At 9:00 last night I put the last brush stroke on the art for the book jacket. This morning I sent the painting to Boston. And if all goes well, that should be IT for this book. I can't quite get my mind around the fact that it's done! What will it feel like to make another Small Book, just for fun? I can't wait to find out. Please stay tuned...
I went away for about ten days in mid-October. Before I left, I finished the last spread of the book (above). When I came back, I finished the title page (below). Barring unforeseen circumstances, this seems to mean that the interior of the book is finished. I can't quite grasp that concept, yet. And I still have to paint the front and back jackets. I don't want to tempt fate by shouting from the rooftops. But I am allowing myself to cheer, in a teeny-tiny voice: yahooo!
Before: This morning, I was still putting last-minute touches on the paintings. They've been hanging on my walls since June.
I packaged and labelled each picture separately, sandwiched the whole batch between two sheets of stiff cardboard, double-wrapped it in plastic and brown paper, and sealed it with plenty of packing tape. Woohoooooo!
I just spent five days in this chair, doing a big push on the book. Twenty-seven of the 28 interior paintings are done. The 28th is still under discussion with the editor, and the jacket illustrations, title page, endpapers and any revisions will come later. But these 27 will soon go into the mail--glory halleluiah! Now it's time to get back to the dayjob. Meanwhile, here are a few more before-and-afters:
Nothing comes between me and these paintings. Hahaha. I'm still adding details and shading--walking that fine line between "too little" and "too much." It feels like I'm starting to see the light at the end of this ten-year-long project. A few more weeks should do it. I'm almost afraid to say that out loud!
Now that my walls are covered with the broad-strokes, it's time to zero in on the details--adding shadows, punching up the contrast between bright and dark colours, and waiting for the "click" feeling that means a picture is finished.
It's strangely nerve-wracking. Things can go wrong at this stage. If I push too far, I can ruin a picture. But if I hang back, the picture feels raw and unresolved. Did Jackson Pollock ever feel this way when he was flinging paint around?
When I stand back and stare at my walls (yes, you've seen my walls!) the weekend's progress isn't obvious. But these before-and-after photos make me feel better. Slowly but surely, things are moving forward. I'll show you some more, soon!
My first version of this painting (the middle picture in the photo above) was long and narrow, with a blue sky. But the layouts called for a different shape--and that meant moving the little girl and the two women into a new position, in front of the ship. Since there's noclick-and-drag option in watercolour, I had to re-draw and re-paint.
Unfortunately, there's no undo button, either. So when I screwed up the second version by painting the sky yellow and then layering blue on top, I ended up with a mess (the top picture in the photo above.) Check out that puce-coloured sky. What was I thinking?! It looks even worse in real life.
This weekend I had the pleasure of doing-over my previous do-over, and fortunately I was happier with the result.
There are still a few details to add, but this one is almost finished. Let's hope it'll be a case of "third time lucky!"
Meanwhile, here's a slightly-blurry summary of my progress during the past four days. I'm reasonably satisfied, but there's still a lot of work left to do. Next week I'll zoom in on some details so you can see what I mean. Thanks for keeping me company on this long journey!
I thought you might like a break from the endless photos of my wall, so I zoomed-in for a closer look at one picture. It took about three weeks to paint this--partly because of my dayjob and other commitments, and partly because I like to work on several pictures at the same time.
I used an old watercolour trick to create the starry effect. When the paint is not too wet nor too dry you scatter some salt on it. In a moment of insanity, I tried to use sea-salt. Yikes! The grains were too big. I could see right away that the starry effect wasn't going to happen, and to make matters worse, the grains were going to stick to the picture like little boulders. I ran to the kitchen, flipped the painting over, banged the bad salt into the garbage, grabbed the shaker from the cupboard and dashed it all over my picture.
