupine, my Porcupine
My dearest darling Valentine,
You say that I’m a smelly one
And so I have been told,
But you, my prickly one, I wed
To have but not to hold.
Alas, you are not huggable,
But still you are my mensch.
For better or for worse, my dear,
In fresh air and in stench.
Oh Porcupine, my Porcupine
My dearest darling Valentine,
Be kind and do not hold your nose
And run out of the room
If I should overwhelm you
With my signature perfume.
You made a serious wedding vow
To love me all your life,
But please, my dear, accept you have
A stinker for a wife.
By Iza Trapani 2-13-2014 ©
Happy Valentine’s Day to all you stinkers out there!
And this week the wonderful Linda Baie at TeacherDance is hosting Poetry Friday. Please be sure to stop by and read some other poems!
A question from a reader:
What happens if you make a watercolor mistake, how do you determine if it is still ok, or you fix it as much as you can, do you still show the publisher? Especially if it is a piece you have put in long hours, a lot of people say only the artist can see the mistake as we are the most critical; still, the publisher may be even more so. In my own painting, some cupcakes did not turn out as I’d hoped, but I wonder could they be photoshopped later by the publisher, if the artist doesnt have photoshop? My main question is, do you re do the whole thing for one little area of a large painting or see if it can be salvaged via photoshop first?
They say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is that the professional knows how to fix mistakes. That is true to some degree, but not entirely. Even professionals have to start over at times.
In my watercolor illustrations, I improve my chances for fixing mistakes by using a good quality 300 lb paper that can take a good deal of reworking. So, if I make a mistake or don’t like a color, I can usually lift it out with a sponge or a felt nib. This has to be done gently so as not to tear the paper fibers. Most colors will lift out fairly easily. Some pigments, however will stain the paper. At that point, if the stain is very light, I may still be able to repaint over it. If it’s too dark and a large area, I will most likely have to redo the entire painting.
Sometimes I will use gouache to paint over small areas with remaining stain. It’s more opaque and covers better. This has to be reserved for spots that aren’t too obvious and it has to blend in with the rest of the painting. Watercolor pencils come in handy too for small spots that need a fix.
I have also fixed small spots where stain remained by letting the painting dry completely then scratched out the stain with an Exacto knife and then used some fine grit sandpaper to smooth it out. This, of course, changed the texture of the paper, but it was not an obvious spot and the end result was acceptable. I knew that it would reproduce well.
Conversely, I have drawers filled with paintings I have started and abandoned. This complex scene from Jingle Bells took me 55 hours to paint.
I had started several paintings of this scene and had almost finished one (50 hours or so) when I decided the colors were muddy because I had overworked it by adding too many layers of paint. It wasn’t just a part of the picture that didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, but the entire image. Even if I used photoshop, it would not have helped in this instance. (This is a photo of the original painting. The lighter green area on lower right is where the text was placed.)
Yes, we artists are our own worst critics, but that is what keeps us improving. I never send my art to the publisher unless I feel I have done my best at the time. I do not use photoshop to fix mistakes. Yes, it would make my life a lot easier if I had a big scanner and was apple to manipulate my art in photooshop. But I’ll leave that up to the experts for now. My art directors do the high res scanning of my paintings and they do a beautiful job of getting the images very close to the originals. They even look better! They do not like to alter my images in photoshop. If they feel something has to be redone, they’ll send the painting back to me. I once had to redo a tiny ladybug in flight because I did not paint the wings right! I have learned since that its outer shell splits to reveal the wings. It was an easy fix because I could lift out the color and paint over it.
from Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush
Some final tips:
Work lightly to build up to the darker colors. That way you can see the image take shape and see if the colors are working. Be careful not to build up too many layers and risk muddying the colors.
Choose non-staining pigments. You can do a test of all the colors you have by painting a small sample swatch, letting it dry completely and then seeing how it lifts out with a soft sponge.
Choose good quality paper.
Do color studies prior to the final painting to work out the colors.
