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Week 3 of Make Art that Sells: Children’s Picture Books

Going through the roller-coaster ride once more time! It’s really smart that we start a new assignment before Lilla’s review comes out Tuesday morning (PST). Especially before finding out if the piece we worked on so hard the past week is included in the review or not! Because by then we’ve moved on to something else. And this week we’re drawing foxes! The assignment is to illustrate a book cover or two page spread for Aesop’s fable The Fox And The Crow.

It’s hard not to get pulled into Facebook and everyone posting their drawings, they are each so different and fun! This week I really struggled between working from my own style and pushing to discover new directions. My animals are usually pretty simple because I carved them in linoleum in such a small size. But can I make my fox into a character and have him show a range of emotions? 

I decided to start with an exercise Lilla gave us called “Be true to you. What makes you unique?”  It asks question about our culture, education, special experiences and hobbies among other things. Here’s some of what I wrote down: “I’m french canadian, I grew up with a mom artist who shared her love of Chagall and the Little Prince, and a dad with a passion for music. I have had tons of hobbies, but the ukulele has been my favorite in the past three years.” Pulling out my sketchbook after this my fox character emerged as a ukulele playing fox in a french stripy shirt (which I decided to call Remi).

Showing varying emotions is pretty challenging! Searching the web for facial expressions it’s interesting to notice what makes an emotion change, like a slight twist of an eyebrow, where the eyeballs are or what curve the mouth has. I liked the sly smile, but I preferred to have his mouth open to show he is singing. The good thing is it ended up helping me with my final concept where he is about to catch the cheese in his mouth! By the way the cheese is a camembert ;-).

Now that I’ve been doing the scanning a few times I’m developing little tricks like drawing parts separately so they’re easier to compose in the computer later on.

Here are some iterations for my fox after pulling into illustrator to turn into vectors and then photoshop to apply textures. They look kind of similar but I made a lot of tweaks between this first one and the last. Here’s a little game, can you point out the differences?

I spent a lot of time on my fox and by Friday after work I didn’t even have my crow! Someone on Facebook said my fox looked like a hipster (and even asked if he was single!), so now my crow couldn’t be just a regular black crow but a hipster crow.  And one that’s a queen and will make a nice couple with my fox too! I called her Caroline (for Caw-roline). Here are my sketches, the parts for scanning, and my iterations in illustrator and photoshop. Drawing the parts in solid black is much easier, it’s like collage basically, which I did a lot before. I really like that mental exercise of breaking down the parts, so fun to do it again!

Friday I had ideas of doing a fox hole and fill it with fun little furnishings, but I ended up spending all day Saturday figuring out my layout and the color palette. The big challenge was how do I place this long fox and the crow with some cheese action and not have the text compete or criss cross with the drawing. As long as I tried to have the fox somewhat in the middle I’d run into issues. Until I turned his tail the other way. Now it needed a whole tree in the middle instead of maybe just a branch. See my tree sketches above, it took a few trials before I found the right style. 

There was a lot to do for this assignment with characters, layout and then lettering. In the last couple hours I gave a go to the lettering, but just tracing over real text didn’t really give a professional result. So the computer won, but the exercise helped me break out of a straight type layout. And I so wanted to put a house in there! 

Finally, below is the resulting cover I submitted for the assignment. I made it sound like it all went pretty smoothly but let me confess now that at several moments I thought this would be a bust and I wouldn’t submit anything! I saw this wonderful video earlier in the week with Chagall’s quote saying that creating from the heart leads to better things than from the head. Well I did my best, but it was a bit of a stressed heart, haha. I’m just glad I managed to finish it and learned a lot!

Update: We had the review this morning and my piece was included in the “Styles to Watch”. What a nice surprise! With all my struggles this week I sure didn’t see this one coming. I kept seeing the amazing work posted by my classmates and figured I didn’t stand a chance and might as well just try my best to submit something decent. Goes to show, things happens when you least expect it (and I always roll my eyes when people say that, it’s so hard to do most of the time!).

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