Beach Cottage - Process

You never know where you're going to find inspiration. Not long ago I made a trip to TJMAXX. While walking the isles trying to find the perfect flowerpot for my Easter cactus I came across a couple of birdhouses that looked like little beach cottages. They immediately inspired me, and I couldn't wait to get home and sketch out my own little beach cottage. 

For me, the best part of this illustration and the reason to do personal work is that it can inform and change your process. This illustration was a bit of a game changer for me. In the past when I went directly to color, I had not really thought about color until that very moment. Sure, I had a general idea about the colors I wanted to choose, but I found that the process took a long time because I figured out my color by trial and error all while working on a very tight final image. With this piece, I decided to do a color study by laying down rough color underneath my sketch. I found this process, quick and fun. I wasn't worried about perfect lines I was trying things out. It was like I was playing.  Using this process, I not only figured out my colors pretty quickly but once I removed my sketch layer. (I work digitally in photoshop) I discovered I liked how the art was looking as just blocks of color. So instead of starting over I took this rough color and tightened it up. So my color study quickly became my final piece. 

So keep our eyes open you never know when or where inspiration will strike and don't forget art is supposed to be fun so loosen up and play.

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Creating Tough Tug.

When first approached about doing a tugboat book I have to admit I was intimidated, mainly because the entire story takes place on the water. In this story, the water is not only a location but also a character. I'm so glad I rose to this challenge. I am very pleased with how this book has turned out. Below are images from my sketchbook showing character development but also thumbnails as I was working with the manuscript and interpreting it into visuals.

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My initial sketches of Tough Tug and Artic Tug where stiff. I wanted to pull out the personality of each boat as well as make the characters full of life and as anthropomorphic as you can make tugboats appear.

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As I refined the sketches, I felt I was getting closer, but wanted each boat to show emotion and movement throughout the story with more than just an expression but with its entire body.

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This was my initial color image. I created it while working on thumbnails. The image captured not only the personality and movement I was looking for, but I also dialed in most of the colors that were used throughout the book.

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I used the thumbnails to work out the visuals of the story. If you look closely, some images remained the same while others I reworked several more times. The sketches also informed me as to things that I needed to research. Since the story was based on actual events, I needed to make sure places were represented as closely as possible.

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Once my tight sketches were approved I went to final art.

This spread ended up being a favorite. I  can imagine children tracing Tough Tugs path as he swirls and twirls while the older boats look on disapprovingly. It makes for an entertaining page.

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This page is also a favorite. I love the drama created here by the raging sea and stormy sky, as well as the tiny but determined Tough Tug.

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I hoped you enjoyed this journey into creating Tough Tug. Gallons of sweet tea were consumed during the illustration portion of this book. Many thanks to Margaret Read Macdonald for writing such a fun book, The Two Lions team that challenged me throughout this process and created an amazing book trailer (see below) and my agents at the Bright group. Working in children's publishing is a dream come true. 

Wanna buy Tough Tug? Click HERE

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