24 September 2013

Learning by Imitating

Me imitating Kris Di Giacomo

For our first assignment our instructor, Lisa Cinar, asked us to research an illustrator we liked who worked in a style different from our own.  We then had to take one illustration and imitate that style, but also alter it.  I chose, Kris Di Giacomo's illustrations for Brief Thief, written by MichaĆ«l Escoffier.

The illustration is of that crucial moment when Leon realizes there is no more toilet paper.  I altered it by extending the page.  This served two purposes:
1) It would force me to think about how to illustrate in her style for something that was not there -- How would she draw a hedgehog? Or grass? Or the bottom of the tree?
2) It added to the story... sort of a sidebar if you like, "Oh, that's where the last of the toilet paper went.  Wait.  Does the hedgehog know he is walking around with toilet paper stuck to his backside?"

Kris Di Giacomo's illustration

The exercise was a fantastic and humbling learning experience.  Trust me, those splats of green for leaves are harder than they look.  At the same time, it was fun to get out of my comfort zone of pen and ink to go all tactile with gesso and acrylics.  There were puzzling aspects.  How did she get that flat brown for the tree?  There was also the revelation that she was not slavish about how she represented the same thing on different pages.  For example, here is how she draws the same tree later on in the book, almost scrawled in pastel or crayon.

same tree, different medium

Something I learned in going from pen and ink to painting:  In pen and ink, you build by adding marks to a blank page.  In painting, you reveal by altering brush strokes to selectively show what is behind.  For example, the sky is a dark blue gray wash behind a layer of loosely applied gesso.

For more on Lisa Cinar, and a wealth of information on picture books, click here
For more on Kris Di Giacomo's illustrations, click here

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