Thursday, 23 January 2014

Cozy Up With a Good Bulletin Board

     Wow! It's been awhile since I last blogged... No excuses, just a realization!  Before Christmas break at our local school the Principal and Vice-Principal gave me permission to decorate the bulletin board just outside the library door.  I had had a design in the works for a couple years but never brought it to completion - it just remained a sketch in my book... This time though I knew that this design would bring a lot of cheeriness to the front hallway of the school, it was time to pull it out of the archives!

    Well, I searched for my sketchbook containing the original design but could not locate it, so I set to work on another quick sketch of the same idea... Here is the design:
    Basically, a North Pole scene, a big ol' polar bear and an elf cozied up reading outdoors with some cute li'l village houses in the background...

    The bulletin board is 6 foot long x 3 foot high... I'm used to doing small scale 6 inch by 3 inch work like the sketch above.. this was going to take some thinking and planning!

    My Uncle Mike (who teaches me wood carving) had given me a giant 6 foot wide roll of white paper in the summer! It was perfect IF it could stand up to the paint I planned on using and that was a big IF!

    So I did some patch testing using watercolour paint and gouache...

    And the gouache was the winner! There was minimal wrinkle while working the paint wet, and even less when the paint was dry!! Woo-hoooo!! I rolled out three and a quarter feet of paper, got my scissors and snipped off my 'canvas'!

    Sprawled out on my living room floor - the only space in my house big enough to handle a 6 foot long piece of paper I set to work with pencil in hand and sketched out the whole idea but quickly decided that an elf locks the bulletin board into Christmas and nobody wants to see Christmas decorations up after Christmas and I wanted this bulletin board up for most of the winter so I began work on a li'l boy character dressed in warm winter woolens and a complete and cozy snowsuit tucked against the polar bears tummy! 

    Suddenly my lack of experience with large dimension work began to show... the polar bear was big, really BIG and the amount of polar bear tummy showing between the boy and the polar bears scarf was WAY too big!  How was I going to fill it??  

    "I guess I could draw a girl..." 

    Some of you may not understand my hesitation in this instance... for the past several years I've drawn nothing but animals - personified animals, but animals nonetheless... I was no longer comfortable coming up with a boy and girl character, especially on this big scale and for the purpose of a bulletin board everyone would see every day for several weeks...

    I knew the 'gap' couldn't be left gaping so I took a deep breath and started working on a girl character, leaning up against the shoulder of the bear.

    When I was done I sat up and looked down at the characters I had drawn and for the first time in a long time I felt like I could actually be an illustrator! These characters, this scene, I could actually see it in a book - it was as though I was seeing my work for the first time and I really liked it!  I began to believe in myself and my abilities!  You can rest assured that I thanked God for this moment of 'discovery' - this moment of realization!

    I was going to show you more of the step-by-step progress but I have already typed more than I intended to so I will skip the detail of the finished piece and you can see how it went from a 3"x6" sketch to the 3'x6' finished bulletin board!

    Here is a detail of the boy:
(gouache on paper)

    Here is a detail of the girl:
(gouache on paper)

 "Boy and Girl Reading"
(gouache on paper)

    Here is a li'l something I added that wasn't in my original sketch - a library sign! Pointing of course to the library directly to the left of the bulletin board!
"Library Sign"
(gouache on paper)
    I also opted for a pretty snow-covered pine tree to border the right-hand edge of the design instead of several Santa's Village-style cottages:
"Pine Tree"
(gouache on paper)

    Oh, I don't want to forget the star of the show!  The only reason the characters would ever dream of reading outdoors in the middle of winter - their best buddy, the polar bear, was there to provide a cozy, warm spot to snuggle into while they each go on their novel adventures!
"Polar Bear"
(gouache on paper)

    Okay, that's enough talking - here's the final result - the bulletin board in place at the school:

"Cozy Up With A Good Book Bulletin Board - December 2013"
(gouache on paper, 6' x 3') 

    I cut the whole sky portion out of my paper and laid the remaining design over a background of royal blue construction paper... an hour or so of sketching and cutting gave me my title, made from mid-weight paper...

    All in all, I'm even happier with the end result than I was with the original design that inspired it! :)

♥ Cath-