I have recently begun sending out postcard samples of my artwork to various children's book and magazine publishers. Approximately every two weeks since June, I've sent out another batch, so far a total of 59 cards. Some of the people I've addressed my cards to spoke at the SCBWI conference that I went to in New York last January. To those people, I've sent new postcards every time I've sent out another batch. So by now, if they've kept them, they have a small portfolio of my work. No word back from any of them so far, which isn't surprising considering how many submissions I'm sure they receive.
So, how does this relate to my subject heading, "Pen and Ink - Digital Style?" While going through my portfolio, selecting art to send out in postcard form, I realized that I have very little in the way of black and white artwork. I've often read that when putting together a portfolio, it's important to show black and white work as well as pieces in full color. A lot of children't chapter books, middle grade books and even some young adult books use black and white illustrations, either interspersed throughout a story or as chapter headings. The 'Harry Potter' books are a good recent example of this. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a small 'spot' illustration. I enjoy seeing those types of illustrations in books and I always love it while reading when I come across the passage in the chapter that the illustrator has chosen to illustrate.
I am currently reading a children's book called 'The Hounds of the Morrigan,' by Pat O'Shea. It's quite a long book (over 600 pages), a fantasy with its roots in Celtic mythology and folklore. One of the things that I like about it, besides the author's sense of humor, are the two main characters, Pidge and Brigit. These brother and sister protagonists are very likable and don't have a trace of the cynicism that seems to have crept into so many contemporary depictions of children. I'm sure children are more cynical and jaded today than they were when I was a kid, but seeing children depicted without these traits, gives this book a charming, old-fashioned quality that makes it feel like I'm reading a book that came out during my childhood (which was in the late fifties and early sixties), rather than something that was written in the late nineties.
I am reading a mass market paperback edition of this book. There are no illustrations in the book, but as I've been reading it, I've begun thinking that it might be a fun personal challenge to try and create some 'spot' chapter heading illustrations for it. I love looking at intricate pen and ink work (see my blog dedicated to pen and ink work from Dec. 12, '09 and my posting about Erik Blegvad from August 16th of this year) and I love working in the medium, even though it's been several years since I've done so. For this project I decided to get out my rapidograph pens and see what I could come up with. But, when I pulled my pens out of storage, I found that they were badly in need of cleaning. I knew it was going to take some time to get them back into working order, so I decided to start my drawing as a digital sketch.
The first image I decided to do was of an oak tree that is described in chapter twenty-three: "At length they saw the biggest tree they had ever seen, growing at a distance of twenty feet or more in from the rim of the chasm. Its trunk was a bulk and a mass and a swelling; its branches were a billowing and a spreading and a stretching; its height was pride and power."
I knew I was going to need some reference for this drawing, so I took my camera on one of my many walks with my dog and chose this oak tree that is growing in our local park. It is a big tree, but it is no where near the size of the tree described in the book. I basically used my photo for reference on how the branches grow and the fall of light and shadow on the foliage. In my drawing, I beefed up the tree, adding girth to its trunk and width to its span.
To the right is my original pencil sketch which I scanned and used as a rough guide. You can see that the tree in my original pencil sketch is rather squat. I didn't leave myself enough room in my sketchbook for the height of the tree, so, after scanning it, I improvised and added some additional foliage and branches to the top. I've also included some of the stages of development of the final drawing. In some of these you can see the sketch, which I had on a separate layer, showing through.
As I continued to add more and more detail to this digital pen and ink drawing, I decided to keep it digital and not try and duplicate it using my rapidograph pen. I spent between 15 and 20 hours working on this drawing. It is the most intricate and detailed drawing I've done using Painter's digital pen brush, but I'm happy with the way it turned out, so I am already planning to do more. I already have a couple of more illustrations in mind that I want to do for my "Hounds of the Morrigan" project. I'll be posting them here as I complete them.