My hand is dithering over the keys, my brain is dithering over colours and writing my first blog is really a way of avoiding my desk (surprise, surprise). Not my writing desk – there is no writing desk as such. I write wherever I happen to be, usually at one of the village coffee shops. My drawing desk is the place I’m avoiding right now.
Having just finished my third novel there’s a new picturebook calling. It’s all sketched up, roughed out, edited and re-roughed, contract signed, due date decided. I have been given the ok to take all the spreads to finish, ie; time to get the bloomin’ artwork painted. But I haven’t lifted a paintbrush in three years!!! Hence the hesitation. In my head I had planned to start last Monday – this is Friday. Lunchtime.
First, the studio had to be ‘sorted’. The house we live in at the moment is small; two bedrooms. We sleep in the smaller one and have kept the larger as the studio slash spare room. That’s where said desk is. I have sketched in this room over the last three years and Michael has painted several picturebooks there but it’s not big enough, as it is, for both of us to work in together. And sometime this month Michael is due to get the go-ahead to go to final art on not one, but two picturebooks. So in the last couple of days we have put the spare bed on its side, shoved it up against the wall, and moved stuff around the place. Changed our minds and moved it around again. My desk is now perfectly placed beside a window, the lamps are angled, the paints and paintbrushes are organised, time to get on with it.
Yesterday I finally sat on the chair and got out the roughs to choose which spread to begin on. There’s always one that feels like the ‘right’ one, a good way into the process. To my surprise I’ve chosen to start at the beginning, the title page. Now, the beginning may be ‘a very good place to start’ but it’s not usually my first choice. In fact, I don’t think I have ever started painting any book with the first spread. I had actually thought this spread would be the very last one I’d do…but then I realised it really would help me sort out the colour palette for the book.
Like all illustrators I have a palette of colours I usually use but each book is different so the palette will tip more towards some colours – the blues and greens (There) or the reds and purples (I am I), and other colours may not get used at all. You have to make choices, limit yourself, or the book could end up looking like the proverbial dog’s dinner. Colours help set the mood and tell the story – bright/dark, soft/harsh, familiar/strange, joyful/muted, and so on.
The title spread for Ellie-in-the-Grey-Coat features a row of houses – based on the street in Cobh known as the Deck of Cards.
Each house will be a different colour (but not the colours in the photo) so this spread will be ideal for working out the palette for the whole book. Yesterday I did what I always do to start thinking colour, I got out some of my previous books and some of my favourite books and looked through them.
Then I traced a good clean drawing of the chosen spread from the finished rough. Next I transferred it to watercolour paper using a light box.
Now it’s taped up in place on the desk.
To start painting.