Thursday, 9 February 2017

Paisley Rabbit Cover, Leaf By Leaf (Part 2)

Now for the second instalment of 'showing you how I created the book cover artwork for Paisley Rabbit And The Treehouse Contest.' You can see the first part of this post here.

I left you poised to start laying in the basic colours for Paisley Rabbit and the flycatcher birds. Below you can see that stage completed. I tend to take these photos at the end of a day's painting, not stage-by-stage, so in this shot you can also see I have started to define the creeping ivy.
White spaces filled in and looking vaguely like animals.
The following day I removed all the masking fluid, leaving some very pale speckling across the bark. I decided to do that now so I could keep on adding paint to the branches, and gradually soften and darken those areas that had previously been protected by masking fluid. Sometimes I take away the mask too early and there is not much difference in tone between the applications of watercolour. Then other times, I remove the mask too late and it looks like somebody has sneezed all over the painting!
Mask off - may the true painting identify itself.
By this stage I was in the usual tonal/contrast dilemma that all my paintings go through. I wanted to make sure the top canopy was suitably dark enough to make centre strong in contrast. The left side of Paisley is lit, placing the other side of the ivy and branch in relative darkness. I really wanted to push that 3D contrast by matching it to the dark tones in the canopy.
Sloshing lots of paint with a big brush.
I was really piling on the paint, keeping things loose with the hope I could define the leaves at a later time.
Leaves become more defined.
Above you can see how I managed to outline individual leaves, by scrubbing back paint and creating contrasting hard edges where I could, particularly in the ivy. By now I was beginning to think this painting would never end.
Darker branches to create a separation between foreground and background
Finally I'm towards the end of the watercolour (and my wits) here. I was concerned the image would be a full frontal assault of green, with very little breathing space. How could I solve that problem? By adding more green of course! The logic was to darken the main branch of the tree, in the hope of pushing back the leaves in the background. I think it worked. You can see the finished painting below and really get an understanding of how much darker the canopy and main branch have become.

You can also spot all the little bits of pastel cerulean blue gouache and yellow ochre I used to further define the leaves and create a little bit of cool reflected light in the shaded areas.
Paisley Rabbit Book Cover
Watercolour and Gouache
42 x 55cm
Now the painting is finished, the next step is to decide on a suitable layout for the text. Once that is completed I will of course dutifully post the fruits of my labour on this 'ere blog. Until that time, take care and don't decide to paint an overly-complicated series of branches and leaves, unless you wish to loose your sanity!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Paisley Rabbit Cover, Leaf By Leaf (Part 1)

The approved rough design for the book cover
Last week I started work on the final painting for the book cover of Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest. Naturally this is one of, possibly the most important illustrations for the book, so I decided to enlarge the painting even further than normal to give me maximum room to create a really detailed and luscious watercolour illustration. Now, as I am still in the process of throwing paint at paper, there is no guarantee the finished piece will be luscious, at least I have given myself plenty of room to succeed (or fail).

As I type this, I'm probably not even halfway through the painting so I could be documenting a monumental flop. However I'm going to risk airing my underwear in public and if you don't like what you see, you can always 'unfollow' me and set fire to your PC, laptop, or whatever device you view the great worldwide web on.
Exhibit A - fuzzy photo of fuzzy pencil line
Above is the line drawing on stretched watercolour paper (Arches HP). Before I begin painting, I always email an image of the linework to my client to make sure no major changes are needed and I am good to proceed with colour. After all, pencil is much easier to erase than paint!

This linework is slightly different than normal in that I have been very selective in what I choose to outline. Normally I would treat the whole area of the image the same and outline all the aspects of the composition. However if I were to be so thorough and draw every single leaf, you can imagine how much longer the process would take. Instead I opted to draw the leaves that were pivotal to the cover (such as those interacting with Paisley Rabbit and where the title box would appear) and leave space for the others that would gradually appear organically from the shapes I created with the watercolour.
Wet-in-wet watercolour fun
Once the pencil drawing was approved, I began wetting the whole surface of the painting and then grabbed a large flat brush and started to slap lots of Prussian blue, cobalt blue, cadmium yellow and lemon yellow around the paper. This is my favourite stage in most paintings as I start to see things emerge as the wet colours interact. I juggle between what naturally happens with the paint and how my reference is telling me what the tree should look like.
During a reference trip in October I found this great oak near my home
This ivy was climbing up a gatehouse at Stourhead. I took this photo nearly 7 years ago!

Blocking in - choosing what to put in and 'leave' out.
After the wet-in-wet stage, I dried the paper with a hair dryer and started to block in the basic shapes and colours for the whole image. For this I used the same colours and also scrubbed out lots of paint too, especially where the blue sky was too dark and thus competing with the leaves for attention (I should have refrained from using cobalt blue!). I'm very concerned about creating depth in this image as the composition is very cropped with a very shallow depth of field.