It was pepper. Hahahaha! Lord love a duck. So I had to tip that into the garbage, as well. Meanwhile, the paint kept getting drier and drier. I threw some table-salt on it and waited nervously to see what would happen. Against all odds, it came out quite well. Good enough to eat, even. Ha.
And for dessert, here's the latest picture of my wall. I know you're just dying to see it. More soon!
Here's another before-and-after: last week (above) and this week (below).
Meanwhile, the street scene from my last blog-post is still in a state of flux. When I finally get permission to ink-and-paint that one, there will be dancing in the streets! Until then...back to the drawing board. Literally. More soon...!
click to enlarge The editor asked me to make this street scene more child-friendly and multicultural, and to incorporate more unusual street noises into the scene. But getting from the old version (top) to the new version (bottom) wasn't as straightforward as I expected. As usual, I bumbled my way from here to there! click to enlarge click to enlarge Did I nail it? We'll see what she says. More soon!
Why does it take so long? I don't know. It just does! Here's a snapshot of the work in progress. I'll post another soon, so you can see how things develop. It'll be like a time-lapse photo, in slow motion!
Then, all of a sudden, the publisher needed sketches for the book jacket--a thing I hadn't even begun to think about. It was a steep learning curve for me, full of back-and-forth, hurry-up-and-wait, and it's not over yet! But so far, the process has gone roughly like this:
Ideas for the Endpapers
A Jacket Sketch with an "Active" Feeling
A Jacket Sketch with a "Quieter" Theme
Now we wait for feedback from the sales and marketing team. In the meantime, I've gone back to my previously scheduled plan: inking, painting, inking, painting...and pausing once in a while to touch base with you. Thanks for keeping me company on this long journey!
(P.S. Were you surprised by the shape of the book jackets? They're designed to wrap around the whole book, and they include those flaps that fold inside the front and back covers to hold the jacket in place. That's why they look so long and skinny.)
I spent the weekend working on sketches for the book cover. The publisher wants to see two versions: one "quiet/still" and one "busier/more active."
Two covers means four paintings, because each book has a front and back cover. Another ten or twelve hours should be enough to finish these off. But now it's time to iron some clothes, make myself presentable, and go to work!
My mistake-o-rama starts with this sketch of a scene from an opera called The Tender Land, by Aaron Copland. The editor has written on the layout "show more of the SOUND, instead of the literal crowd and stage."
First I have to transfer the measurements from the printed layouts onto my computer screen. The editor uses inches. I use centimeters. My software uses a grid that is neither one nor the other. Let the mathematical mistakes begin! (Dad, stop laughing.)
Next I have to figure out how to show SOUNDS. Write words onto the picture? Make swirly or spiky marks? I don't love those ideas, and I don't think they would fit with the rest of the book. I decide to zoom up close to the argument, show the characters shouting, and put as many noisy elements into the picture as possible.
I draw for nearly an hour before I realize I don't know what I'm doing. Exactly how do people stand when they're arguing? What do they do with their hands? Mistake number two--trying to draw without reference photos. I stop and do some research, and make a collage.
The photo of the kid covering his ears is a nice surprise. It strikes me as a great way to convey SOUND. In the opera, the men are arguing about a girl, so why don't I put her front and centre, with her hands over her ears?
Back to the drawing board. Mistake, mistake, mistake. Erase, erase, erase. Start again and again.
I'm drawing like mad when an awful thought hits me: does the girl really appear on stage in the argument scene? It's been months since I did the research for the original drawing. I remember the argument, but not the girl. Maybe she's not even in that scene!
Pause for opera-viewing. Luckily, there's a version of The Tender Land on YouTube. Unluckily, it's divided into twelve sections. I finally find "my" scene about halfway through section 8. And...tah-dah! Yes, the girl really is there. Whew. Mistake narrowly averted. I add a crowing rooster and barking dog for good measure. Here's the sketch I'll submit:
Will this picture will even make it into the book? Or will it be cut in the next round of revisions? I'd say there's about a 50-50 chance. We'll see!