Last January I had the pleasure of a studio visit from Karen Nelson Hoyle, Curator of the Kerlan Children’s Literature Research Collections at the University of Minnesota, my alma mater. She was interested in acquiring the correspondence and sketches from books that I illustrated by some authors already in their collection.
One of these files was from Moon of the Wild Pigs, by Jean Craighead George. I illustrated this special edition in 1990 and it was one of teh main reasons I quit my full time graphic design job at the University of Arizona to become a full-time illustrator.
We had a nice chat, but digging out these old drawings did something else for me. Why is it that the rough studies and sketches that lead up to a painting are often more interesting than the final work itself? Maybe it’s because that’s where all the juice is. They are records of that mysterious creative process: researching the subject, feeling it out, ideas are tried out, compositions carefully crafted, things deleted…
Sketches are often not seen or valued, but they are the parent, or the seed from which a final painting grows. And probably other final paintings could come from each sketch as well. They are not meant for anyone but the artist and are rarely seen.
These sketches were final pencils, compiled on tracing paper from many smaller elements. I sent these to Harper Collins for approval before starting the color art. The line work is very accurate, yet I still made small corrections as I traced these sketches onto my final paper on a light table.
The final art was created using a combination of colored pencils and pastel dust–ground up chalk pastels applied in layers with a brush and lots of fixative. I use to have to wear a gas mask while I was working in this technique.
Some of these pencil sketches have been in the dark for 15 years or more. I scanned some of them for my own record before giving them away.