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Infirm Pachyderm

Illustration contest submission for Jane Yolen's "Infirm Pachyderm".

As one can see, I have been heavily involved with elephants lately. Nothing wrong with that!

The New England SCBWI Conference (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is only a couple weeks away. I had to pause portfolio preparations to submit to this year's poster illustration contest: Jane Yolen's poem "Infirm Pachyderm". My gut reaction to the first 30 or so reads were all somber. I wanted to gauge other illustrator's responses, so I preformed an image search... same reactions there. Since the poem is written for an audience that's Middle Grade age group at max, I wanted to illustrate a positive spin on the poem's outcome.

Construction the illustration was a little less positive. I'm going to admit I have a weakness with Black & White drawing, so naturally I wanted to cut TONS of grey-scale images! Since my technique dwells on paper texture it's tough to translate the volume for high contrast. To maximize contrasts I tried to deter away from the supremely wrinkled areas, and focused on stronger contrasting color values. Here's my process:
Step 1: Initial elephant sketch.

Step 2: Color blocking with high contrast tones and values.

Step 3: Grey-scale manipulation.
Easy-peasey! Nope. Not for me... It took a while to really get the hang of the HIGH CONTRAST and I'll admit I still need to work at it. Some elephants had to be worked over and over to really get the contrasts just right. Here's an example of that:

Example of an elephant low and high contrast.
I'm very fond of tissue paper for it's dips, tears, ripples, and color variations. It plays against me in Black and White; I kept finding myself feeling out for a flat plain of color, verses the randomized brush strokes I normally seek out when I'm working in full color. In the picture above, the elephant labeled "Low Contrast" was made 100% Green... various light and dark patches, but generally one tone so the green on green does not stand out. All the detail is either lost to the lack of value shifts or overwhelmed by the paper texture. I initially picked GREEN as my seed middle-gray value, then I adjusted each piece to reflect the differing plains by introducing blues and yellows.

I know I did not have to make a GREY elephant, but with the flurry of activity happening on the page, I didn't want it to compete. I started out making the green elephant (100% GREEN,) but I obviously ran into this issue by missing the high contrast values. So in the future, somewhere between my scribble sketch and final line work, I need to sneak in value blocking. I would appreciate any suggestions for value studies.

I've added more of the elephant sketches (and a random ostrich) to the Sketchbook area on my blog. Thanks for peaking at my work!