Bed book peek: Iran (part 3)

This is the third and final post about the Iranian illustration for my new children’s book. To see the previous posts in the series, click the links for Part 1 and Part 2. The scene will be included in My Bed, a book about where children sleep around the world, with each spread depicting a different culture and living environment. The story is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book: South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistan and Russia.

For this courtyard scene, I sorted through piles of fabric in my stash to find a combination of colors, patterns and textures that worked together and lent themselves to the environment. Then, following the layout drawing, I built structures and embroidered architectural details, using my preferred stitches; blanket and chain.

All variety of beads, charms, metal findings and small hardware can find their way into a piece. My propensity for including found objects has not waned since childhood, when I declared that “crayons are not enough” and that my artwork was not finished until “something real” was added!

For this over-the-top decorative style, it’s tempting to keep adding more doodads because they are so cool and need to be seen! Like with all artistic ventures, editing is key to forming a clear statement. It’s not that busyness and detail is bad, there has to be purpose to it, with some sense of order amid the chaos. I have learned to choose objects with care, constantly asking myself, “Will this enhance or detract from what I’m trying to convey?”. Most of my favorite treasures don’t make the cut and have to wait years, hidden in boxes and bags. Sometimes you have to see what doesn’t work first, to be able to recognize what does work.

Another favorite stitch is the single daisy chain, which I use a lot for leaves, like on this tree. The branches are formed with thread covered wire.

After years of being passed over, I was happy to finally use this herring bone wool for the roof.

Trees and branches are some of my favorite things to make. It’s like doodling with wire and thread.

An illustration this size usually takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete, but I am determined to get it down to 3 weeks, in order to meet the deadline. For the next 6 months, I’ll be working in the studio 7 days a week, including evenings. You see, Rob and I spent all last year doing our civic duty, making the animated film, Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, when I was supposed to be working on the bed book. Don’t feel sorry for me — this is what I want to do. And it’s a good excuse to get out of social obligations.

I made heads and arms for 2 sleeping boys. No legs were necessary, since they will be covered up. Except for the hands, they are similar to the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures.

It was a treat to embroider their quilts and pillows.

I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes. Documenting the process is a way to keep you up to date with what I’m making, without actually showing the finished illustrations, which will have to wait until the book is published in 2020.

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13 thoughts on “Bed book peek: Iran (part 3)

  1. These are amazing! I look forward to every new post of yours, because you are so clever at putting colours together, and finding the right embellishments. Looking forward to seeing the printed book. I hope the author understands how lucky she is to have your illustrations 😄

  2. Thank you, Salley for sharing your talent with these tempting peeks. Every one is so beautiful. It’s exciting to think what’s in store for little children all around the world when this book is finally in print. I can’t wait!

  3. Lifts my spirit to see such glorious colors and patterns! And the stitches !!!! Simply yummy…Just wondering…do you listen to music and/or sing when you are in your studio working?

  4. There have been stories in the news recently about computer programmers using Artificial Intelligence to create artwork without human intervention. When I was watching a recent piece on CBS news, the programmer mentioned a quiz to see if people could pick out the artwork created by a human, vs the ones generated by computer. I had no trouble with the one example they showed on tv. I was trying to broach the subject with my computer programmer son, but failed to find the words to explain why AI can’t replace an artist’s creativity. Your explanation (editing is key to forming a clear statement) is that explanation. You could throw a grab bag of fabric scraps and beads on a table, but it wouldn’t be art until you “edited” it. Love that skill you have for illustrating books with a clear statement (as well as movies). Hope deadline adrenaline pulls you through.

    • Thank you so much for this, Mia. On a similar subject, I’ve been thinking about how meaningful art that shows the touch of the human hand can be. In my mind, there is no comparison between computer animation and old fashioned drawn or stop-motion animation. It’s slick vs. organic, which you can pick up right away.

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