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Sharing the View

A web page for sharing images and ideas about the creative process and the making of an illustrated book for children.

Tools, and learning a new language

Great mother of big apples it is a pretty world.
— Kenneth Patchen

I don't know how to draw people, as cartoons or otherwise. Same with dogs: a few days ago I drew a dog from memory, curled up on the floor and napping. It looked for all the world like a pygmy cow, an animal I thought my lack of skill invented until I googled it and low and behold pygmy cows exist! (And now you're going to google it too.) Although they are adorable there will be no pygmy cows in this book, but there will be a dog, and she needs to be a lovable, recognizably non-cow dog. You can see my problem, yes?

In the product design world of my day job there is always the challenge of form language. When a client would assign to me the task of developing a new line of toasters for instance, those products would eventually exist alongside other brands of toasters on the department store shelf and would need to have a unique aesthetic, one that would communicate a particular positive message to the consumer. Sturdy and reliable, for instance. Or contemporary and stylish. Hi-tech and precise. (Precise toast!) A marketing brief would guide the way and be used to judge the appropriateness of the form, color and composition of my products.

Now what is the appropriate form language of a dog? Or a boy? What makes a drawing of a boy handsome and inquisitive rather than homely and dim witted? I cannot answer those basic questions but will get to the bottom of it with research and practice. And since this is a blog about sharing I'll share the sources I use for learning the form language of love.


My stars that's some high tech electronic drawing paper up there, the sort of magic tool I could only have dreamed about when I was starting my career. Learning this new way of working has been a joy, as I can now sketch my mistakes at a grand clip directly on the screen, happily deleting or saving as I go. Think of the trees I'm saving! I mentioned earlier that I would use minimal computer tech for this project and that's mostly true; early on I was planning to 3D model the characters and setting using animation software (and I'll show you what that looks like later) but I'm finding that directly sketching ideas with my hand is offering an important antidote to my somewhat less hands-on life. So I'll paint by hand, but in digital space rather than on paper.