Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sketchy Style

I've written several posts on this blog on pen and ink work and on artists like Erik Blegvad whose black and white illustrations are some of my favorites. I've also posted several of my own pieces that I've created in black and white using Corel Painter's digital pen brushes.  Most of my black and white work has been very detailed, containing lots of cross-hatching, which is extremely time consuming.

Lately, I've been reading lots of William Steig, not only his picture books, but one of his middle grade books, "Dominic," the story of a restless dog who goes out looking for adventure. "Dominic" contains some really charming black and white illustrations that are done in Steig's very loose style. Inspired by Steig, I decided I would try experimenting in a looser, sketchier style myself.

The problem that came up immediately was, 'What should I draw?' I scanned one of the bookshelves where I keep some of my middle grade books and found one of my childhood favorites, "Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet," by Eleanor Cameron, a book with no illustrations. Because I had not read it in many years, I couldn't recall off hand any particular scenes to illustrate, so I sat down to read the first couple of chapters. The early chapters serve as an introduction to the characters and since this book is a sequel to "The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet," they set the background for what happened in the first book. The main plot point that takes place is that the boys meet Theodosius Bass who is the cousin of their old friend Tyco Bass. My first attempt showed Theodosius sitting in Tyco's old chair while the boys are standing nearby. But I felt that showing these characters just sitting and standing around was uninteresting and boring so I read a little further until I came to a scene at the start of Chapter 2: Theodosius has been telling the boys about his wanderings around the world and his search for a place to call his own. He says: "'Once I thought the Aleutians might be the answer - but oh, the cruel winds, the fogs, the bitter cold! A great mist-ake, you might say, eh?' And he darted the boys a sudden, twinkling glance, and they grinned at one another and knew with certainty they were going to get along with Mr. Theodosius. 'Something you'll never fog-et, you mean!' burst out Chuck, and then he slapped his knee and roared with laughter. David looked disgusted, but Mr. Theo seemed to think it a fine pun, and laughed and laughed." Even though the characters are still in their same positions, there is a more lively interaction going on - Chuck is in hysterics, David's looking disgusted and Mr. Bass is laughing at Chuck's word pun. If you compare my first attempt (at top) with the final result, I think you'll agree that the second illustration, which shows something of the character's personalities, is a much better illustration.

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