When you are ready to start the final, work on the hardest part first, (For me it’s the faces, especially people’s.)
Questions are always welcome. I will answer them in a post like this.
(Sunrise in Maine, August 2013)
A new day, a new year. My warmest wishes for all your new beginnings! I hope you enjoyed very happy holidays and that 2014 is off to a great start for you! More
From our house to yours a very Merry Christmas and warmest greetings of the season!
Here is our tree with real candles. Traditionally we light the candles, turn off the lights, sing a few carols then scurry to blow out the candles. Though we keep fire extinguishers nearby, we have yet to use them. We are very careful- from choosing a tree that is not too dense to keeping a watchful eye . The beauty of a candlelit tree can not be surpassed.
Wishing you a peaceful, joyful holiday and all the best for the New Year! See you in 2014!
One of the biggest challenges in illustrating picture books is maintaining consistency from page to page.We have to make sure the character(s) look the same as viewpoints change. How do we do that? By drawing many, many rough sketches to develop the character, and by keeping it simple. Even though my paintings tend to be rich in detail, and showing volume, light and shadow, the characters are still cartoon-like and simple. Notice Little Miss Muffet‘s face: Her nose is a little u-shaped stroke. Her eyes are basically two dots, with half circles over them. (click to enlarge)
When I trace my sketch onto the watercolor paper and start painting, the challenges increase. Now, I have to maintain consistency in the colors and patterns. Much of this I do by eye. After many years of experience, I can usually match a color, but it does make it easier if I jot down some notes. Often, I will do sample color studies, and then I will scribble some notes. I tend to get caught up in the moment, and am not very neat or systematic. In the image below, I made notes of the colors I used as I started painting the finals. Sloppy yes, because I was painting and making notes simultaneously, but it does make sense to me!
The images below are from a book I illustrated for Eve Bunting- The Wedding. Lots of animal characters in this one, and the brindle cow was especially challenging. Of course, I applied her spots somewhat randomly , but I did place some bolder ones in specific places to maintain uniformity:
Though the angles change, the characters’ colors, features, sizes and accessories are consistent. There is no mistaking who’s who.
Consistency in setting is also critical. The shapes, colors, textures, details, light source, etc., all have to be as accurate as possible. And not only in appearance, but where they are placed. if a tree is to the right of a character in one view and on the next page the view is reversed, then the tree has to be on the left.
In the following scene, I started to paint the final, showing the window on the right (as I had incorrectly drawn it in my dummy sketch.) Luckily, I caught my mistake and redid the painting with the window where it should be- on the left:
It can get tricky, so I do have to stay on top of it. For my Haunted Party book, which all takes place in a haunted house, I made myself a floor plan to make sure I had windows, doors, etc, properly placed. I can’t find that one to show you, but now I am working on an extension of Old King Cole (Fall 2015) and I made this little sketch to help me visualize the hall and to maintain architectural consistency. Again, it’s a quick, rough sketch, but it gives me an idea of where I am going.
To new illustrators submitting sample to publishers, the best advice I can give is to show some sketches of a character or characters in the same setting, but with varying viewpoints, sizes and perspectives. Make sure to maintain consistency in both characters and setting. This is not easy (for me, anyway ) but an editor and art director will want to see that you are up to the task. I would show both black/white and color samples. Before submitting, let your work sit for a couple of weeks or longer, then go back to it. You may find errors or rough spots that you’ll want to improve.
And one more tip- do your sketches on tracing paper, or put them up to a mirror. If they don’t look right on the reverse page (or in the mirror) then something is wrong- the eyes are uneven, the ears too low, the nose off center, or something like that.
Be critical of your work and keep striving to improve. When you feel you’ve done your absolute best, then go ahead and submit your samples. You may see things wrong with them somewhere down the line, as you improve, but do feel that you have put in your best effort at the time of submission.
Again, please feel free to ask me any specific picture book making questions and I will be glad to answer them in a post like this!