Friday, November 9, 2012

LAURA INTERVIEWS WENDY

As part of National Picture Book Month (NOVEMBER!), artist Laura Jacobsen recently interviewed me, and posted the interview on her blog.  She and three other artists will be interviewing and posting many illustrators throughout the month.  Be sure to check out Laura's blog---her website with all her beautiful art---and follow up on the links to the blogs and websites of the other three artists!
A November of Mini-Interviews- Wendy Watson

Thursday, November 1, 2012

PICTURE BOOK DESIGN: TRIAL ART, PART 5

The last step for this piece of trial art---adding the color.  I used Winsor & Newton watercolors for this. After working on the color for a while, I decided I needed to add more pen & ink texture and pattern.  But how much, and where?  India ink can't be erased!
I did what I often do---I laid a piece of clear film over the art and did some quick pen work---some on the grass in the upper piece of film, some on the figures in the slower piece.
When I laid the inked piece of film over the art, I could see how the additional pen-work might look.  Did it need work on just the grass and background?
Or---laying down both pieces of film over the art---on the figures as well?
 As a result of this check, I decided to add pen & ink texture to figures, grass, and tree---to everything, in fact.  I worked more on the color as well.

 More texture, more color...

 Finally---a finished piece of trial art.  And by the time I completed the piece, I wasn't sure I liked this style for my project after all.  Better to find this out by doing a trial piece, rather than discovering it when I'm half-way through the actual finished art!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A NOVEMBER OF MINI-INTERVIEWS 2012


I'm sharing here a blog post from my colleague Laura Jacobsen.  She and three others are blog-posting interviews of 16 picture book illustrators throughout the month of November.  I am one of the illustrators  whom Laura will be interviewing.  Follow all 16 interviews---and celebrate  National Picture Book Month! 










“Everything I learned in college, can now be found for free on Wikipedia.”- bobbiblogger,  Sept., 2012
Yeah, that sums it up pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, I went to a great art school, The Columbus College of Art and Design (although not as great as it is NOW after apparently a jillion dollar endowment–I mean we had classes in an old garage for crying out loud). But I have to admit I have amassed far more knowledge since I left by talking to and copying, I mean learning, from other artists, both in real life and online. Last year, our little band of local illustrator buds, Molly IdleMikela Prevost and Juana Martinez-Neal and I, interviewed each other, and learned so much in the process that this year we decided to expand our class offerings. Consider this our graduate program. In honor of National Picture Book Month classes begin in November, conveniently located on a blog near you, and, best of all, this education is FREE!
Our gracious and distinguished faculty include:
So set your alarm for November and don’t be late! (Three “lates” will count as an absence and go on your permanent record!)

Friday, October 26, 2012

PICTURE BOOK DESIGN: TRIAL ART, PART 4

Having finished my detailed sketch, I transfered it to my working surface, Lanaqarelle 90 lb hot press watercolor paper, using a light box.  In pencil, I sketched out the leafy clumps of the tree structure in a little more detail.  I then began the line work, using one of my favorite tools and media---India ink and a crow-quill pen.
I finished most of the outlines, and began working out the leafy clumps of the tree.
Then back to the figures, adding pattern and texture.
More pattern and texture added to grass, leaves, and figures.  I had not yet erased any pencil lines.  (I never erase until I have let the ink dry overnight, to avoid any possible smudging.)  I was now ready to begin adding color.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

PICTURE BOOK DESIGN: TRIAL ART, PART 3

On my next working day, I was still satisfied with my rough basic composition.  I began my detailed sketch.  I transferred the basic composition onto tracing paper, then started developing my place-holders into actual characters.
More characters took shape...
...and more.
I next worked out the umbrellas, which I wanted to design carefully in relation to the figures.
I developed the tree on a separate layer of tracing paper, so as to facilitate later placement, and eliminate excessive erasing and re-drawing of the figures.  Many artists work with layers in this manner on the computer, rather than on paper, as I do.  The concept, activity, and purpose is the same, no matter what the medium.
Finally---the layers are combined, and the detailed sketch is ready for execution!

