Creative Tensions...

Front Cover

I've spent the last 6-8 weeks creating a series of illustrations for a new book of which the above image forms the front and back cover. It's about a sheepdog that enjoys scarring the living daylights out of everyone until one day...?!! It grew out of a real life experience. Every now and then I woulld hear a dog approaching along the road where I live, from what seemed like miles away because he never stops barking as he sits proudly in the back of a Landy. Then they pass by and the barking slowly but slowly diminishes. I used to imagine that the driver never actually stopped but just kept going round and round the countryside until it was our turn to host them again. I adapted the story from this and then set about trying to dream up some pictures. In the original, Mackenzie (the dog) was a Welsh Collie but later turned into a shaggy buffoon of an Old English Sheepdog because he was more interesting to draw and I admit, because I couldn't make a collie into the character I wanted. When I first started this process sometime last year the pictures just wouldn't come so I ended up creating an editorial portfolio using Adobe Illustrator instead. I hadn't ever really used the application for anything sustained and so I set about looking for subject matter and just got on with it. What is so good about Illustrator (to my mind at least) is that you construct images rather than draw them. Also because you can manipulate line in a particular way I ended up with shapes that would never occur naturally if you drew them by hand - I found this especially useful when creating characters because later when I went back to traditional drawing I started visually characters and drawing them in a different way. You exert an enormous amount of control over everything you create in illustrator and its ironic that it led me on to draw with so much more freedom than before.

Old Man Laughing

By the time I came back to this project I was sick of exerting so much control over my images but when I made a start I was dismayed to find I was obsessing over the technical correctness of the line drawings I was making. This was no good at all because the Story is goofy and fun and a bit stupid and this definitely wasn't coming through in what I was doing. It was really joyless. Then I woke up with another idea for a story in my head one morning and wrote it out over a couple of days. It was far too long but I really wanted to illustrate it anyway. As an antidote to what I had been doing I drew all the images over about a week and a half with a fine tipped ink pen after experimenting with various forms of ink and made sure the drawings were loose as possible (I kept a copy of the Twits next to me the whole time as spiritual support) and then coloured them as quickly and as loosely as possible. I ended up with some beautiful illustrations (see left & also other styles page) and when I came to put the text together with the images they didn't fight with each other at all. I gave me a new feather in my cap and also cleared the way for the creating his new book.

When I went back to it this time it was obvious I couldn't draw it in such a loose style but the thought of all that control was still lurking around but instead something amazing happened...the two tendencies seem to meet and merge so that I drew the images with freedom but enough technical prowess to satisfy all a parts of me. It has resulted in a lightheartedness in the illustrations that hasn't been present in earlier work and it feels aligned with the spirit of the story. Here's another taste which I made especially for the website...hope you like it...

Mrs Piper & her washing

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