This is a joke at our house, a phrase synonymous with procrastination, but I could argue that it does have a purpose. Left-brain can get in the way of creativity – it is thinking and worrying too much – so I give it a task, a problem to solve, keep it busy and satisfied, then the right brain is free to wander. What was that saying my mom had? Many hands make light the work, no that’s not it…busy hands quiet the mind?
1. Measuring, counting, cutting and calculating how many sheets of paper you’ll need to start a new book illustration project is a good way to get ready. It is a thinking task, a way to cleanse the palette. Some times I need to clear the path to creativity, make a list and get everything done, then somehow feel free to do the creative work, but by then I’m exhausted and have nothing left – so not too much, not too little. Sometimes when the creative juices flow, you must follow. When you have a day job or small children you get good at turning this faucet on, like exercise, you get better at it.
2. Still in problem solving mode, I decide which paper surface is right for the book. You must experiment and get some paint on paper to decide. This starts to get playful, right brain says. You can’t run out of a certain paper and have a page where the watercolor texture just doesn’t match the rest of the book – been there. All of these steps set a precedent for the look of the whole book so these early decisions are crucial. You get these out of the way so your mind is free to flow through the easy questions, such as, what color should this be? How do I paint this? And which color to paint first? All these just seem easy and thoroughly enjoyable.
3. The palette. I always add a new color (or two) to my existing favorite palette. My newest book features Winsor Newton Raw Umber and Daniel Smith Cascade Green. To my surprise and joy the color Cascade Green is actually made of two colors – Raw Sienna and Thalo Blue, so right out of the tube you have this perfect mix of two colors that tend to move or separate showing themselves, which is quite lovely. Nerd left brain kicked in and asked why – so I had to look up the properties. The two colors create a tension which causes them to move, one is granulating one is not, they both have some transparency and one is high staining the other low. It is beautifully explained here.
Interesting – but mostly beautiful to watch while painting!
4. Don’t forget the Color Key! I’m almost ready to begin painting the forty illustrations for the book. I’ve got my new colors, freshened up my palette trays and I’m ready for some doodling and noodling as test strips. Then as I began actually painting the illustrations I remember to take notes on my COLOR KEY so as not to forget what colors I used for consistency.