Character costuming in “The Story Circle.”

Character costuming by painting interesting patterns in the fabric is one of my signature features.

I think this goes back to my Fashion Design background and my love of textiles. I know having simple clothing on the children when creating the character costuming would make my work flow faster, but it’s just so plain. This little girl is clothed in an outfit with dots and hearts. I don’t pre-draw these patterns, preferring to do them with paint alone.

IMG_0305You can see the shading in the first washes of the neck, back arm and shirt. If you look at the shadow of the neck, you can see how it also merges over the collar on the front of the shirt.

The other half of this spread features an underwater environment. Lots and lots of fish. And a sea turtle. I also went with a whimsical color treatment on the water animals.

The double scenes in this spreads made for a challenge in maintaining the correct values to guide the reader through the story. On one hand, we have the little girl sharing her story. On the other hand, we have the story itself.

I chose to make the values in the story being told half of the spreads darker than the values of the classroom scene where are the children are located. I painted in the classroom environment as the background on all the spreads in the same few illustrating sessions. The yellow wall, tan floor and blue classroom furniture are in all the spreads. Most spreads also show a bit of the rug. To make the classroom consistent while also varying the view of the class, I set up a 3D model in Google SketchUp. (Download your own copy – it’s free!) I took a room and placed doors, windows, desks, chairs, the rug, the bookshelf and other items of classroom furnishing in this model. I then manipulated the view by rotating the 3D model in the appropriate direction in the 360° around or up and down. Once I had the view I drew my stylized furniture to match my vision. SketchUp is a great tool, I wish I had more time and ambition to delve deeper into its capabilities. But my elementary understanding of the program is sufficient for me to make sure the perspectives in my paintings make sense.

Painting dozens of fish in the deep blue sea. #WIP #kidlitart #childrensbooks #childrensbooksillustration

A video posted by Wendy Martin Art (@wendymartinart) on

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Do you see the piece of paper with the solitary fish on it above? Another one of the things required by this book was a bunch of vignettes to place between the English and Spanish texts on the pages. So I’m painting the vignette fish that goes with this spread at the same time as the fish in the larger image. To the upper right, you can see some of my reference for what water looks like looking up to the sky.

Painting character costuming also applies to the markings on animals. If you look closely at animals of the same species, even those that are of the same family line, they all have individual markings. To humans, they are often too close for us to notice unless we are very observant. I try to emulate nature when painting animals of the same species by painting the coloring and markings one at a time by hand.