A few days ago I wrote a blog about working in a sketchier pen and ink style. I so enjoyed working on that illustration, that I decided to go ahead and do another one. Like the last one, this is also based on a scene from Eleanor Cameron's "Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet," a middle grade sci-fi fantasy that was one of my childhood favorites. In this scene, the scheming and ambitious Horatio Q. Peabody is determined to get to the bottom of the secret discovery that was alluded to in a letter from Tyco Bass that was sent to his employer, the astronomer Dr. Frobisher. After tricking Chuck, David and Theodosius Bass into thinking that he's a professor, Horatio takes Dr. Frobisher's place as a guest lecturer at the boys' Society for Young Astronomers and Students of Space Travel. The scene in my illustration takes place after Horatio's lecture, when he has pretended to go to bed, stuffing his bed with pillows to make it look occupied:
"Then he turned out the light, surveyed the lump that in the darkness looked exactly as if someone were lying there, then on tiptoe he slipped out of the house and around to the cellar door. Here he hunched down behind a bush and listened. The boys and Mr. Theo were talking . . . "
Building up the black shadows was the most difficult aspect of this illustration, especially the shadows around the bush and the tree. I didn't want to make them so dark that the foliage became obscured.
I'm fairly happy with the outcome. I especially like the way the light from the cellar illuminates part of the wall of the house. I'm not entirely happy with my design for Horatio, but I am happy with the way he's lit. I left enough highlights on him, to make him visible, but not so much that he stands out as a distraction.
I set out to create a scene that had a dark, mysterious atmosphere and I think the result was fairly successful in achieving that goal.