Let’s start the new year with a duck. It’ll be a spot illustration in my new picture book, My Bed: Celebrating Children’s Beds Around the World. Each double page spread will have a text panel with a corresponding animal. The duck will appear alongside the scene with a houseboat in Holland, which you can see here.
As with the other animals I’ve made so far (elephant and goldfish, parrot and sheep, rooster, cat, camel and bunny. I start with research photos. In this case, I searched for pictures of a classic rubber ducky, with webbed feet. I was so interested in figuring out how to make the feet, that I tackled them first. That turned out to be a mistake because they ended up being too small and out of proportion to the body that came later.
I want to use this duck as an example of how I really work, which is not in a straight line, but here, there and everywhere. My creative process is full of experiments that may or may not end up in the finished piece, but they are essential to getting there.
The second pair of feet (pictured below) are a little bit larger and more neatly defined. It’s not unusual for me to take several tries to get something the way I imagine it. There’s a lot of ripping out and starting over, which is one of the advantages of using thread. For the feet, I devised a kind of weaving stitch that created the webbing between the 3 toes.
The body and wing are made of 2 shades of yellow felt.
The beak was a bit tricky to get to look right and took several attempts. It started with a thread wrapped piece of wire that’s bent into two V shapes for the top and bottom of the beak.
I then stitch the thread wrapped wire onto the head. The round shape of the head is from a wooden bead that is covered with felt, which I forgot to document with a photo. I wasn’t happy with how this beak (below photo) was coming out, so I ripped it out and started over.
I’ve had practice making bird beaks for the Birds of Beebe Woods and the Twitter Bird in my animated film, Liberty and Justice, but it’s like a new experience every time. When faced with a new challenge, I let my hands guide me, trusting that a solution will appear. That’s what keeps it interesting and never boring!
This is the second try at forming the duck’s beak.
After stitching the top and bottom beak in place, I wrapped thread around the wire. I then added a seed bead eye and stitched on the wing.
It looks like I opened up the bottom of the duck’s body to make room for it’s legs. They were the last to stitch in place, with the first pair lingering in the sidelines.
After looking at the duck for a while, I decided that it need more personality. The plain rubber ducky look just wasn’t enough! So I added some details, like the embroidered feather texture and the distinguishing lines on the wings.
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