Tuesday, May 31, 2016


No, not that kind of trial, involving sweat, tears, blood, and suffering. Rather, trials as in "trying-outs". Experiments. When I am starting on a new book, I often make multiple trials of the media I might use. Sometimes trials will involve ink, pencil, or paints. Sometimes they involve the paper, as in these examples.
For the trials in these photos, I cut samples of 8 different papers, and applied brush and watercolor in the exact same way to each paper. Going from left to right in the photos, I labelled my trials: "Wash", "Scrub", and "Drybrush." Wash is a straight watercolor wash. (Note that under this "wash" sample I wrote "pimples as it goes on." This paper was disqualified immediately.) Scrub is what I sometimes do with the brush if I want to remove some color. (This is also a good test for the resiliency of the paper under multiple washes and re-workings.) Drybrush is using the brush with watercolor very dry, so it acts almost like a colored pencil. (Another note: the different color of some of the drybrush samples here is a trick the camera played. In real life they are the same color as all the other samples.)

These trials were preliminaries to the illustrations for "The Cats In Krasinski Square", a picture book written by Karen Hesse. Such trials can be tedious and time-consuming (if for example one needs to let them dry overnight) but they are always worth the time and trouble. And they are just as valuable whether one is working with hand tools or on the computer. Much better than finding out mid-illustration or mid-book that one's media are not up to the task.
And sometimes---if the media insist on behaving capriciously, or one is unable to find any media that satisfy one's inner vision---these trials can in fact become "that other kind of trial". Such is the life of the conscientious illustrator.


  1. This glimpse into your process shows how hard you work, how painstaking it is--but with such beautiful results!

    1. Though there are many things for which I have no patience, this part of the process is always fascinating for me.

    2. And thank you for the "beautiful results" comment!

  2. It's a little like knitting a swatch to test the gauge before embarking on a big project like a sweater.

  3. Hi Wendy! This is fascinating. What is the paper that "won?"

  4. Hi Elizabeth---I would not now be able to point to the correct photo of the paper that "won"---but the paper I chose was an older heavy-weight 100% rag Strathmore drawing paper that in fact my artist grandparents had bought. It got handed down to my artist Dad when they passed away, and at some point he was clearing out some of his studio and gave me the huge package of paper. I felt it was an especially appropriate choice, as my grandparents were at their working heyday around the time of WWII and this book. Plus of course the family heirloom type of connection was very meaningful for me. They were not alive to see the book, of course, but my Dad was still alive and working, and in fact gave me valuable input while I was creating the art.