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.