Composition

Wordless Picture Books

This past week, we were studying wordless picture books. Here is my discussion post answering questions such as some favorite wordless picture books and whether we thought wordless picture books could be improved with words or vice-versa, whether there were picture books with words that could published as wordless.

A prime contender for my favorite wordless picture book is Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. It tells a metaphorical story about the immigrant experience, with a poor man leaving home on a steamship in order to support his family, and finding himself in a bizarre new world. Many aspects of immigration are reflected: confusion, frustration, tedious manual labor, and the dangers of war, but also the joys of making new friends, discovering new experiences, and finding ways to support the people you love. The world of The Arrival is visually set in the early 20th century, and the art style is modeled after the sepia photographs of those periods, making the strange creatures and environments feel all the more otherworldly. The lack of words helps to make the reader’s connection with the immigrant protagonist all the more direct, as he struggles to figure out an often difficult to comprehend new environment. In Tan’s own words, “Words have a remarkable magnetic pull on our attention, and how we interpret attendant images: in their absence, an image can often have more conceptual space around it, and invite a more lingering attention from a reader who might otherwise reach for the nearest convenient caption, and let that rule their imagination.”

arrival-1

arrival-2

A wordless picture book that I haven’t read in its entirety, but is pretty good from what I’ve seen, is Journey by Aaron Becker. I like it because of its sense of wonder, and its simple, positive message about creative works can break boundaries and reach out to other people. The lack of words in this book, again, helps to place the reader in the protagonist’s place, as they discover the possibilities of their creativity over the story’s course.

journey-2

I kind of can’t name any wordless books that I think would be improved by words. Wordless picture books have their own strengths as a format; they have a certain element of discovery to them, as the reader pieces together events without the aid of a narrative text. There are some books could be adapted pretty simply, if not necessarily improved, into effective wordless books. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are comes to mind, as do some of Beatrix Potter’s works.

I’m starting my picture book dummy based on the story of The Velveteen Rabbit. I could tell the gist of the plot of the story without words, but I feel like some nuances, such as the point the Skin Horse makes about toys becoming real, would be at least partially lost.

My Experience at SCBWI-WWA Spring Conference

I had a great time at our Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Spring Conference. It was neat to be with such an enthusiastic group that were all interested in children’s books. I liked all of the speakers, but especially David Small and Kazu Kibuishi who shared a lot of their personal stories about how they came to be motivated to do the work they do. David Small is Caldecott winner and Kazu is a writer and illustrator of graphic novels like the Amulet and Explorer.

This was the first time I put together a portfolio. I searched on the web for examples of how to set one up. I use an inexpensive photo album on Amazon that had a window in the cover.

I liked being able to present my work in the portfolio evening, but I also liked seeing everyone else’s work. I’m thinking about doing more drawing with ferrets especially since my visit to the ferret rescue in Kirkland. Their fur is very soft. There were a lot of illustrators I also had a chance to discover. I especially liked Heidi Aubrey‘s mice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a week off, I’ll be starting animal anatomy and drawing (yay). I’m also a few weeks into volunteer orientation to work in wild bird rehabilitation – skills training starts in May.

Inspiration – Process Thumbnails

It was busy for me last week. I’ll have to write about the SCBWI meeting in another post. Here are last week’s enlarged thumbnails from Concept Illustration. Up top is my Green Man and below Wish. I’m chose the deer thumbnail to elaborate this week.

eide_processenlarged2-1

deer-enlarged-thumb

The other thumbnails based on the random ink – water mixes are posted below. To look at the original random ink mixes I was working with, see my previous post.

The guy at the bottom is my most atypical one – but it was the face that jumped out of ink splatters. Last week we also had an exercise in which we were to take a walk and sketch everything that we saw that was a particular color. Then we were to combine those in scenes. I can see how these exercises are creativity stretchers. I really like this class.

process-5process-4process-3process-2-1

Sketching Scenes with Maquettes

maquetteIn Concept Illustration, we have an assignment to design an illustration based on the broad theme of conflict (character vs character, character vs. environment etc). I’ve thought about doing illustrations from the original Snow Queen so on our thumbnail assignment, which was limited to black and white and approximately 1 x 2 inches.

