Arianna's Alphabet Book: A

Finished number 20, and a full-page one as well! It really makes me feel like Arianna will actually get her alphabet book after all. Especially since this is the first letter – for some reason, finishing the letter A makes me feel like the alphabet book is on it's way, no matter how many I've done beforehand.

Speaking of the letter A, if we had named her anything else this book would have probably been completely different. The conceit of the book is that each sentence on a page starts with the appropriate letter (so it can be a capital letter), with the small letter contained somewhere in the sentence as well. Because of her name, I was able to start the book with "Arianna walked to the park." And, I also get to title the book Arianna's Baseball Catch, which works out great, in just about every way.


Back to the Book: B

The pun drawing is back. I'm not sure whether anyone would know this is batter or not without me saying so, but hopefully the egg shells and measuring cup will help.

Number 19! The end is in sight. Once I finish number 20 then I'll feel like the bulk of the work if done.


Interlude: because sometimes, you just have to.

I love cartooning and all, and am still working on the alphabet book. But after reading about the Pre-Raphaelites and visiting the Philadelphia Museum, I just had to get back into figure drawing. As I had only one thing to hand, I used it.

It started out in blue pencil. I added watercolor for the shadows, some slight additional color, and pastel highlights to bring it to a finish. Just a fairly quick sketch, but hopefully the beginning of more of this sort of thing.


Back from Vacation: R

Haven't posted for a bit because I've been on vacation. Good times. Especially relevant for this blog was a chance to check out the Philadelphia Art Museum – I got to see a lot of my favorite artists. Whistler, Sargent, and Alma-Tadema in particular, but also Cassatt, Munch, and Toulouse-Latrec. In addition, my son loved the armor exhibit... sniff... I'm so proud...

Here's something I finished just before taking off. It's R, for Rushing out the door.


The Problem with U: 3 versions

Above is version 1 – what I had in mind when I designed the piece. Version 2 would be with more dimension and color (more on this in a bit). And then there's version 3:

Which throws off the first two versions entirely.

I'll go into the top one first. I'd pictured it as a stark image, running up cavern stairs. It's flat, because I'm aiming more for a mood than a representation – I'd even considered doing it just as a pure silhouette in just black or purple. So since it's what I had in mind, I could just leave it as is and call it finished.

However, I did show it to a friend, who said that the stairs could pop out from the background more, I could add more color to the figures, and so on. All valid critiques, I'll be the first to say, if I'm trying to represent it dimensionally.

Now on to version 3. While I was debating all this, I realized that the figures aren't necessarily supposed to be suspended in space, on a narrow stairway. It almost looks a little like the Bridge of Khazad-Dum from Tolkien. So I thought about how it would look if they are going up a labyrinth of stairs, and came up with drawing 2.

In some ways I like it better, especially with the other wanderers climbing the stairway along with them. It would mean starting again, of course, but it's worth it if it makes a better illustration. I'll have to figure out which direction to go here, but if anyone wants to chime in, I'd welcome people's opinions!


This one also ran away with me...

...but in a less obvious way.

This was supposed to be another straight-forward watercolor illustration. Then, when I was almost done, it seems like I needed to add a bit of blue to the skin tones. So I put brush to paper and... it turned the color a flat, dark gray.

I'll have to remember that color combination if I ever am called on to do a drawing of zombies, but not what I had in mind for the alphabet book. I hit the painting with a lot of water, hoping to lift off the color, which resulted in a flat, light gray.

So I had no choice but to reach for the acrylics.

I ended up really liking it. I've been wanting to put more color in the figure, but I didn't want to muddy it too much. If I paint with acrylic, though, I can put in all the color I want. I'll still probably stick with watercolor for the bulk of the pictures, but use acrylics for the features.

Regarding the alphabet book itself, this is one of the few pages where the image has something in it that starts with the actual letter. I had originally planned to have P stand for penguin, but it seems like penguins are everywhere in kids' literature. I opted for the platypus instead.


Arianna's Alphabet Book: Q

Q for "Quick!" and queen.

Another fun one to do. I liked getting closer to the figures, for the sake of Arianna's hands. Usually the fingers are just little stubs in proportion to the rest of her, but up close they can be more expressive. Also got to get back to the acrylic highlights and shadows – the illustration for Y didn't seem to need it, but it helped here.

My older daughter (age 6) saw the post for Y. She liked it, but said she couldn't figure out what in the picture started with the letter Y. I had to explain to her that what the characters say in the story has a Y in the sentence. I like making this one a story, but if Arianna gets equally confused when I finish this and show it to her, I may need to reference one of the other 2 alphabet books to help!


Arianna's Alphabet Book: Y

"You're right!" she said, and dug them out quickly.


Arianna's Alphabet Book: X

This one's pretty obvious.

I'm beginning to add more acrylic in again – the walls and the X, but I especially like the reflected blue light along the platypus' back. It's easy to get a range of color in the tone with watercolor, but to really make it pop, the acrylic is great.

I got the idea for the blue from J.C. Leyendecker's paintings. There's one where he has a painting of a man, and the highlight at the top of the sternum, just below the neck, is in that shade of blue. And it worked perfectly. Had it been just a shade of the color around it, it would have been flat and boring. So I'm going to try and bring more of that into these watercolors as well.