Thursday, December 29, 2011

Masters' Copies to Experiment with Acrylic Gouache


After seeing and critiquing students' work at reviews at MassArt (where I teach), especially juniors and seniors, I was inspired to get back to experimentation and look for ways to enhance my painting technique. I usually use watercolor and gouache, but I always felt that there are several issues I wasn't completely satisfied with this media. I knew that the window of opportunity to experiment uninterrupted was short, between upcoming working on the finishes for one of the jobs and preparing for classes for next semester. Instead of recuperating from the semester, I jumped right into the experimentation stage.
This time I decided to do some copies of the masters, to focus solely on painting technique. I didn't care about staying too close to the colors, I wanted to have them a little brighter, more suitable for children's book illustration. I experimented with acrylic gouache and I love it. It can look like watercolor (transparent approach) or it can look like gouache (more opaque approach). Overall, it just seems very steady, very reliable and pleasant to work with. I combined different materials through trial and error and came up with some unexpected and excitedly surprising results. I tried different supports, but I kept coming back to Arches 140lbs cold-press watercolor paper. It seemed to be pretty much the best choice for me regardless of the technique I used.

This was my first study. I used Holbein Acrylic Gouache in a opaque fashion on watercolor board. I didn't figure out the best way to blend color except for dry brush techniques. I didn't quite find watercolor board that good to work on. My experiments continued.

In this study I used Holbein Acrylic Gouache in a opaque fashion on Arches 140lbs cold-press watercolor paper. I also used a little bit of Winsor & Newton Watercolor Blending Medium. Afterwords, I applied Liquitex Gloss Medium diluted with water on top of the painting. The colors became a little brighter and the brushstrokes seemed to visually blend better.

I used Prismacolor brown pencil for the drawing on Arches 140lbs cold-press watercolor paper. Then I used Holbein Acrylic Gouache the same way I would use watercolor. The washes where very smooth and flat. I could work on the face in as many transparent layers as I pleased without disturbing the layers underneath (they become permanent and cannot be reactivated with water).

In this study I decided to use Holbein Acrylic Gouache in a semi-opaque fashion and blend it while it was wet. The support was Arches 140lbs cold-press watercolor paper. I used a lot of Winsor & Newton Watercolor Blending Medium. It turned out to be a really great stuff. Even though I didn't use watercolor, but who cares, it worked. The paint stayed wet for a while and I could blend as much as I needed. Extremely happy with this discovery. Afterwords, I applied Liquitex Gloss Medium dilluted with water on top of the painting. The colors became a little brighter and the brushstrokes seemed to visually blend better. I really don't see any of the gouache perceived "chalkiness" in this study.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

1st, 2nd and 3rd Commisions for Educational Publishers


Reference photos for illustrations

Deadlines are called that for a reason. I feel quite dead after couple of months of meeting deadlines and teaching on top of that. I just finished 13 paintings in 8 days! The first educational job came (McGraw Hill), then the 2nd one (McGraw Hill) and then the 3rd (Cengage/National Geographic)! Go figure, no jobs for months and months and months and now everything together and life is crazy busy.
Anyways, because of such short deadlines, I did learn to make decisions and work much faster.
While I can’t really share my final paintings for a while, I thought it would be fun to share the reference photos for one of the jobs starring me and my husband Ben. Even though he is not an illustrator, he knows exactly what needs to be done for reference shots and we just do it fast and fun.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The 22nd Annual Children's Book Illustration Exhibition

November 6, 2011 - January 15, 2012
The 22nd Annual Children's Book Illustration Exhibition
R. Michelson Galleries
132 Main Street, Northampton, MA

The exhibit is very inspirational and has a variety of styles and media represented. It's a must see exhibit for anyone interested in illustration and children's books and just plain good craft.

Illustration gossip

Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson

Barry Moser

Alice Provensen and E.B.Lewis

Zachary Pullen

Jules Feiffer

Friday, October 7, 2011

Busy Teaching + Finishig Up a Dummy Book


Long time, no see! I abandoned my blog for a while and here's why:
I'm teaching Media Techniques to Illustration Sophomores at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Story Illustration to 4th and 5th graders at Danforth Museum and School of Art.
Also, I spent countless hours working on a new dummy book.

I absolutely love teaching, especially Illustration at my Alma Mater. The energy I get from teaching is crazy. I was a student not too long ago, so I still remember a million questions that I had, frustration, desire to get better, etc. So I try to immerse students in all this knowledge and get them excited about painting and illustration. I drag tons of books with me, show the work of different painters and illustrators. Presentation of painting techniques to a group usually doesn't really work, but helping students individually and checking on their paintings several times during the class does work. It's extremely rewarding to see when something just clicks and a student gets it. I feel like a proud mama! I really hope my excitement transfers to my students and with some of them I think it already did. I already see a lot of improvement in my students since the beginning of the semester.

