Many times I am asked if I created the art for my book, "PEEK-A WHO?" with woodcuts. I did not. I love wood and linoleum and I've used those techniques in the past. I was also very into scratchboard at different stages in my life. When I came up with the idea for "PEEK-A WHO?" I did some art samples in gouache, but they just seemed ordinary and rather lifeless to me. I loved the vibration and edginess that wood, linocuts and scratchboard achieved, but they were problematic: I had a die-cut which needed an exact registration. Wood and lino can be very tricky to work with and I didn't want to have to cut over again if I screwed up. Scratchboard was not simple to add color to...
So completely by accident- or perhaps it wasn't an accident- I experimented with faking a woodcut style. To my delight and surprise it worked better than I expected. I loved painting this way. Even though the art and colors were bright and simple, the art had texture and movement. Was it a success? I'll say! "PEEK-A WHO?" came out in 2000. It has now sold almost a million copies. I know it's not only the technique I created- it is so much more... but as I'm in the middle of creating two more books like "PEEK-A WHO?" which will publish in Spring '14, I thought I'd share my technique here.
I truly believe that artists should share their discoveries. We all have our own styles, our own voices. Everyone brings their own individual DNA to whatever we do. So, in doing this, I'm not saying, "go copy me," I'm saying "if you want to play with this- go have fun, and take it in your own direction."
Of course I start with a sketch, an approved sketch if it is going in a book. I'm not going to show the sketch here. We have other fish... or frogs to fry.
Holbein Acryla Gouache for my paint. It has characteristics of both gouache and acrylic.
Once the background is dry I transfer my drawing using white chalk. Plain old blackboard chalk on a sheet of tracing paper placed under the sketch which is properly lined up, of course.
I will always keep a folded sheet of tracing paper under my right hand as I work on my illustration so that I don't make a mess of things. That was a lesson I learned when I was working with charcoal and pastels.
I also fill in a few of the lighter colors as I go. I don't have a sink in my old city studio- I have to go outside and into the house in order to change my brush water- so I've learned to work from lighter to darker colors so that I don't corrupt my paint, but when I am working on color block areas, I change my paint water for each color.
My new studio (which I hope to move into in June) has a huge work sink. (some of my friends have dubbed it "the wet bar.")
Now I can see my outlines clearly.
I try to keep a nice balance of marks so that areas don't look too busy.
It may seem tedious, but this is when I really get to choose which nick marks stay and which ones get covered over. At this point it is wise to have some excellent music playing on your music player so you can just get in the zone and paint.
One last very important detail: I go back in with the original black paint and clean up every single black line to make them pop. (not the nick marks... don't worry- I don't repaint them.)
And here he is: a frog playing a banjo with a tadpole audience.
Very simple, but very fun.
I hope you enjoyed this!