Monday, October 22, 2012

PICTURE BOOK DESIGN: TRIAL ART, PART 2

I had, as I thought, finished my basic composition, and was expecting to begin a more detailed sketch.  But when I went back to my desk the next morning, and looked at the sketch that had seemed so perfect the day before, I realized immediately that it needed changes.  This was supposed to be a bustling market, big enough so that characters could lose each other in its confusion.  No one could possibly get lost in this tiny market!  And the tree was too small to balance the figures and umbrellas.  
I scanned the sketch into my computer, reversed the image so as to position the youngsters on the left, and printed out several copies.  Then I cut up the copies, giving me duplicate sections of various elements of the original sketch---figures, umbrellas, and tree branches.  Using removable Scotch tape, I arranged the pieces to create the larger scene that I wanted.  I call this the "hack and hew" stage.  (I could of course do this kind of work equally well on the computer---and many artists do.  I myself love the tactile experience of using paper, pencil, scissors, and tape, so I do it the old-fashioned way.)  And this is an example of why it's better that I use place-holders at this stage, rather than drawing actual figures.  It's easy for me to slice a place holder in half, or lop off the base if the figure is too tall, or even consign one to the wastebasket---whereas if I had spent time and emotion creating an actual figure, I would be much more reluctant to perform the drastic surgery needed. 
And I decided that, after all, I preferred having the youngsters on the right, and the mothers on the left, as they were in the original sketch.  So I reversed the composition once again.  I felt pretty confident that this time, I had the basic composition that I wanted.  But I again stopped at this point, planning to look at it the next day so as to confirm my judgement after a night away from it.  When working on a book, I always wait at least a day before continuing on to the next step.  I have learned that the fresh look instantly highlights for me any weaknesses in the work.

Friday, October 19, 2012

PICTURE BOOK DESIGN: TRIAL ART, PART 1

When designing and illustrating a picture book, I always make at least one piece of trial art early on in the preliminary planning for the book.  This allows me to experiment with media and style while my ideas for the book are still fluid, and I'll be willing to change my mind if I need to. Recently I made an experimental illustration for a project on which I'm currently working.  I knew what I wanted the scene to show:   A group of mothers, and a group of youngsters, who have lost each other at an old-fashioned country market.  As soon as the general idea of the composition came to me, I scribbled it down in my notebook so I wouldn't forget it.
My next step was to start roughing out the composition, using pencil on vellum tracing paper.  I always begin a composition with these "place-holder" figures.   The place-holders keep me focused on the basic composition, and prevent me from getting caught up in details that are unimportant at this stage.
After roughing out the figures, I started on some of the setting and background.  
I didn't like the shape of the umbrellas, so I changed them.  Then I worked out a general shape for the tree. At this point I thought that my basic composition was all set.  I planned to begin a more detailed sketch on my next working day.   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

CHILDHOOD NOSTALGIA


When I saw the Jiffy-Pop at the supermarket, I just had to buy a Pak.  I hadn't used one since I was a kid.  This would be fun---I'd revisit my childhood.  My sister agreed to take the trip with me.

I didn't bother to fetch my reading glasses.  Neither did my sister.  So we couldn't read the teeny-tiny text of the directions on the lid.  In fact, we didn't bother to read any of the text on the lid, large or teeny-tiny.  We didn't need to.  After all, we were revisiting our childhood---we already knew how to do this.

"You pry this cardboard off all around the edges," said my sister.  She began doing so.  "No, wait, wait," I said, "won't it all pop out?  You do it this way."  I began bending the foil rim back.  "No, no, don't do that," said my sister.  "This is how you do it."  "OK, yeah, maybe you're right," I said.  We finished bending and prying.  We then put the Pak over an open flame and began shaking it.
Suddenly the Pak burst open and popped kernels began exploding everywhere, catching fire as they did so...
...they kept exploding as we rushed the Pak from the stove to the sink...
...they continued exploding all over the dirty dishes in the sink.
What little popcorn we could salvage tasted okay, I guess...but I don't think my sister and I remembered our childhood correctly.  Or did we?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

MY NEWEST BOOK-The Family Bedtime Treasury


I'm happy to announce the September 2012 publication of THE FAMILY BEDTIME TREASURY.  My title Bedtime Bunnies (published in 2010) is one of 8 picture books included in the collection.  I'm in great company---Eileen Christelow, Don and Audrey Woods, and other illustrious authors and illustrators are part of the collection.  Also included in the volume are a number of poems, and a CD of an hour of "calming classical" music.  At $18.99, it's a bargain.  As to whether it puts my own individual title ($16.99 for just one book, and no CD) out of print...well, time will tell!  Click here for more details:  http://www.hmhbooks.com/hmh/site/hmhbooks/bookdetails?isbn=9780547857862&srch=true#

Friday, September 28, 2012

REMEMBER THE AMMO?

