To create detailed oil portraits in the studio, I begin with a grisaille (from the French "gris" meaning gray). The example above is an underpainting for a full color highly detailed portrait of my daughter, Miriam. Once this grisaille is dry, I will begin painting the thin color layers on top. Miriam is dressed in black with a warm white scarf. The grisaille layer is painted in as much detail as possible. This portrait is near life size on a linen canvas of 36" x 24". I will post photos of the progress soon.
This is me at work on the 'cowboy/cattle drive' double page spread for "Voices of the Western Frontier". My original pencil sketch is taped to the mirror in front of me so I can reference it while working. You can't see it here, but I have my props around me, also for reference.
This book is illustrated in oil. My underlayer is black and white acrylic on 50% gray acrylic painted watercolor panels. I make this layer as detailed as possible. Next I apply a layer of Burnt Sienna oil paint thinned with only turpentine. The final layer is full color oil. This is very similar to the technique I used for the "Jubilee!" book. These illustrations are at actual size, meaning they will be scanned at 100%.
This is a pencil sketch in progress for the USS Alabama book. For you illustrators out there, when realistic people are requested by the editor, I advise hiring models for people whose heads are at least 1.5 inch high if you are working at actual size. The baker in the foreground is my son Ben, who actually likes to bake bread! The men in the background are from my imagination and not as detailed. I am working at actual size so my original illustrations are scanned on a flatbed scanner. This book is horizontal format and each page is scanned individually because the double page spread is too large for the scanner bed.
Illustrating oversized will yield lots of detail, especially in the faces and hands, but will add a step (and additional costs) to the production process. Oversized illustrations are photographed by a professional photographer, then the transparencies or negatives are scanned. Other art that needs photography is collage illustrations such as cut paper work. One illustrator I read about would paint a 30x40" oil on canvas for book covers measuring 5x8". If you decide to work oversized, allow for the darkening factor. When art is reduced in size it appears darker, so keep your paint colors light.
Why is the USS Alabama Battleship riding a swell of coins? The children's book I am currently illustrating (in pen and ink on hot pressed watercolor paper, for you art students) is the story of how the Alabama schoolchildren helped to save this battleship from destruction by raising almost $100,000. That was a lot of money in 1963! Anticipated publication of USS Alabama: Hooray for the Mighty A! by author Karyn W. Tunks is fall 2015.
If you are ever in Mobile, Alabama, drop by and visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park.
My family is fond of spinach and I am always on the lookout for new spinach recipes that actually have a generous amount of spinach. So, after experimenting with various quiches and pies, I made up one that meets my needs: 1) has lots of spinach, 2) easy to assemble, 3) is hearty enough to make a meal. If you try it, I hope you like it as well.
Julie’s Hearty Spinach Pie
I use a 10” quiche pan. Place one prepared pie crust in the pan. Note: A 9” pan will spill over.
In a large skillet, cook over medium heat:
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 C chopped onion (I use frozen diced onion)
1 can quartered artichoke hearts drained (not marinated)
2 10 oz pkgs frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
Cook and stir until most of the liquid is gone. Cut artichokes with spatula into smaller pieces while cooking.
Add a generous dash of nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Add salt to taste.
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 8 oz sour cream
5 large eggs
Add mixture to skillet and stir together. Pour into prepared pie crust. Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Optional: add a can of sliced water chestnuts, drained, to the mixture for crunch.
Good with tomato basil soup or green salad on the side.
Feeds four hungry men or eight women on a diet.
The books are finally in and are beautiful. I met the author Rickey Pittman (above) for the first time at the New Orleans warehouse and we autographed about 10 cases of books together. Rickey is not only a children's book author, he also sings, composes, and plays the guitar for the children at his school performances. You can find him here: http://www.bardofthesouth.com/
It's funny how some people react when you say "my studio is in my home." The reaction I most often get is that I am somehow unprofessional. What gives?
What I lack is the clout of a brick and mortar shop (sadly important to some clients), paying rent and utilities on an office space, dry cleaning bills, lunch expenses, constant interruptions, additional wireless charges, time and gas wasted driving in traffic, scheduled vacation time, a dirtier house, fast food dinners.
What I have gained is EFFICIENCY, super flexible work hours (which can be a negative if you are a workaholic), long periods of time without interruptions, no dry cleaning bills, no outside lunch expenses, no time and gas wasted in traffic, a cleaner house, less fast food, and vacation is when I say it is. What I lack in socializing I make up by meeting friends for lunch and having friends come paint with me in my studio (the former formal living room, horrors!).
If you have ever driven a stick shift car, you may have had to downshift at some point in driving. When I shift into my creative zone, it feels like my mind has "downshifted" into a deeper, more contemplative place. To get there I have to have taken care of anything that might interrupt me... chores, cooking dinner, paying bills, running errands, the phone. Only then can I downshift into that wonderful zone and honestly, do my best work.
This is why is it is so important for employers with creative staff to provide a space for those people to work uninterrupted. At one job I had, I used to leave my desk and go pace in the warehouse so I could think creatively.
All creative people know this zone and we each have our own way of finding it. It is the sweet spot, the reason we like to draw, paint, write and compose.
You are a new author who wants to self publish your book and sell it to the world. Congratulations. Now you need an illustrator. Your daughter, who draws well for a 12 year old, will do it for free, and you think her work is adorable. Your cousin knows someone who is a Sunday painter, and he will charge only $30 per page (and you think this is a lot). If you hire a nonprofessional, you are sure to encounter costly errors in production. You will probably have to pay a professional to "fix" the illustrations in Photoshop, or even totally rework everything because it does not scan well for printing, or is not sized correctly, therefore paying twice for illustration and adding 6 more months to the production schedule.
A professional illustrator knows prepress, production, professional color scanning, layout and design... in addition to illustration. The publishing house offers a similar contract to illustrators and authors, which is usually an advance on royalties plus a royalty contract. Depending on the complexity of the illustrations, you should expect to pay between $75-$125 per page in the Southern US. $75 per page for simplistic cartoon or line drawings, and $125 for realistic people and extra expenses for the illustrator such as travel or hiring models.
If you are interested in my illustration for your book, I only consider self published books with full payment up front. The reason is most self published books don't sell enough to make a royalty contract attractive. I can show you samples of my work in different media and advise you throughout the production process. The first step is to review the manuscript. All manuscripts are kept confidential.
I find it helpful to the illustrating process to have period music on while working on period pieces. While working in the western frontier genre, I like to have Copeland on. Sam Cooke is on these days while the USS Alabama battleship book is under construction (late 1950's to early 1960's). If I grow tired of the period music, I have talk radio or Disney movie music. Why Disney? These books are all children's books, so it works well to have children's music. No matter what type of music is on, I eventually grow tired of it and dig through my CDs. Slow classical music is a safe choice, but even that gets old. The radio music stations are annoying because of all the ads. It is best for me to have uninterrupted sound that doesn't grind against my thought stream. If I am approaching a deadline and have a lot to do, I prefer to have the same song repeating over and over and over and over... for hours.