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.
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!
The past couple of weeks have been awesome! I’ve been really busy working on a few great projects, and thought I’d share some pictures in progress:
I’m not sure what this piece will be called yet, but we’ve been referring to it as “Epic”, so that might just stay as the title 🙂 It’s hard to show previews and talk about this piece without giving it away, but it’s going to be a drawing/watercolor painting mixed media piece of awesomeness, and will feature key characters/locations from favorite books and movies.
This project has been in the works for over a year. It was originally going to be an oil painting, but I’ve been struggling trying to get all the detail in with oil. It just wasn’t working for me; I felt like I was losing all the detail and it wasn’t looking as amazing as the piece deserved to loo. I went back to the people who commissioned the piece and asked if a watercolor drawing would be okay instead, and they were totally on board with that 🙂
Project #2:Rivendell, the second in the Lord ofthe Rings series
Well, I’m getting my geek on with this piece as well as the “Epic” piece! After completingA Bastion Against the Darkness (Minas Tirith), I started compiling a list of other Lord of the Rings and Hobbit locations in hopes of doing a series of these drawings. One of my top picks was definitely Rivendell, but doing it as seen in the Hobbit movies.
I had a meeting with the winners of my gift certificate from this year’s auction, and guess what they chose as their piece?
Rivendell from The Hobbit!
It’s slow going as there is soooo much detail, but the going is easy so far (knock on wood!).
Project #3: My favorite anthropomorphic animal, Boathouse!
Have you seen on Facebook or on RV’s blog our big announcement? We have a tentative launch date for Book 1! We are hoping to have it available as early as September. I’m making great progress with the last few sketches; I’m sure it probably sounds like I keep saying that, but I keep tweaking each picture, adding more detail, making sure each piece is accurate. It’s a long process, but I know that from here on out I’ll have a better idea of what the process will look like and it’ll go soooo much faster!
To see RV’s blog post about the release date, check it out here! Make sure you keep checking back here, on my Facebook page, and RV’s blog for more updates as they happen 🙂
I’m also reworking part of my website, signing up for more online art classes that I’ll take this summer, sending out applications for more festivals, and keeping up with house/wife/mom/babysitter duties. Just over a week from now, school will be out, my daycare will closed for good, and I’ll be full time working on my art! It’s very bittersweet.
Which of these three projects are you most excited about seeing completed? Let me know in the comments below!