Why does CRIME keep following me?  

You may remember my "Brush With the Law" from last summer---
http://thewendywatsonblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/mybrushwith-law.html
That was more than enough crime for me, I thought.  The universe disagreed, however.  I'd been working on a manuscript that involved Villains and Criminals (as well as Good Guys, of course) and my Friendly Muse must have decided that I needed some first hand experience to make my story more convincing.  

Thus:  One night this past summer during my travels, I was rudely awakened from a deep sleep at 2 am by the glare of an intruder's flashlight shining into my eyes.  Without thinking, and still half asleep, I leapt out of bed, yelling fiercely at the top of my voice, and chased the (equally startled) intruder out the back door.  I called 911.  By the time the police arrived, I had calmed down, and was able to observe---with great interest, actually---the procedures they followed.  I made mental notes, and when daylight arrived, took photos for further back-up reference material.
The police pointed out to me how the intruder had first tried to pry off the screen to a guest room window.
When that didn't work, the intruder cut the screen---and climbed in through the window.
The police found---and photographed---the footprint left by the intruder on the floor beneath the damaged window (can you see it?---left of center in the photo above).  They recognized it immediately as the print of a Converse sneaker.  All those detective stories I read really are on target!
Next the police dusted black fingerprint powder all over doorknobs, windowsills, and door jambs.  They also took my fingerprints---a first for me.  I was impressed by how thoroughly the police---4 of them---worked for several hours, gathering clues.
But then my Friendly Muse must have remembered how I and my work tend to find the humor in any situation.  The police had finished and gone, but the security guard for place was still bumbling around, trying to be helpful.  Since the intruder had come in through a lock-less patio gate, I asked the security guard if he could provide the gate with a lock. He trundled off happily.  After an absence of half an hour, he returned.  He didn't have any locks that would fit the gate, he said.  But he did have a solution.  He had prepared this twig specially, he said.  He jammed the twig into the latch.  That will keep you safe, he said.

Needless to say, when daylight came, I took these photos, packed up my belongings, thanked my Muse, and left.  I had enough research---and enough humor.  I didn't need any more.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SUMMER STUDIO, PART 2



It took longer than expected to accomplish all the organizing of my summer studio...but voila!  A functioning and useable space.  Except...after several days of trying it out, the desk still didn't seem to be in the right position.  More moving and rearranging...
...and this time, everything was just as it needed to be...
...with the final blessing of a rainbow on the day I finished.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

SUMMER STUDIO, PART 1


When I drove north after my teaching stint at Hollins University, my jewel of a summer studio was waiting for me.  I had visions of diving into my work the day I arrived.  Except...
it seemed there was a bit of housekeeping that needed attending to before I could begin.
All the stuff I had brought East for teaching...
all the stuff that had been stored in the summer studio...
was there no end to it all?
Overwhelming.  No work could be accomplished in this mess, that's for sure.  Only one thing to do...roll up my sleeves and start organizing.

(To be continued...)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

SCHOOL & LIBRARY VISITS, PART 2

After my previous post (http://thewendywatsonblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/school-library-visits.html) the reference librarian at the Windham Public Library unearthed the following from the library's archives:

