It's a lonely life...that of the necromancer, er freelancer

A blog by a designer and illustrator, for designers and illustrators which may contain musings on art, movies and random weirdness.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NESCBWI - Illustration Challenge

My wife Amy and I are attending the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators New England conference in Springfield, MA this April. I just joined SCBWI this year and this will be my first conference as a member. I have worked as a graphic designer for almost exactly 30 years, and although it pays the bills (mostly) my first love has always been illustration. To that end, I am trying to jump into the illustration field.
In keeping with the conference theme, "Think Outside the Crayon Box!", and to "get your creative juices working" SCBWI holds an illustration challenge. Your artwork is displayed at the conference all day Saturday for everyone to see. It is a great portfolio building exercise and a wonderful
promotional opportunity. The Challenge for this year was:
We would like you to illustrate this single line of text for a double-page spread of a picture
book: “Don’t worry–I fixed it.” Interpret in any way you like.
So first, I did some thumbnail sketches.

I like to work small, really small. These sketches are all about 3" x 2". I drew them in pencil and then colored them with ink and watercolor. I did (8) sketches total. I showed the sketches to my illustration critique group. They felt that some ideas were not appropriate for a children's book, and some were not that clear. The two they liked the most were the "Alien Garage" (upper left hand corner) and the "Mermaid Patching Job" (right hand top), but they had suggestions for changes on both of them.
"Alien Garage" shows an large orange alien mechanic finishing up repairs on a flying saucer belonging to a young girl astronaut, and her blue-skinned companion. The repairs have not gone well, and the saucer is definitely not space-worthy despite the alien's assurances.
Some issues pointed out for Alien Garage: it lacked context. Where was it located? What made it alien? Also; the body language of the children was not clear. What were they feeling?
"Mermaid Patching Job", shows a mermaid just finished repairing a hole in a rowboat that has struck a submerged rock, by covering it with a large starfish, and giving the "OK" sign to the little girl in the boat, while her father examines the strange patch. Issues with Mermaid Patching Job were mostly with it not being clear what the mermaid is doing. Is she finished patching the hole or is she assisting the "captain" figure with the patching? They wanted to see more context, more obvious damage to the boat, more clues as to what had happened. They also wanted the mermaids head farther out of the water, and her hair to cover her "side-boob".
I couldn't choose between the two until I had done some more work on them. So I took the two selections and reworked them.

First of all, now that I had two fairly solid ideas, I would need to rework them to the proportion of the final specifications, which was 10" x 16", the equivalent of a 2-page spread. Since at this point I was leaning heavily towards the mermaid idea, I extended the mermaid in watercolor, but only did the alien garage digitally.

I showed my group the revisions. They thought they were an improvement, but still thought they both needed additional work. Especially the mermaid. I did further sketches/revisions.

I changed the position of the "captain" figure, and adjusted the position of the mermaid so that her head was farther out of the water, and her hair was covering her upper torso. I added broken pieces of the boat to the water, and made the starfish "patch" larger and brighter. Although I liked it, I decided I liked the alien garage better.
I started to work on the finished piece. I added a lot more detail to let the viewer know that the spaceship was having issues. More broken wires, leaks, sparks flashing, essential-looking components strewn about. I had done sketches of various spacecraft components to populate the area around the ship.

Here is the final pencil sketch on Bristol board with all of the major elements in place.

I then started laying in the values using Payne's Gray acrylic paint.

Finally I started adding the color. Here is the color version of the painting.

I scanned the final illustration, did a bit of touch-up and color adjustment in Photoshop, brought it into InDesign and set the text. Here is the version that will be on display at the conference.

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