How do you get ideas for animals and dinosaurs?
I try to do some research on the dinosaur first- to see what people know about what it ate- how it lived- where it lived etc. I have a lot of photos I've taken from live animals at zoos etc and some reference from the internet of animals with similar habitats, lifestyles...and try to find suitable details and aspects of existing animals that I can extrapolate onto the dinosaur. So for example- I have in my reference folder images of komodo dragons, iguanas, ostriches and cassowaries, galapagos turtles, crocodiles, rhinos, elephants. Animals like cassowaries and ground hornbills I think are good inspiration-cassowaries have quite primitive looking feathers, and dinosaur looking feet and hornbills make me think of pterosaurs. I also have photos of lots of colourful birds and lizards just to remind me of whats possible even now.
For animals I have photos of real ones as reference.
Generally I will spend time looking and studying an animal- looking at the reference and trying to break down the key forms (with simple sketches if necessary)- then I put all reference away and just draw. I do not "draw from photos",- I spend time to learn the structure and forms of an animal so I can draw it doing whatever I want. To me just drawing from a photo has no value-( if its something you can use a photo of- use a photo).
Do you like dinosaurs?
Yes I do, and as a child I especially liked dinosaurs. I think as I get older I'm being more and more amazed by what exists today though.
I think I'm more interested in "speculative" dinosaur drawing as opposed to scientific drawing.
By that I mean that scientists will generally only put things in their representations that they think they have direct evidence for- I guess for fear of being wrong, riduculed, and being called unscientific .
So you sometimes get a "stripped down " result which might be "correct" so far as we know but doesn't look alive.
Whereas I think its alright to think of what might be possible, or logical, or well reasoned and try that on the drawing. I think when you look at what is about us in the natural world it always seems so much for far-fetched than anything I come up with.
I think also you need to not be afraid to be wrong. For example- when I was a child they thought dinosaurs lived in water up to their necks which is now seen as totally wrong. Now they have evidence for feathered dinosaurs. So the science moves on and new discoveries are being made all the time. Which is a good thing, but it means you need to know the basis for current beliefs and be prepared for the new and for the things you thought to be proved wrong.
Why black and white drawings?
There are a few answers to this, sometimes its:-
2.I think " I've got the basis of the drawing down, maybe I'll colour it next week...." and never get around to it....see 1.
3. I actually like black and white drawings.
4. It's also a good stepping stone/ practice for colour drawings because value can be more important than colour for readability- so if it works in black and white it should work in colour.
When I illustrate how much do I think about the details?
Sometimes I spend too much time worrying about the details, and researching them. I often spend extra time trying to make things "look the way they should" or "look the way they are"...... its hard to know when good draughtsmanship begins and being pedantic ends. I like to make things look "right" but my wife often scolds me for putting too much work into things.
Its important to have a "hierarchy of detail" to maintain readability so that the detail doesn't obscure the forms or make a cryptic pattern , and to place detail where it matters also - for example to draw attention to something. Having areas of low detail or "rest" between areas of high detail is important too.
How long does it take.
For the Little Mates books and the Wombat books it seems to have taken around 5-6 weeks each.
Basically there is what I call a "multiplier effect" from the number of pages. If I spend a day on each page in total (thumbnails,roughs, final lines and colour) and its a 24 page book- then that's nearly five 5 day weeks.
Generally I do a pass on all the pages of rough lines, rough colour, final lines, final colour- rather than doing a whole page start to finish then the next. I do this just so quality of drawing is evened out (some days are good some days are bad) and so the look of the drawings is evened out and more consistent (as you get close to the end it seems only then you've finally worked how how to draw the characters right and have learnt the forms and colours).
Normally once I've done the book it takes about 3 months before I get sent an advance copy.
Do I like drawing cartoons.
Actually one of my ideas I want to work on next is more of a graphic novel type of thing. Graphic novels are hard work though-..... I can see that, and people who work on them have told me that too.
Why so many birds? Do I like drawing birds?
Why indeed? In the Little Mates series the reason is Australia has a lot of birds and conveniently one for most letters of the alphabet- whereas there isn't the same variety(in names) of mammals and lizards.
I like birds. I do not like drawing them. To do the feathers accurately is time consuming and a real pain, and often I don't have any good reference for the underside of wings. So I have to grit my teeth and accept that I don't have the time to do it right, and restrain my natural urge to make it "correct", and just bluff it/make it look right even when its not. I have not had any angry letters from bird fanciers yet.
Do I speak with the author?
No, but not by choice. The publishers kind of make sure of that. They want the artist/ illustrator be free to interpret the text.
Which is good.
I wouldn't mind collaborating but the process would be much longer and you would have to have some way of deciding who has final say on what at the outset.
You know -- these artistic types.
Is it easier to illustrate you own book?
It is easier to put more work into it and work longer and harder. Its harder to make harsh judgements and "kill your darlings". My plan is to work on my own books and projects (later this year and all of next for a start).
Recent examples of roughs:-
You can sort of see the different versions of the same page.
I left the text off them for copyright reasons.
Some blog posts about Dinosaur rocks
Some posts about Wombat went a Walking.