We make choices every day, but we never know what the outcome will be later in life, what relationships will be made, or where we will be living or working.
RV and I were discussing this briefly this past weekend after our book signing. If his daughter had never met her husband, they never would have moved to New York, would never have gone to our church, would have never met me. RV and I may not have ever met, and if I hadn’t opened my business, Boathouse may still just be an idea in his head.
A world without Boathouse is a sad world that I don’t want to live in.
Designing characters for the Boathouse series is challenging. Not only do you have to figure out what exactly they’re going to look like, but you have to design all the expressions, physical movements and limitations, and then take all of that information and be able to reproduce that look for consistency throughout the whole book.
I think it’s my favorite part of illustrating!
The Cat and the River Thames introduces a new location and various new characters, including some pirate rats and another boat builder. These were fairly easy to design; okay, so the rats gave me a little trouble, but it only took me a day or so to really get them where I wanted them.
But the book also introduces a bigger character, and let me just say, it was not easy designing him.
Picking out end of the year teacher gifts is something I always struggle with. Finding a gift that the teacher will love that conveys our appreciation is no easy feat. We unfortunately don’t have a big budget to work with, so that adds to the trouble.
We’ve had some amazing teachers over the years, and my youngest’s teacher this past year was no exception. She has had all three of my kids for kindergarten, and has gone above and beyond for all of them. I really wanted to do something special for her, but nothing seemed right at the stores.
In honor of the release of The Cat and the River Thames, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
You ready for it?
Okay. Here it is: illustrating, although fun, is very time consuming.
There are so many steps for each illustration, and if I were to rush them or skip them, the picture would look…well…awful.
As many people have asked me questions on how much work really goes into an illustration, I thought I’d break it down visually for you all by sharing a step by step process of part of a final illustration. I say part only because the book just came out, and if I shared the whole picture I’d give away some things 🙂
This next Christmas gift reveal was so hard to keep under wraps as I worked on it. I love sharing sneak peeks of what I’m working on, and I know a lot of my followers on Facebook enjoy them as well. This piece I couldn’t share much of anything, just a tree and my signature basically. When this gift was for one of my biggest followers and supporters, anything more than that would have given the whole piece away!
It’s time to start revealing the Christmas gift commissions!!! Are you excited? I am!!!!
I’m going a little out of order this year as I want to make sure I don’t reveal any pictures that haven’t been given yet. I’ll be revealing them in the order I definitely know they were received, and as I hand delivered this one and saw it be opened, I know it’s okay to do this one first 😉
This is one of those pieces that was so much fun to plan, design and finish, but the whole starting and working on it was really really rough.
A year and a half ago, our friends Stephen and Vanessa were downsizing apartments and gave us their couch and love seat. As payment for the furniture, they asked if I would do a painting for their new place, and I happily agreed!
After a lot of meetings, reference image searches, and more planning, we finally agreed on what the piece was going to be: an 18″ x 24″ oil painting of some of their favorite fandoms. Stephen mentioned he wanted an epic feel for the piece; I’ve been calling it Epic ever since!
Medium: Watercolor, colored pencil, ink (marker and liquid), and graphite on watercolor paper
Size: 11″ x 14″ with a mat and frame, bringing it to a finished size of approximately 14″ x 18″
When: Spring/Summer 2015
Time to complete: This finished piece was off and on for a few months; overall the project took a year and a half
Thoughts on the piece: First of all, I can’t wait to design one for my husband and I! I had so much fun working on this piece, and combining various fandom references that don’t go together into one picture. It reminded me of the Disney Vault mural, and it made me happy.
Challenges: Oh man, trying this piece in oil paint was a nightmare.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOOOOOVE painting in oils. However, I just do not have the technique or skill needed to make this piece as awesome as it was intended to be in oils. Every time I worked on it, I’d end up backtracking and redoing what I had done in the previous session. When I don’t have the opportunity just yet to get into my painting studio on a regular basis, that made things even harder.
When I started working on Boathouse color tests, I discovered I really really like colored pencil, watercolor and ink together; I can get great color and better detail with these mediums. I approached them about switching mediums, and they were totally flexible with whatever I wanted to do.
Also, I had finished the piece awhile ago. However, it was looking fairly flat and dull in just watercolor and colored pencils. I dug out my ink sticks that my husband bought for me on a whim, and the difference was amazing! The colors are really vibrant now.
Space ship: Serenity from the TV show Firefly
Mountains: The Misty Mountains from The Hobbit
Castle: Hogwarts from Harry Potter
Sleeping panda: Po from the Kung Fu Panda movies
Horse and boy: Shasta and Bree from The Horse and His Boy from The Chronicles of Narnia
Favorite part: How the whole piece works together! I was taking so many different reference images with different color schemes and trying to make it cohesive, and I’m happy with how it turned out.
Also, I love the way the mist turned out! I was terrified of attempting it. It was actually easy!
Least favorite part: There is one part where the ink dried before I could spread it out better. Ink is permanent when it dries, where watercolor can be persuaded to come up. I’m not going to tell you where the ink part is because it may drive Vanessa crazy too if she sees it, and I don’t want that 😉
Things I’ve learned:
– Oil paints are amazing if I’m doing soft abstract. Detail oriented pieces, not so much.
– I love ink! Ink and watercolor may just be my new favorite medium to work with.
– If you’ve been following this blog for any certain amount of time, you probably know that I love to include fun details into my work. This piece is no exception:
– I’ll be using a very similar technique for the Boathouse illustrations!
How the piece is displayed: Thanks for sharing a picture of it hung up, Vanessa!
Product availability: Available as prints by special request!