Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Bit of a Stretch

First, Hibernating House book project news: I finished the small rough sketches and they were approved by the authors with a few minor changes. The last week or so has been spent on outlining and adding extra details with colored pencil. So today I will start the watercolor paint which probably takes the longest of all the steps so far. I’m hoping to have all of the paintings done by Aug. 26 when I go back to school. Not sure if I’ll meet my mark at this point since there is A LOT of detail to attend to in these illustrations, but it will be worth the time spent for sure. For now, I am keeping the art under wraps so you’ll have to wait to see these illustrations for a while...

In the mean time, here is one of the things I had to do before even drawing the full-sized pieces (they measure 11.5 x 17.5 in.) is stretch my watercolor paper. I use a good quality cold press paper (I prefer Strathmore). You want to use the thickest paper you can afford, but even with a good quality paper, when you paint the paper can wrinkle. YUCK! Stretching can help decrease or eliminate the wrinkles in your finished work. YAY!

Some artists stretch paper by submersing the entire sheet into a water bath, then hanging it to partially dry before taping it to a stiff board. I like to stretch all of my paper for a project all at once, so I tried this method and it works better for me:

1. Do this on a dry or low-humidity day. First, I use pencil to measure and draw my picture boundary and cut my paper down to about 2 inches larger than the boundary. Any marks you make will be impossible to erase after you stretch, so if you draw your image before stretching (I don’t recommend doing that, but...) be aware.

2. Next, I use masking tape to attach the paper to a slightly larger piece of corrugated cardboard to foam board. I put small pieces across the corners first, then apply long pieces all the way around the edge of the paper and press down hard.

3. I fill a bowl with CLEAN water and get myself a very clean natural sponge like a sea sponge. Kitchen sponges can leave dyes on your paper. Also, sea sponges absorb better.

4. I use the sponge to apply a generous amount of water to the surface of the paper. I let it sit for a few minutes.

5. Next, I use the same sponge to absorb as much water from the surface as possible wiping horizontally and vertically until all of the water is picked up and squeezing out the excess into the bowl. Make sure you are not leaving any puddles on the surface.

6. The paper will wrinkle at this point while drying. Don’t panic. You will never get this type of wrinkling again after this step.

7. Set the board somewhere where it can remain flat, and let the paper completely dry. As it dries, the tape will keep the paper from staying wrinkled and it will revert to flatness. You must keep the paper taped to the board while you work on the painting, then you can remove the tape or cut the paper from the board when done.

If you are using a huge amount of water for painting, there may be some wrinkling (unless you are using very thick expensive paper), but again, if taped you should see it flatten when dry. Personally, my painting method uses minimal amount of water, so I haven’t has a lot of problems using this stretching method. Give it a try!

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Little Help from my Friends

For the last several weeks I've been working on the roughs and then the final full-sized pencil illustrations for The Hibernating House by Sandy Leahy and Kathy Tarentino. So far I think it's looking great and I have just a few last details to add in before starting my color work.

When I'm teaching in my classroom, I'm always telling the kids how important it is to research images of things that you are not yet an expert at drawing. Unless we have some kind of photographic memory (which very few people actually have), our minds can't retain every detail of every thing we have ever seen.

To create believable and recognizable objects and people, I take some pictures myself, some I find in books or online, and some photos were sent to me from the authors' own family photo albums.

This is a list of the items I had to research so far (there are some things I could draw without photos, too, but I needed help with this stuff!).

houses and cottages
carousel (including the famous Flying Horses)
“entering town” signs
moored boats
ferry boat
car with bikes on top
car towing a boat
military uniforms
red white & blue banners
lawn mower
a yellow labrador retriever
ticket booth
lamp posts
marching band
fan shutters

So, if you think you are not a great or even good artist because you cannot sit down and just draw something perfectly from your head, think again. We can all use a little help once in a while. My advice: ALWAYS use photos, preferably your own if possible, not someone else's drawings.