It feels like a long time ago that I started work on a new project. Written by Richard Jackson and edited by Neal Porter, I loved the project. And the baby was finally sent off right before Christmas.
I have always considered myself a traditional illustrator. I love watercolor, pastel and pencil and love what traditional materials do. In fact, I can completely nerd out and spend hours obsessing over paint properties, paper surfaces, and line weight. I love the unpredictability of traditional materials and have never rendered e a book digitally because frankly, I am lame when it comes to technology. However, I am part of a wonderful critique group: Lisa Brown, Katherine Tillotson, Christy Hale, Ashley Wolff and Susan Gal, and each uses digital tools differently. So, I became interested in the flexibility that working with digital tools affords me and I explored those options with my latest book, Lotus and Feather.
My biggest goal, when I started the project, was to retain what I love about working traditionally, but add the flexibility that digital allows. I also wanted to experiment using different paper surfaces to achieve looser and tighter images, so I began to experiment with creating art traditionally and combining it digitally.
I started rendering loose backgrounds with watercolor on 140 pound cold press watercolor paper. I did the paintings onsite and each one took about 5 minutes.
I scanned the backgrounds at 600 dpi and they became the basis for the landscapes in Lotus and Feather.
I experimented with hot press illustration paper, and rendered the bird and the characters on this surface. Hot press paper allows you to render incredible detail with pencil and paint and not have any of the paper texture show. I scanned all of these drawings into the computer too.
I also painted a number of simple textures on different types of paper. Sunsets, reeds, weird textures like ink and soap bubbles ( a texture from critique group member Susan Gal) and scanned them all into the computer.
Because I have worked traditionally and I paint my watercolors in layers, I replicated the same thing digitally. Often the files consisted of 70 layers, all transparent (the multiply layer... my favorite). I inverted layers, duplicated layers and after a while it felt like painting. The process wasn't faster, but in many ways I had more control over color and composition.The process was also wonderful when it came to changes. In the past, minor changes meant redoing a painting that took a week to paint. Now it meant, finding and redoing one layer. A much faster and simpler process!