When I sat down to write about my process, I found I was having trouble with how to put it into words and pictures. So much of what I do is intuitive, messy and defies explanation. Ideas come. I sit and draw at my desk. Sometimes there's a book (more likely a dummy-book). Done!
So, which stage should be singled out for discussion? I decided to focus on the 'desk' stage,-the stage where I have an idea (inspiration has struck) I’ve cleared work time, and am at my desk, working on it.
Here’s a desk shot. At the top of my desk are thumbnails for a book idea that came upon me a couple of days ago. I like it and think it has potential, but I’m working on some spot illustrations of babies for my website right now, so I can’t jump on it right away. BUT, I know the danger of not thumb-nailing (is that a verb? It is for kid-lit artists...) the idea out.
I used to think jotting down the idea was enough, and I do that, but as soon as possible, I have to thumb-nail it out or the idea loses it’s juice for me. I'll revisit it and have no idea what I was thinking. Thumb-nail sketches are initially very rough, but they show me how I thought the idea could become a book. Once that’s done, I can safely return to what I was doing for a while.
As I mentioned, I’m working on some spot illustrations of babies for my website, which will be re-vamped very soon. I plan to have a ‘baby’ section. This was inspired by a talk given by Kelly Sonnack (Literary Agent) at the recent SCBWI Art Director’s Day. She mentioned that there seems to be a demand for illustrators who can draw babies. I can do that!,... but I don’t have many babies represented on my website. I plan to change that. Oh, a very important aside, I am now represented by the esteemed Kelly Sonnack of the reputable Andrea Brown Literary Agency. I’m thrilled!
But, back to my drawing board, and my baby sketch (actually this baby is more of a toddler).... I sketch with black Prismacolor pencil on Seth Cole #58 Heavy weight roll tissue. I start very small at first, but I’m most comfortable with a sketch around half scale. I do about a million traces, and then I use a skinny black pen to trace (usually Pigma Graphic 1, sometimes a rapidograph, sometimes a nib-pen).
I block out color with AD Markers on the tissue (this is the ONLY way I like marker...on tissue,- it has a water-color like quality). Marker on tissue is a remnant from my architecture days...I’m comfortable, and fast, with this media. I don’t spend too much time here, I’m just getting a general palette. Another aside: I'm playing with scanning in my marker studies to retain more looseness...always evolving...)
I scan my Prismacolor sketch into Photoshop (not the color study), drop out the background and create a multiply layer for my line. Then I block in color on other layers, & refine little details. This stage is hard to describe because it involves so much intuition, going back and forth between layers. There’s not much rhyme or reason...it’s pretty hectic. But, after a while it gets done. BTW, this baby is NOT done yet (about half-way).
The following list are things that help me settle in and work for extended periods of time without fidgeting (too much). They are so important to my work process that I don’t attempt work for long stretches without them:
Relative tidiness. I’m not maniacally neat, but I am distracted by mess. (OCD thing)
A good audiobook.
Exercise. Sitting at your desk is good after exercise. Your muscles are tired and not itching to wander around.
Water, coffee or tea.
Foot heater (for spring, winter, fall, but not in the summer).
I feel the need to add that I LOVE, absolutely LOVE, being at my desk, working! Fortune has smiled on me!