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...



It looks so real! Great imagination! Kids will dream in beautiful images :)

Chris said...

Looking forward so much to purchasing this book..I know i am going to enjoy reading this to my grandson- and the illustration oh my.. they are a conversation in themselves

Chris Dunn said...

Thanks Agrioloulodo and Chris :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris, Thanks for this very interesting post. I am starting work on my first children's book, (writing it and illustrating it myself), so it is very helpful to see your process. Your illustrations are beautiful! I look forward to seeing more of your posts, and to delving into your earlier posts. Thanks, Liz