Monday, October 22, 2012


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.


  1. Your "placeholders" are charming characters in their own right. Fascinating and helpful post -- thank you!

  2. Thanks for sharing this Wendy! It's always great to see how others work. Your final comp got a lot stronger through this process.

  3. i'm looking forward to "day three".