An illustration for “The Fierce and Gentle Wolf” that has some of the autumn colours that I am going to use for the story I have been calling The Snow Book, but which has transferred itself to autumn, and is now called “Finn’s House”, though I am not sure this is what it will end up being entitled. The text is finished, as far as it is ever finished at this early stage.
I look at this illustration to the Wolf Book and wonder what on earth is that little green bird doing at the bottom of the picture – I can’t remember that particular variety, it looks like a budgerigar. The next book will have siskins and goldfinches in it, and a barn owl – but nothing that resembles a budgerigar.
The scanned pictures for the book are now nearly all stored as pdfs on the computer, ready for the text to be laid on to them with Adobe Acrobat. There has been a need to clean up some of the colours as the brown paper used has a ridge on it which traps the top layer of colour and produces a stripy effect. It was quite fun trying to eliminate this, but in some paintings melding the colours produced too bland an outcome. My Wacom tablet has been useful for adding details, and all sorts of clever programs on Photoshop have enabled me, for instance, to lay the painted words of the invisible Midnight Hare on to the picture, without my painting them directly on to the paper.
The text is finished, so that is the next thing to deal with. There are of course imponderables, not knowing how accurate my scanner will be when the scans are taken to the printers. On the whole I deduct some of the magenta and brighten slightly. There will be a preliminary meeting with the printers before the book goes to press, when we can hopefully sort out these subtle matters. I have found it necessary to concentrate on one element at a time whilst getting this book to publication; having a kind of loose deadline for the printing is a useful spur.
The blue tints seem to have worked OK on this picture of the Midnight Hare and Milo flying off above the wood. I overlaid them with various other colours and smoothed them with water, so obviously there is this one particular colour, pale cyan, that the scanner breaks up alarmingly when it is laid directly on the brown background. We came back today with the winter sun glaring straight in our eyes, and I was seeing fleeting patches of magenta and cyan and a kind of mustard yellow all over everything for a while. There was a whiteness to the sun itself and the glare surrounding it, and it made me consider cooling down the yellow in this illustration. On the other hand, the yellow works against the whiteness of the hare; and also enlivens the page, which can get too subdued with the strength of the brown as a base.
I have started to load illustrations for The Midnight Hare on to my scanner at 600dpi, which is the size I use for material to be printed; and blow me down, the scanner resolutely refuses to print out the pale cyan that I have used on several pages in the book, other than in random blotches. In the end I changed the colours, and the illustration on the left is how I will leave it. There are problems working on brown paper with gouache, neocolor and crayon, especially as the paper is supposed to be for pastels. However, the somewhat subdued tones quite please me – I shall have to work out something else for the skies, but at least I have come across the problem now rather than when the book is ready to go to print. Probably quite fortunate that much of the book takes place at night, as pale cyan isn’t much of a night-shade. How spoilt one is, with new technology – times past, one’s work came out in virulent shades, created by expensive machinery; whereas now all I have to do is sit here and fool around with crayons and the computer. Nice.