Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A quick post about my process

Each month, either Mrs. Handmade or I work four shifts at Fusion, an art co-op we are members of here in St. Louis. One of the great things about working there is that after the dusting is done, and if there are no customers to help, all the time is ours. We're actually encouraged to bring our craft/artwork to do, because seeing us working helps draw people into our story. I spent this last Saturday working at the shop all day, and inking storybook drawings. It was great talking to people about what I was working on, telling them about the project and answering questions. One couple asked me about my process, which I love talking about because drawings seem like magic sometimes instead of a series of steps. I thought I'd take a minute and share some process drawings from Little Red Riding Hood with you today.
I started out by doodling in my sketch book, looking for who I thought the character of little red is, and what I wanted her to look like. This includes her reacting to things and doing things. This is a pretty well refined sketch of what I decided I was looking for.
 Next, I do very rough layout sketches for the drawings I'd like to include...Mostly these are just notes to myself, and I'm just looking at shapes and deciding where I want things to go.  I know I did one for the drawing I'm about to show, but it must've been on the back of an envelope or something, because I have no idea where it is now. Ha-ha-ha!
 Armed with the rough layout, I sit down with (in this case) cold press watercolor paper and a non-photo blue pencil. I use the blue pencil on these because it doesn't compete with the graphite when I do the final drawing, and it adds another layer of texture to the finished image when colored. Basically, I just like it. :) So, here I loosely and pretty quickly put down all the major shapes that I plan on being there when everything's finished.
 Next, I use a 2H graphite pencil to work out all the details, and to start figuring out the textures I'll need when I ink it. This is also where I start posting the images for the writers to see, so that we're all on the same page, and to give us all a chance to ask questions and comment.
Inking is probably my favorite part of the whole process. It's soothing, and probably the only part of the process where I don't always feel like I'm fighting it. I think this allows me to take more chances with it too.
Also, it's where everything sort of solidifies for me, as it approaches being finished. The trees were inspired in part by Charles Vess and his awesome artwork in the Dream Makers anthology. I got that book for Christmas when I was 13 or 14, and just pored over it. If you ever find it, definitely check it out.

I'm finishing up these spot interiors now, and starting the 12 main calendar images over the next week. At the same time, I'll start coloring the interiors...hopefully I don't mess them up, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, am I right? I'll leave you with one final image, the inked Tailor and Giant from last week. Brandon Graham did a really great little write up for the project over on his blog today. Go check it out!
Until next time, take care and be good!
Your friend,

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Some background and progress on Handmade Fairytales

Whenever I'm asked what Handmade Family makes I say stories...Actually, that's a lie. I just now thought of it, but it sounded so good, that I honestly want it to be true. Maybe I will start saying that for real. The real truth, is that we make back-to-basics gifts, toys, accessories and decor that promote education, problem solving and imagination. We're more than the products we make though, and we know that our customers are more than what they buy...we make things to be a part our families' lives. Stories are an important part of that, and we love telling them. When Abby was born, I knew that I wanted to collect these little experiences and illustrate them, so I started a little web comic called Daily Life. One panel cartoons with some accompanying text. I did several of them over the course of a year or two, and then decided to make a calendar collecting twelve stories about my first year as a stay-at-home dad my two little girls.

Looking for an idea for the second calendar was tough. I wanted to still tell stories about my family, but was looking for a way to stretch my abilities a little and offer something that people who didn't know me, and who didn't have that back story could relate to. Part of what inspired me as a kid, and made me want to follow a career in art was a love of movies and games. I remember being a member of the Rebel Alliance, or a Ghostbuster on the playground. Movies have become a part of our cultural dialog and there's such a rich source of material to play with there. One of the really fun aspects of that project was researching accurate costumes for the kids, while thinking of ways to make costumes for the adults that made sense but were obviously hand made.

I've enjoyed working on these projects so much, and have learned so much by doing them. This year though, I wasn't sure whether I was going to do one. I talked to Mrs Handmade about it and while we both agreed that the fan inspired work for 2012 was really cool and we love showing it, maybe we could do something more...So we decided to do a book. At first, I wanted to do just a "sketchbook" collection of drawings and illustrations. Sort of a best of the last couple years with some new work to tie it together. She thought (rightly) that it would be better to do a book of all new work, and to continue telling stories. So we decided to work on an illustrated book of Fairy Tales. As we talked out the idea, it grew. And grew...Into the most ambitious project we've done so far. The book will contain 12 fairy tales, written graciously (and incredibly) by our friends, with illustrations, layout and design by me. Along with this is the 2013 Handmade Family with us and the kids acting out the stories as illustrated theatre...
Brandon Graham, with The Brave Little Tailor
Justin Hunter, with Goldielocks, The Fox & The Crow, and The Frog Prince
Josh Burnett with Hansel and Gretel
Leighton Connor with The Princess and The Pea, and The Seven Ravens
Richard Smith with Jack and the Beanstalk, and an original story about my forest sprites
Rob Lammle with Thumbelina
Steve Johnson
with The Emperors New Clothes, and Little Red Riding Hood

So would you like to see a little bit of what we've been working on? Here's a couple of the pencil drawings from the Brave Little Tailor, by Brandon Graham

“Seven,” he said. He would have to swat them all at once. If he missed even one, he would be stung for certain. Stings were not his favorite. He found his straw broom and tested its heft. He aimed carefully. Then he let fly. SMACK. Seven wasps curled harmlessly along the ground.
“Did you see that?” he called to his sheep. The sheep were hard to impress.

He was, however, truly miffed that no one had bothered to warn him the giant was there. Meridee might have said something. Poor manners were inexcusable. He turned on his heels to go back and give her a good talking to.
We're all really excited about this project and are looking forward to sharing the ideas and progress  with you over the next few weeks as we lead up to their release at the Strange Folk Festival in O'fallon IL, at the end of September. Until then, take care and be good.

Your friend,