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Sheep

The noble profile, the slitted eyes, the curls, the baaaaa, the level gaze…

I love drawing sheep.

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This gal caught my eye this summer. When  I went looking for a subject for my cottage postcards I was drawn to her curious face. As in the past, I begin by taping off a grid of small postcards on watercolor paper.

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I make a quick sketch in pencil in each window and then use an assembly line approach to add colors.

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Each layer adds detail and the sheep emerges.

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The final touches are gold and silver ink…

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and glitter!

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Each card is the same but different, a one-of-a-kind love token for the friend who receives a “cottage card.”

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In the Canyon

In honor of the National Park Services” 100th Birthday, I celebrate one of the jewels in the crown.

Read this and then like Page Through the Parks on Facebook to be entered in the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Welcome to Grand Canyon, Arizona

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It is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World”

It’s about 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep, Its walls contain rock layers that reveal a timeline of Earth’s history.

To make the illustrations for  In The Canyon as good they could be, I had to explore the Grand Canyon. I took my  intrepid sister, a wildlife veterinarian, for company and and in we went!

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Dr. Peregrine Wolff  and a friendly  Big Horn Sheep-commonly found In the Grand Canyon.

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Approaching Castle Crag on the South Kaibab Trail.

from RIM to RIVER…

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Joking around at Ooh Ah Point on the South Kaibab Trail.

and back!

The main character of In the Canyon, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, speaks in the 1st person voice. She begins her narration like this:

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“Here’s a map, some boots, a pack, a walking stick, a sandy track.”

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I always enjoy working with a model and I found a lovely girl in San Francisco named Willa.

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I spent a few hours with Willa taking pictures, and then used those to draw from while illustrating the book.

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She gazes at the reader from the jacket, inviting you to join her In the Canyon.

As soon as you dip below the rim of the canyon you enter a vast, deep bowl that has no direct route to the bottom. The trails are constantly zig zagging down the steep walls. Occasionally you can spy the river, way down deep.

My sister Peri, seen from a few switchbacks above, with many more to go. The Colorado river, bright green, is crossed by 2 bridges. One is visible here.

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If it is a cool spring morning on the rim, it is full, hot summer at river level. Along the way are blooming cacti and yucca, birds, lizards and curious squirrels.

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I can’t get enough shots of the blossoming Beavertails.

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a finished linoleum block and gouache illustration.

“Here’s a footstep, dusty red, another one and more ahead.”

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To do this rim to river to rim hike one must be very fit and prepared for a lot of heat and exertion.

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Some people choose to travel by mule. Mules are chosen from Tennessee and Missouri. They are used for pack supplies to Phantom Ranch and pack mail out of the canyon and later promoted to trail mules.

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I used a photo of a family, gathered under an overhang, as inspiration for this illustration.sliceofshadeGCweb
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“Now here’s a tiny slice of shade, a yummy lunch, some lemonade. And a lizard, still as sand, his head all speckled, body tan.”

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Finally, we’re at river level, where the deep shade around Phantom Ranch is most welcoming. Time to recharge and load up on water and salty snacks for the hike back out. Peri and I made it back to the rim by nightfall, a 16 mile roundtrip.

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But the child in In the Canyon is luckier. She gets to spend the night, camping by the river.

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“Here’s the dark and here’s the shine, and here’s the moon—it’s like it’s mine. To tuck inside me way down deep, Grand and wild, mine to keep.”

I’ll come back to the Canyon someday, no doubt with enough overconfidence to descend to the bottom and back in one day as I did with Peri.

After all, I have what it takes: “a map, some boots, a pack, a walking stick, a sandy track.”

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The Bunny Runs Away to Hollins

Margaret Wise Brown is one of Hollins University‘s most well known grads-especially in the children’s book world.

Most famous for Goodnight Moon, her 1942 book The Runaway Bunny, about  an adventurous baby bunny and her devoted mama, inspired the first pair of characters to mysteriously appear on campus–right outside the library.

These were all conceived and executed using corrugated, plastic board and acrylic paints by a Fairy Godmother, assisted by her trio of fairy assistants.

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Lyndsey and Topher Keppol cutting and priming the Mama Bunny

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The fairy godmother painting the Mama Bunny with acrylics

As the summer went past, more and more appeared, until at almost every turn you could find another classic or contemporary children’s book character, casually hanging around, sometimes literally!

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Lucy, a Wild Thing and Max

After Mama and Baby Bunny,  we made some more classics: Ferdinand the Bull,  Pooh, Piglet and EeyoreThe Very Hungry Caterpillar,  Wilbur and Charlotte, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Mister Toad

 

Then we added some characters dreamed up by Hollins professors and guest speakers:

Minna from The Rag Coat, and Skippyjon Jones.

And finally, a whole ‘girl gang’ of our favorite independent females: Tinker Bell,

MadelinePippi Longstocking, OliviaEloise, Miss Rumphius , and Frances the badger.

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Who will appear next summer?

Suggestions are welcome!

 

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Scratchboard 101

Speaking of taking light out of dark, I’ll continue this summer’s lessons with scratchboard. Using sharp tools we scrape off the top layer of black ink, revealing the white clay layer underneath.

In addition to straight and curved scrapers there are stiff wire brushes, forks with multiple prongs, sandpaper, and steel wool.

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The 1st activity is to create a sampler to test how the different tools work.

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I always start a piece with a drawing on tracing paper and then apply graphite dust to the back. When this is transferred to the matt black scratchboard it shows up as an easy to see silver line.

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Working on a piece of 6″x 6″ Ampersand scratchboard I complete this talkative pig.

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Gouache over Black Gesso 101

I love ‘carving’ light out of dark.

It started with scratchboard, then wood cuts and linoleum, and now gouache over black gesso.

There is a different quality to the line when you are taking it away instead of adding it.

I’m certain I didn’t invent this technique, but this is the version I teach at Hollins as the technique I used to illustrate several books.

Home Sweet Home and Each Living Thing were both done this way.

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This lush style is great for lots of detail, but I’d like to simplify, so I’m working on a less realistic, more graphic look.

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I start with a simple line drawing and rub graphite on the back to transfer it to a paper prepared with black gesso.

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The traced line shows up as silver and is easy to see. If it lingers when I’m done painting I can erase it or paint over it with more black gesso.

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The 1st layer of paint looks pretty weak and grayed out, but keep adding layers. If you need to, spray lightly with workable fixative in between layers.

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When I saw the results of my initial drawing I added more flowers and grasses in the foreground by painting 1st with black gesso and then ‘carving’ away with the colored gouache.

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another cat, less stylized, with pimento stuffed martini olive flowers! 

Try it–it is fun and meditative and your color scheme can be as wild as you want.

B&W Gouache Resist 101

Gouache resist is kind of magic.

To make a black and white image you need to block out everything BUT the areas you want to remain black using solid white gouache.

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I begin with a pencil drawing on trace. Then transfer it to sturdy, smooth,

watercolor paper. You need something that can stand up to being wet and rubbed a little.

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close up of the thickish white gouache on paper. The lighter areas are unpainted paper.

Once the gouache is “dead” dry, use a wide foam brush to apply undiluted India Ink to the whole piece. The ink fills in every area of unpainted paper, dying it an indelible black.

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The white gouache design is still visible under all the ink

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washing the white gouache off  a different piece.

Once the paint is removed the design, originally painted in white gouache,

is revealed…

Magic!

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A few other  examples of B&W gouache resist images.

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