Illustrating Children’s Books – Deepthi Horagoda Post One

We have two most wonderful blog posts by student┬áDeepthi Horagoda for today and tomorrow. Deepthi is studying with Maggy on the Illustrating Children’s Books Online Art Diploma Course. This is the first instalment….

I found the first set of exercises and brief of the Illustrating Children’s Books course both fun and challenging. Although I had done collages in school, this particular exercise taught me a new technique.

Initially I had to create 4-5 separate sheets of coloured watercolour paper using the ‘wet-on-wet’ technique. This required applying a wash of watercolour and applying a second wash whilst the first one was still wet. Once the papers were dry I had to cut out shapes such as leaves, flowers, etc. and form a picture. The exercise requires the use of a variety of interesting, bold shapes whilst paying attention to the surrounding negative space.

Bearing in mind all the requirements I did this waterfall scene:

Illustrating Children's Book Course

First of all I drew the entire scene on a sheet of paper and traced the elements onto the appropriate coloured papers. I used swirling shapes to convey the swift movement of water. These shapes were cut out of parts of the sheet of blues which had retained the white sparkle of the watercolour paper. I felt it helped to create the impression of sprays of water and the sparkle caused by sunlight falling on water. I retained a white space between the water and the leftmost blade of grass to create an impression of depth. The grass and flowers are depicted as being on the edge of a hill or a mountain with the waterfall cascading. Although cutting the curved shapes was a bit difficult, seeing the picture take on a 3D look was a fantastic experience.

Next I wanted to try out a collage which narrated a story. This was the result:

Illustrating Children's Book Course

The idea for this picture came from an actual incident which happened in our fish pond. I used shades of blue intermingled with the white of the watercolour paper for the waves. As in the waterfall scene, my aim was to create an impression of sparkling water. I incorporated the negative spaces between the shapes into the composition such as in the white stripes on the body of the fish. The leaves and the chameleon were cut into shapes which would stand out against the white background.

By now I had begun to enjoy this exercise so much that I wanted to do a third version. So I decided to do one which could be either a part of a story or the depiction of a scene. A bird flying home was the result:

Illustrating Children's Books

Although I drew the bird from real life reference I gave it a fanciful touch by using different colours for the plumage. The leaves and stems of flowers surrounding the stand of the birds’ house were cut to give an impression of movement. I incorporated the negative space between the various shapes into the composition as in the tiles on the roof of the birds’ house.

I sent all the collages to our tutor stating that I preferred the one of the fish as it combines varied, bold shapes and presents a visually arresting story. She agreed, stating that it is “a great balanced composition with real personality and good use of the wet-in-wet technique. I especially like the use of the shapes of the waves and curls of water, which give a great feeling of rhythm and pattern”.

Deepthi Horagoda


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