Cardinal Cacciatore sketch finished

cardinal_color_sketch003Here is the color sketch of the Cardinal finished

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In-class demo

This is an in-class demo.

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The sailboat race—drawing 2

The second drawing for the sailboat race. The seagulls need to go, since they belie the scale, and a student mentioned that in the first engraving what appeared to be trees helped place it in Central Park and helped with the scale issue. Good suggestion

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The Sailboat Race

One of my favorite parts of Stuart Little is the sailboat race in Central Park. Stuart signs on to skipper the Wasp in it race against the Lillian B. Womrath and the ship’s hated owner, a 12 year-old named LeRoy.

As mentioned in earlier posts on the seagull illustration, there is a wonderful sense of scale written into this part of the story. I want to convey that through a viewpoint at pond level, but putting in huge breakers and lowering skies to imply daring and danger. This is my first attempt at engraving the sailboat race.

Wasp and Lillian B. Womrath under heavy seas (pond)

This didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. The two ships should be visibly different, the sky is not what I would like, and the water is getting there, but not right. First time ever trying to depict water in relief engraving. I have a new drawing which I think is better, and will post that image shortly.


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Stuart Little and Snowbell


Here is the final engraved block for Stuart and Snowbell. The detail you see on the right side of Snowbell’s face, and in Stuart’s shirt will print solid black. This is the second time I engraved this image, and it may not be the last depending upon how it turns out printed. I’m a bit nervous, because usually if you have to engrave something three times, it means the idea should have been strangled in its crib.

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Bell the cat…

Have any of you heard this term—to bell the cat? Well according to Wikipedia (insert boo-hiss here) “the idiom to bell the cat, means to attempt, or agree to perform, an impossibly difficult task”.

I found it funny that when I was researching Snowbell the cat in Stuart Little, I had assumed—mistakenly— it was Snowball the cat. When I re-read the story and it was Snowbell, I chuckled because of the wordplay to (Snow)”Bell the Cat”. And in a way, Stuart, as a mouse, dealing with Snowbell was very much like the fable of the mice holding a meeting to decide to put a bell on an ornery cat, only to have to ask themselves, “Who will Bell the cat?” Well Stuart did. So here is the portrait of SnowBELL the Cat, with a little chuckle to Bill, I mean Bell.

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Cat and Mouse…

Stuart Little’s relationship with the bird Margalo is complex, and her leaving sets him on his adventures away from the Little’s home in New York. A crucial illustration—one I will do large—is when Stuart fires an arrow into the ear of the Little’s cat, Snowbell, as it stalks the sleeping Margalo. It is dark, and there is plenty of drama in the scene, and it is the moment before Stuart releases the arrow, and the moment after Snowbell realizes Stuart is there. I simply need to put Stuart in silhouette, and have the focus on the cat in surprise, fear and anguish. The sketch is below.

Cat and mouse, and mouse wins.

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Establishing a character

Please read this entire post, there are things you must do listed at the end.

I am turning to character development as it relates to our upcoming second assignment. Many of you seem influenced by—and reference—animated characters you see in current films. The minions in Despicable Me, the robot in Wall-e, Shrek and the Monsters in Monsters, Inc. are all developed with meticulous and painstaking research. These characters are highly developed and you must do the research and work required to create a witty yet convincing character.

In Stuart Little, I am dealing with a mouse, born to human parents. That is the conceit, the bit of magic the story is built upon. A boss of mine, editor George Constable, told me once, “introduce one piece of magic. You don’t need to explain it, but don’t expect the reader to accept any more.” It is good advice.

The first thing I must do is familiarize myself with what mice are…what mice look like. Is Stuart a Harvest Mouse? Field Mouse? What is mouse anatomy? Where are they similar to us? Where are they different? I will tell you they have a very different neck than humans. Makes clothing a challenge.

As always it begins with visual research. I find images of mice, and put them in a scrap file of images of animals I may need at a later time. Then I begin sketching…

different mouse attitudes and positions

This goes on for some time. Investigating the different positions and looks of the subject matter.

From the text we know that Stuart is pretty clothes conscious— later in the book he substitute teaches at an elementary school, emerging later “wearing a pepper-and-salt jacket, old striped trousers, a windsor tie and spectacles”. He is rather fastidious with his morning wash-up routine as well, so we are aware that costume is important. Below are some sketches introducing a mouse wearing clothing.

Clothed mice

This is all part of the investigative stage—the research and creative process. What body positions will convey what you want to convey? Leadership? submission? aggression?exertion? Wouldn’t a skirt convey femininity faster than blue jeans? Leather jacket to show rebellion? Think of those things that—while often cliché—are details which help convey your story.

Now, I would like you to follow these links to begin looking at how character developers create character.

Heidi Smith, Tips and tricks of character design, and scroll down on Martin Wittig’s Blog to check out some amusing animals

And review this tutorial on character development from life.

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First engraving

Thought I’d ease into this abit. In the Stuart Little story, an exciting and image rich section was the sailboat race in Central Park. By this time in the book we are comfortable with the idea of a mouse born to human parents, and Stuart himself is more comfortable with his surroundings. He has hopped a bus to central park, and has observed the sailboats in the large lake.

Central Park sailboat pond

Central Park sailboat

this from Getty images

He fancies one particular sailboat, the Wasp, and engages its owner in conversation. After some time, Stuart enlists as captain of the boat, and agrees to sail in a race against the hated  sloop, the Lilian B. Womrath.

On two occasions in this part of the narrative, the author mentions the wheeling seagulls overhead. I chose to depict this detail because it links the experiences of this small mouse to our own experience of the huge ocean and sailing, through the image of  seagulls. Seagulls are integral in both Moby Dick and Jaws, and the idea that this illustration should serve as an index—something that points to a thing, not the thing itself—struck me as interesting.

Please reference this section of Barry Moser’s book, “In the Face of Presumptions”, as he describes his illustration process:

Next, I begin to research seagulls—how do they fly? how do their wings fold? What do they look like.

reference collage of seagulls

first the image scrap—collected from purchased images from a stock photo site. and sketches done from research to determine format, position, scale, etc.

sketch of seagulls in square format

tight sketch for scanning and block transfer

Darkened, and ready for block transfer

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Beginning a project

I have decided to do engraved illustrations for Stuart Little, E.B. White’s classic children’s story. I have to be aware of some things before I begin. This book is not in the public domain, so I have to be rather careful about how I handle this project. I am approaching it more as an art piece, or self-published piece—at least the artwork is. Any text I use will likely need permission of the copyright holder, if I want to sell or exhibit this work. This should not stop me from doing the project, but I must be aware. You can see some of the original illustrations of the text by the artist Garth Williams here at Every Picture Tells a Story.

My first task is to read the book. I cannot illustrate obviously without reading the book, and re-reading for opportunities for illustration. I am not going to look at the movie. I want to bring the book alive from what I imagine from reading the words, and there may be instances where I create mood, or show details, vs. a straight illustration of the narrative

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