1998
Wendy Watson Artwork at Windham Public Library (left to right, Bill and Barbara Tolman, Steve and Sandie Mizerak, photo likely taken by Children's Librarian Laurel Parker)
An original piece of artwork by children' book author and illustrator Wendy Watson is in the Windham Public Library, thanks to many people.
        In July, 1998 Barbara and Bill Tolman of Scarborough, Maine attended an Elderhostel presented by the Hulbert Outdoor Center of Fairlee, VT at Dowds' Country Inn in Lyme, NH. One of the topics for the week was Children's Authors and Illustrators. On Monday, July 5th, following the fitness walking session, the Elderhostel participants had their class session with Ms. Watson.
        Wendy asked them what they had seen on their walk. She listed their animals, including a dog, a squirrel, and a robin. Then she asked questions such as, "Was the dog skinny or fat?" and "Did it have on any clothes?"
        Using crayons and newsprint Wendy sketched a very large dog chasing a squirrel running away with a pile of clothes and a very noisy robin letting the dog know where the clothes had gone. With the artist's body blocking the far left side of the paper, Wendy sketched in a No Swimming sign. She stepped aside revealing it to the class, surprising everyone. When it was complete with color the class had a lesson on how to create a story with a few familiar elements.
        The Tolmans asked what would become of the piece. Would it be possible for them to take it to Maine and donate it to the library where their daughter was the Children's Librarian? When they left at the end of the week it was rolled up on a tube for safe travel. On July 12, 1998 the art was presented to their daughter, Laurel T. Parker. The art work was now in Windham.
        The next step was to find a framer who could do the work for such a large piece. Sandie and Steve Mizerak, owners of Little Sebago Gallery and Frame in Windham, wanted to study the piece, confer with colleagues on the best methods to use, and they were interested in a community service project. They agreed to take on the project for only the cost of materials while donating their time. The only catch was that the library would have to provide transportation because it would be too large.
        The call came; the piece was ready. It was taking up a lot of gallery space. That afternoon Jeanne Thurber, a Friend of the Windham Public Library, transported it to the library in her truck. Snugly tucked in a back room in the library for a few days, the piece was ready to hang in the Children's Room.
        On Thursday night, October 29, 1998, Barbara and Bill Tolman, framers Sandy and Steve Mizerak, and daughter and Children's Librarian Laurel Parker met after the library closed and hung the original art by Wendy Watson. The blue mat and silver frame fit the Children's Room perfectly, the art work looked home.
        The library thanks all those involved with this project: Wendy Watson for her artwork, Deb Williams at the Hulbert Outdoor Center for allowing the piece to come to Windham, Barbara and Bill Tolman for thinking of our Children's Room and transporting it to Maine, Sandie and Steve Mizerak for their time and expertise in framing it, Jeanne Thurber for providing local transportation, and the Friends of the Windham Public Library for funding the project.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

SCHOOL & LIBRARY VISITS

I just received a lovely email from a good friend and colleague, Bruce McMillan, a fantastic photo-illustrator and author of many children's books (http://www.brucemcmillan.com/).  He writes:   

Hey Wendy,

Look what I found at the Windham Maine Public Library (http://www.windham.lib.me.us/), an original HUGE Wendy Watson.
Yep, it's an original.
Nice and big and wet and splash.

The reference librarian at Windham is a friend and had always mentioned their Wendy Watson, so I stopped by to see for myself.


Bruce

When I do a presentation at a school or a library, I alway make up a story and draw a picture for my audience.   And I always invite plenty of input from the audience as to who, what, when, where, and how!  I used a giant black magic marker, and Craypas, to make this picture.  I left it behind for my hosts, as I always do.  How nice to think that it is still hanging in the Windham Maine Public Library.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

STRAWBERRIES AND DEADLINES

As I sorted through a basket of organic strawberries the other day, I thought of a strawberry experience from many years ago.  I had signed a contract for a dream book project: Wendy Watson's Mother Goose.  Before this, the books I had illustrated were almost all 32 pages in length.  A few were 48 pages; one or two were 64 pages.  But the Mother Goose would be 150 pages in length, almost all of those pages heavily illustrated.  After signing the contract, I kept putting off the project.  It was going to take so much time...where to begin...how to go about it.  Five years went by.  I still hadn't started on the Mother Goose.  
Then one morning I experienced a reckoning:  was this book ever going to come into existence?  Or was I going to allow it to die on the vine?  On top of that, visions of having to return the contractual advance danced through my head.  Of course I was going to illustrate it!  I set up a "schedule of completion."  My quota was one double-page spread per working day.  Five working days a week.  Fifteen weeks total.  I work slowly, and this schedule was going to be impossible for me.  But somehow I had to do it.
It was strawberries that saved the day.  Strawberry shortcake, to be more exact.  Even more exact---strawberry shortcake with homemade biscuits and heavy cream.  Each night of those one hundred and fifty working days, I ate strawberry shortcake for dessert.  As I labored through each double-page spread, I knew that strawberry shortcake was waiting for me when I had finished.  It was the only thing that enabled me to complete that wonderful project.