New paintings, pt 1.

The title of this post was supposed to be just “new paintings,” but our internet connection is mysteriously sooooo slow right now. Flickr has been uploading my pics for a good 20 minutes, and I don’t think I have the patience to upload the second set…maybe tonight, if it speeds up.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I really like seeing the process of making art, not just the final product. Recently, I’ve found a couple of illustrators’ blogs where they show their doodles and sketches, not just the pieces that made it into the NY Times. So in the spirit of process, I’m going to show you how and where these paintings started.

When I emailed Nahcotta some samples as part of my application to the show, the image they liked the best was an illustration I did a couple of years ago for The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin (which is, incidentally, a very good book).

Dun Cow illustration.

After I found out that I was accepted, I decided to choose a theme for my entries instead of creating 6 random images. My theme I developed is based on Edward Hicks’ many versions of The Peaceable Kingdom (follow the link if you’re not familiar with the painting). Instead of cramming a bunch of animals into each frame, I picked sets of pairs that are natural enemies: cat + mouse, fox + chicken, hawk + rabbit, lion + lamb, sealion + penguin, wolf + deer. Then, like a good illustrator, I began by doing thumbnail sketches – lots and lots of thumbnail sketches – to work out the compositions.

First sketches.

(This is only one of the versions…I made 5 or 6 pages of these.)

Next, I thought about the medium. My first idea for the new pieces was to do an ink drawing on top of a gouache wash. (Gouache is a kind of thick watercolor.) Ink + color = great combination, right? So I did a lot of practice animal sketches with ink and gouache, too.

Ink doodles.

These sketches were pretty spontaneous – one eye on the book of farm animals and the other on my paper, with my hand moving like it wanted.

The fuzzy chickens were my favorites.

The chickens.

I also tried some sketches of the final pieces to work out some color and final composition details.

Second sketches.

At this point I decided that the technique was working and I would start the finals. And then I made a mistake: I did the painting first, so that I wouldn’t cover up any of the pen work with the gouache. But I made the painting a little more detailed than I did in my sketches, and suddenly the ink just didn’t work anymore. I did a few extras for practice and none of them looked right. Lots of frustration. Lots of muttering. Lots of what-do-I-do-now.

Next post: the end of the story.

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