Also, I'm finishing up my new dummy book, so I can't really show any process. It's based on the characters I developed earlier (Musical Pig+Traveling Wolf). The amount of work that goes into working on the dummy book is incredible. Thanks to my agent Libby Ford and my fellow illustrators, I revised the storyboard several times. The story is so much better now! My mother-in-law Betsy Wish and my husband Ben Wish helped me with the writing. So now finally everything is coming together. Instead of doing pencil drawing for the dummy book, I decided to use ink. I'm a painter after all, not a drawer, so it's so much more fun to do sketching in ink. Hey, whatever works and looks presentable. I've done 16 spreads of those ink paintings, lots and lots of hours painting. Next step - one full color illustration and it's ready to be shown to publishers. Fingers crossed!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Boston Sketches


Drawing done on location, color added at the studio inspired by unexpected
yellow-reddish light
observed on my walk with a friend
from South Boston to Charlestown.

Drawing done on location, painting done in my studio yesterday
inspired by hurricane Irene outside of my window.

Drawing done on location, painting done in my studio.

Friday, July 29, 2011

New York Plein Air Sketches

Part 1 of this sketch - drawing done in NY

Part 2 of this sketch - painting done in the studio

There was obviously a lot of down time in between appointments. Even though it was awfully hot, I still wanted to sketch in NY as it has so much material. First I came to Central Park and started sketching horses and carriages. I was so fascinated with horses and lost track of time sketching. I wanted to sketch different scenes in NY, but got stuck with horses. Anyway how often do you have live horse model to sketch?

Then I only have a little time left to sketch several buildings. While I was sketching a building, two teenagers stopped by and I got a "compliment": Wow! it is so detailed! I mean really detailed. You are good. Can you draw me for twenty bucks?" I guess I should have used the opportunity to sketch, but it was so hot and I was exhausted and I just wanted to finish the drawing and go. Anyway, next time I'll do it.

Networking in New York with Children's Book Publishers


Last week I made another trip to New York to network. All the three days that I was there were oppressively hot, but it didn't dampen my enthusiasm and excitement. I mostly came for Networking Dinners with editors and agents organized by NJ SCBWI. The dinners were a fantastic opportunity to meet editors and agents personally and have a chance to make a connection and let them see the person behind the work.

I'm very grateful to Kathy Temean for all the events. She is truly the biggest advocate for emerging writers and illustrators and really cares about their success and careers.
While I was in NY for three days, I decided to really make an effort to show my portfolio around. I dread making cold calls to set up appointments as I know that most art directors are really busy these days and prefer not to see your portfolio, as they can see it online. I, however, think it's absolutely necessary to meet them personally and show your work, hear their valuable feedback, let them see how you think and talk about your work and make a personal connection with the art director. Mentioning the Tomie dePaola Award also gets some interest and I can't believe how much weight this award has.

Several art directors expressed sadness that portfolio reviews are thing of the past, as it always fun for them to see artists in person too. I noticed that people that I met before through networking or the ones that I had some ongoing conversation through new samples or emails were much more likely to set up an appointment or look at my website. Networking is crucial. Even if an art director couldn't see me personally, the phone call or email was very helpful as many did look at my website and got back to me with some comments.

Overall, my portfolio received a really good response, especially the new character studies. The piglet character was a hit. It's so good to see that my portfolio is so much stronger than it was last spring (I attribute it to my stubbornness and constant desire to get better) and that it gets a very different response this time around.

I'm so grateful to all the art directors or editors who took the time from their busy schedules to see me or answer my call or an email. It's so important to hear the feedback and encouragement and advice.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Plein Air Sketches


The guy in suspenders made this painting. He was priceless. When I started painting the scene, he wasn't there, but then - boom, awesome. Just what I needed.

What I like about plein air sketching is the lack of control; your arm is hanging, the wrist is uncomfortable, the colors are getting a little muddy because you can't change the water too often, you don't have have a stable surface and you are trying to balance the sketchbook, paints and water on you lap. At the same time you are forced to be spontaneous, think fast, make decisions and just draw and paint without paying attention to details. You posture is uncomfortable, people are bugging you once in a while, and you just paint, trying to capture what you see or maybe even what you don't see, but it really doesn't matter. It's just exciting to sketch outside and a different kind of experience and you just go with it without worrying about final results.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Figure Drawing


Most of the poses are 5-15 minutes. Even though I really like working in ink, I decided to step away from ink and use watercolor pencil. At this point it's more important for me to develop my drawing skills even further and try to accurately portray the figure. Ink is fun, but it's more for lose, gestural effects. It's good to notice that I draw much much faster than before and able to pay attention to the head, hands and feet. It's proof that it has nothing to do with talent, just the amount of time you put into drawing practice.