Penfield Children's Center, Croquet Ball Poster

   I was recently invited to create a poster for the Penfield Children's Center Annual Croquet Ball, which took place this past weekend. Penfield Children's Center, in Milwaukee, provides early education, health services, and family programming to infants and children in need. 
Creating this poster was a rewarding opportunity for two reasons: First, it's always been important that I give back to communities in need, using my work to perpetuate compassion, education, and understanding. Second, donating illustration generally means absolute freedom. 


   This freedom, of course, means the direction is wide open, and it's therefore my responsibility to understand what I truly want to make. Quite a daunting task. If you've ever stared blankly at an empty piece of paper, you understand. I'm trying to know my creativity better, narrowing in on cues - indulgence vs work, my strengths vs strengths perceived by others, etc. Lately I'm discovering that I love to mix worlds. So, I combined my love of combining with something else I adore: FOOD!
   I've long had an obsession with drawing chefs. Possibly because in another life, I'd like to be one, but I've always loved drawing food and people working with it. I'd spend hours as a child drawing fruit and vegetables on MS Paint, and I sculpted chef after chef in clay. One look at my portfolio won't tell you this, but I never actually execute these drawings in a way that makes sense for my professional portfolio. Being an idiot is the only explanation I can offer for this. 

Work from Unknown, CIAO DA ISRAELE, Catarina Sobral, &  Ted Schaap.

Work from Unknown, CIAO DA ISRAELE, Catarina Sobral, & Ted Schaap.

For the concept of the poster, mixing in chefs was easy - they'd simply play croquet! I decided to have them use food for the croquet balls, bent utensils for the ground thingies and kitchen tools for the mallets. I pulled some work for color and visual inspiration and after approval from the client, I went to work. 

The poster was quite large (26x40") and in order to transfer the drawing onto my paper, I had to redraw the illustration on a large piece of tracing paper (that I taped together). I then put pink chalk on the backside of the tracing paper and transferred the lines onto the paper. (I forgot to take images!) I then created the final in pan pastel, gouache, colored pencil and water soluble crayon. I limited my palette to olive greens, ochre, salmon, and some rusty coral colors and worked on a fawn colored 22x30" sheet of Arches paper. 


To create the poster, I had the illustration professionally scanned (because of the large size) and then I photoshopped more room on the top and bottom for the text. I created most of the text by hand, scanned it in and edited everything in PS. And the poster was complete! Here are some closeup images of the illustration finished. 


And the finished poster (which the client printed) It's almost as big as me!!


Thanks again to the folks at Cramer-Krasselt for bringing me onto this project to Penfield Children's Center for providing invaluable services to your community. What an all around win! 


Smithereens, Post No. 8: Expressions!

Smithereens: [smith -uh-reenz] Plural Noun. 1. Small pieces, bits.
Smithereens are tiny pieces, fragments of a larger thing. In this series of blog posts, I share small slivers of my process, thoughts on materials, and insights into the larger world of illustration.  

A couple of years ago when I dove into the publishing world, I learned quickly how little I knew about character development. Not only did I have to draw a character consistently, but also to individualize and understand their range of emotions. This is unfortunately not something I learned in school so it’s been an interesting journey to find a way to convey expressions in my characters. Because the lines are so simple and sparse, every little nuance or tick can drastically change the entire mood and emotion of the situation. For this reason, it usually takes drawing the characters 6 million times before I start to see their personalities come out. Once that’s done, I can play more with their emotions.
The most valuable tool I can use to understand and convey emotion, is to feel it myself. 


I think we all tend to do this when drawing emotion. It really helps to 'act it out'. (Good thing we spend a lot of time drawing alone, since we'd look rather odd weeping or looking vengeful while working (although now that I'm thinking of it, those are emotions that come up while making art too!) When I need to find the best stance, facial expression, etc. for an illustration, I literally just act it out while paying attention to my own body's instinctive actions. When proud, my chin goes up. When nervous, I shrink. When eager, my eyes open and my body moves forward.

Last night when I was drawing these next studies, I asked my husband to act out these emotions and he almost exactly copied my postures! Now, we're two in billions, and all humans have different ways of feeling emotions. For some, proudness might be quieter, fear might be running instead of freezing, eager might still look timid. It's our responsibility as illustrators to understand the characters enough to be able to accurately portray not how we would feel, but how they would feel.  

Besides body posture and color, one of my favorite ways to portray expressions is in the eyes and eyebrows. You can have the simplest lines and still put so much emotion into a face. Below are some examples of what can be down in just a few strokes!

Now that I have the hang of creating basic characters and emotions, my goals have shifted and expanded. In the future, I'd love to vary my character shapes, adding personality into their build. I'd also love to add more movement in my work, showing emotion through lines and layout, rather than having all of the focus be inside the character. I want people to literally get swept up in the emotion. I don't want to make you weep, but I want to make you weep! Make sense? 

What tools have you found helpful in creating dynamic characters and expressions? What's the hardest part of portraying emotion in your work? 

Alright guys! I hope this weekend is filled with all the best emotions and expressions.
Happy Friday and Happy Expressing!