Discover more from The Quiet Blackbird
Yellow + Black = Green
Flourishes, hens, and a sketchbook peep...
This letter is made possible, and available for all, by the kind support of paid subscribers. If you have the means (it’s a smidgen more than one fancy coffee a month), please consider upgrading to a paid subscription, so I can keep my content free for those that don’t. Thank you x
Hello House Martins,
The sun has returned to Yorkshire! Behold the light, and the bluest skies. The heat I’m less fussed about - I prefer to retain a temperate equilibrium that finds me best suited to the vernal/autumnal seasons - but I do appreciate not having to pack coats and waterproofs on every outing (granted its swapped to sun hats and sunscreen, but at least they’re smaller/lighter). But the light, have I mentioned the light?
In some perverse correlation however, I find myself busier than ever. On good days I can take my work outside, but days at the big computer or out the way of the children (Hello half term!), forced to sit in the gloom makes me grumpy (unless I’ve chosen to hide away in the dark, that’s a whole other set of rules for keeping me happy).
My Pathways Into Children’s Publishing course is back in full swing and we’ve had some really great sessions with some really cool people. So far this term we’ve explored illustrating place and atmosphere with Benji Davies (The Storm Whale, Tad, Grandad’s island), and developing stories with Joe Todd Stanton (The Secret Of Black Rock, A Mouse Called Julian, Brownstone’s Mythical Collection) and David Litchfield (The Bear And The Piano,Lights On Cotton Rock) joined by Simon & Schuster, Flying Eye Books, and Magic Cat Publishing. It’s so cool getting to chat to such amazing illustrators and publishers, and I’m learning so much.
We’ve also been given our second literature brief - which is very scary but also super exciting because it’s the kind of brief I’d love in real life. But I have to keep that under wraps for now. Instead I can finally share my artwork from the first literature brief with Nosy Crow (I talked about the brief outline in my last missive).
I started in my sketchbook. Actually, that’s not true. I started on layout paper and then stuck them into my sketchbook. The reason why - it gives me the same flexibility as sketching digitally in that I can trace over basic shapes to retain consistency, and also cut it up and move bits around, whilst still keeping the analogue sketching I love. I think this was the first version of Noa I drew, and I liked them so much I set about exploring their expressions. I knew I had to present three versions to the Nosy Crow team (at roughs stage), but it was difficult to pull myself away from this Noa.
I found Noa version 2, but as you can see version 1 just wouldn’t stay quiet. I loved Noa v2’s massive jowls and triangular hair. I also started exploring full body poses here. I really struggled with a third version of Noa, maybe because I loved the first two so much, I don’t know, but Noa v3 just wouldn’t come, so I tried to draw one of the supporting characters, Lenny. As the deadlines for the finals approached, I had no Noa v3, so ended up using my Lenny sketches. In my head they were definitely not a Noa, so kept my fingers crossed that they weren’t chosen.
Thankfully, and maybe because my love for them shone through in the lines, Nosy Crow chose Noa v1 for me to develop. Now I had to figure out just how. I don’t have a set style, it tends to mould to fit the brief, but I only had two weeks (full of client work and kids) to figure this out.
By some remarkable fate, the first idea I had worked, and it felt just right for me and for the brief. I landed on a digital screen-printing process using my analogue line-work.
The scans picked up some lovely noise which I kept in the finals, as I wanted to retain as many of the beautiful happy accidents you get when working traditional as I could. I don’t like digital art that’s too clean, so it was important for me to keep some of the analogue elements. I kept to a limited palette because I find colours easier to manage that way, using digital blending modes to find additional colours where the originals overlapped, knowing they’d work harmoniously with each other. And here they are, the final Noa, in all their colourful glory.
I received really positive feedback from the Nosy Crow team, which has been a big boost in confidence. Let’s just hope I can replicate the success for Literature Brief 2.
Just a small sac magique* of treasures for you this month:
I’m a big fan of sameness in a lot of my life, but I equally seek difference and uniqueness - this article on the age of average explores some irks of mine - I mean, why do the colours of cars have to be so boring!
Want to see inside a 15th century illustrated manuscript, the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, reputed to be the most beautiful in the world?
I have a friend (and reader) who makes the most amazing costumes for her children (and mine) out of cardboard, I’m pretty sure she could have a side-business in paper engineering. What’s not to love about magical and miraculous, moving paper?
I love the illustrations of Rebecca Green, and it turns out we both share a love of Flourishes, Decorations and Borders (see also my love of medieval art and illuminated manuscripts above). Check out her work, and also the work of some of my illustration idols Melissa Castrillon, and Thomas and Walter Crane.
A political and possibly controversial link this one - but I’ll never be a Monarchist.
‘Underrepresented’ or ‘Underrecognised’? There’s big difference. As a mentee on a course for ‘underrepresented’ illustrators I very quickly saw the problem with the term - try as hard as we might, it’s not us with the power to change the “what sells” system.
I’ve written another blog post! Still not on Judith Kerr - distracted again by the decorative line, and flat colour of Pat Hutchins. Whose estate, by the way, has the one of the best website designs I’ve ever seen.
How to draw…Rosie the hen. It’s also worth a trawl through the rest of the How to draw series.
*10 gold stars for finding the four step connection to one of its contents.
I think it’s going to be another busy month, but I’ll see you at the end of it. An email’s just come in, and there’s a possibility I’ll even be in London to write it.
Thanks again for inviting me into your inboxes, and a very warm welcome to the noobs here, I hope you don’t immediately unsubscribe!
P.S. Please leave a comment and say hello, and if you want to share the love then you could always send this to a friend.
Become a Blackbird Patron - £4.50 per month/£48 per year: Receive a twice yearly handwritten postcard featuring one of my illustrations (if you are comfortable sharing your address).