The next job is to block in the basic colours for Paisley Rabbit and the birds (flycatchers). Once they are reasonably defined, I will return to the tree and really work hard on developing darker tones and form in the branches and upper leaves.

Until next time...

Monday, 2 January 2017

25% Off Signed Limited Edition Prints

Here's a little New Year's gift to you all.

In other news I have recently completed this illustration for 'Paisley Rabbit & the Treehouse Contest'.

31 x 39cm watercolour and gouache
Here Paisley is meeting the site manager and architect as they, and the construction team, begin work on building Paisley's treehouse.

As you can see, I started out with a cobalt blue underpainting, in the hope all the shadows would remain cool which would create a nice contrast with the warm spots of dappled light. I must confess, once the watercolour painting was completed, I did introduce some pastel cobalt gouache to the shadow areas on the trucks.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Merry Christmas

Watch out for that tree, Santa!
Polar Bear Santa would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas (and so would I)!! If you decide to leave out some biscuits and milk for the big bear, please remember Mrs Claus has put him on a strict diet, so the vittles will have to be digestives (without chocolate) and skimmed milk only. Do not, under any circumstances, serve mince pies or sherry - you have permission to save those for yourself.

Here's the linework on watercolour paper just before I started to paint. See if you can spot any changes I made later on as I painted (there is extra holly).

Thursday, 1 December 2016

'Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest' Continued

My last post on 'Paisley' gave you a sneaky peak at the huge treehouse cross-section I was working on - click here. Thankfully I eventually finished it and I'm going to show you the whole full colour version, including lots of details hitherto unseen on the web!
The Treehouse Cross-Section, watercolour and gouache 53 x 102cm
This took me roughly 30 days to complete and really pushed my studio's capabilities. For example the painting, when stretched on board, didn't fit my easel so I had to work with it propped against the wall. Also most of the time I was stood with my back against the opposite wall trying to take in the whole image as it progressed. You will see in the shots below, it was very easy to get lost in the details of this illustration and forget about how the whole painting should be knitted together with a consistency in colour, tone and level of detail.
A ball pool with individually painted plastic balls. Why, Chris, why!?
A well stocked cellar ready for Christmas festivities.
No treehouse is complete without a cinema
An American diner, because it's the 1950s (and America).
I think we'd all love an entrance hall like this.
Paisley's on personal library, with a secret staircase running through a hollow branch.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Christmas Card Packs

This is the card design I will be using this year. are now doing special Christmas card packs of 6 cards for £10 (£1.67 per card) and UK postage included. Click here to see the pack. You also have a choice of seasonal messages to pick from, for the inside of the cards. Please take a look.

Monday, 31 October 2016

More illustrations than you can shake a stick at...

'Hey, Toad, look over here.'
Recently I have been updating my new website . Please take some time to browse the site, as it provides links back into archive of this blog and highlight blog posts in relation to individual illustrations.

The most recent of updates is the full collection of 'The Wind In The Willows' illustrations I have painted for Guomai, a Chinese publisher. There is quite a number and I will be adding more in the next year, as I illustrate more scenes from the book. To see the collection, click here.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Flying Monk Arts & Crafts Trail 2016

It's time to make plans.
I'm excited to be taking part in the Flying Monk Art Trail, this year in Malmesbury, Sat 24th and Sun 25th September.

I will be exhibiting with Claire Baker Ceramic Art and the painter Mary Ray Smith, in the Burgess's Room, next to the Tourist Information Centre in Malmesbury town centre. Like all the other exhibitors during the trail, we are open 10am - 5.30pm. However unlike all the other venues, myself, Claire and Mary will continue to exhibit until Friday 30th, so if you miss the weekend, you have the rest of the week to drop in and say hello.

There is so much to see this weekend, just take a look at the programme / map below and start making plans:

Saturday, 10 September 2016

More Paisley Rabbit And The Tree House Contest

Here's a short follow up to my even shorter post last month. Below you can see the completed single page illustration of Mr Otter sat in a muddy puddle after failing in his first tree house building attempt.
"All under control - nothing to see here."
The next illustration I have been working on (and expect to be still working on it for weeks ahead) is the cross section of Paisley's magnificent tree house. The rough design for the tree house was a challenge, so goodness knows what state my brain will be in when I complete the final illustration. I can see myself sitting in the corner of the studio floor, staring, slack-jawed and unresponsive. Some people would probably not notice any difference in me!
One tree house to rule them all...

Propped up against my studio wall, and measuring over a metre in height. This watercolour is a challenge on all levels.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Bear Mountain Books

Maria Schneider at Bear Mountain Books, has very kindly posted about my artwork. I also gave her a little bit of extra information regards inspiration for my characters. Please take a look - link 

In other news, here's the line work for the next 'Paisley Rabbit And The Treehouse Contest' illustration I am working on.