I’ve always been inspired with James Gurney’s maquette work (here is his Skybax maquette made out of armature wire, sculpey, floral wire, and stockings covered with latex among other ingredients.

gurney-skybax-maquetteI liked being able to walk around the scene and vary the perspective – vertically and horizontally. I used armature wire and chavant clay which doesn’t harden.

I also had to have 2 color comps and three 3-color value sketches. My instructor picked thumbnail 3 so that’s the one I’m working on, but with more background added.

img_7977

snow-queen-thumbs

Our discussion this past week was to collect illustrations that could be used as inspiration for creating your scene. I picked these great works by Sendak, Lathrop, and Dulac.

sendak

 

 

lathrop

 

 

 

 

 

dulac

 

Owl and Frog Ink Illustration

Just finished this – it’s my last week in Basic Illustration. It’s been a great class. It’s been a learning curve going to ink from pencil. The assignment was to choose a fortune cookie fortune and make a drawing from it. My fortune was “You are wise to keep your eyes open at all times.”

We weren’t allowed to use ink washes so it was a change for me as I had to focus on line art.

The ink drawing was first done in pencil then inked using micron pens, a Lamy fountain pen, and a little Copic marker for blocking in the grass. I also use Duralar mylar which helped a lot with my learning curve for ink. Duralar is very forgiving with ink – because it erases cleanly with alcohol or the colorless Copic marker blender.

My pencil draft is below.

Krister-Owl-Frog-Pencil-Final

Book of Wonder Illustrator Sidney Sime

Sidney-SimeEvery week, the class assignment is to have each person suggest an illustration or group of illustrations based on the reading. For the chapter on tone, I chose this 1912 illustration by Sidney Sime (1867 – 1941) for Lord Dunsany’s The Book of Wonder. I chose it partly because it has some similarities, in terms of subject matter, value range, and atmosphere, to my own project for this week. I also chose it because it effectively uses various value and compositional elements, including a chiaroscuro technique, to guide the viewer’s eye throughout the piece. The first major area of light starts at the upper left corner, then trails around, almost like a curving road, to the first major subject, the city in the rocks. In turn, the curved shape of the light/shadow pattern and the diagonal lines of the rock lead into the menacing blackness filled with eyes under the bridge. The smoky shape at right helps to transition the viewer down to the next major subject, the man on the winged beast.

Imagine what the piece would look like without the large shadowy area at left. It would lose some of its atmosphere, with the impression of discovering something grand and menacing in a dark, obscure region.  In addition, the black space filled with eyes under the bridge would be less clear as a main subject of the piece, since the chiaroscuro patterns of light and dark have the area immediately above as the brightest spot in the composition.

Composition with Nathan Fowkes on Schoolism

schoolismJust a quick post for those of you who might be interested in great composition / concept art courses. Schoolism only offers a lower priced yearly subscription every September – it caps after the 1st 2000 signups. There are 18 courses that you can take all together.

I’m starting with Nathan Fowke’s Pictoral Composition course (LACAD, LA Figurative Arts Academy) it’s really helpful – for both traditional as well as digital artists. It’s a 9 week course, but self-paced – each week has about eight 10-minute videos. There is weekly homework and videos of other student’s work. The cheapest option is $144 which doesn’t come with video feedback and redraws from Nathan – but it can help people like me who are attending school full time or working full time. Even if you’re on the cheaper plan, you can look at his critiques and redraws of other students who are taking the premium course – at $1000-1500 per course, so there’s plenty to learn from just watching. Whenever you’re finished, you can switch to another class.

composition-piet-mondrianI’ll show one of my exercises in a following post, but here’s an example from Piet Mondrian that I liked. I had seen Mondrian’s geometric work, but I had never seen his early work and how his art evolved. The point Nathan was making with the Mondrian example was that he was exploring the internal structure underneath what was being seen – so he was continually abstracting and simplifying – but also keeping connections and relationships, balance, harmony etc. I appreciate all the thought and time that has gone into Nathan’s course.

School at RMCAD starts back officially tomorrow. My classes this term are Mastering the Pencil and 3D Design.