bed book peek : duck

Let’s start the new year with a duck. It’ll be a spot illustration in my new picture book, MY BED. 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), 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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small things around the studio

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I wrote this post 2 years ago and don’t know why it stayed in the drafts folder all that time. It was clearly written during a period of procrastination or when there was a gap in my work schedule, because it mentions cleaning my studio, which rarely happens. Right now, I’m engrossed in the process of working on a new children’s book, which you can follow here. It’s a calming break from earlier this fall when my Liberty and Justice exhibit caused a ruckus because of its political satire. So, let’s take a little detour and visit some small things around my studio!

But first an UPDATE on last week’s offer of special discontinued cards. Even though they sold out quickly, there are other designs available, like this 8 card sampler of wee folk babies and fairies.

— While cleaning up my studio, I came across the elephant pictured above. Her name is Savi and she is the main character in The Way Home, my first book. This attempt at an elephant wasn’t up to my standards (I think the bumpy trunk bothered me), so she never made it into an illustration. She’s been hanging out in my studio for 25 years. I took her picture and posted it on Instagram and Facebook.

Since then, I’ve found more small things to photograph and post. I’m holding some of them, so you can see the scale in relation to my hand. There’s Humpty Dumpty, 1 inch wee folk characters, a house and leaves that were used as spot illustrations in Pocketful of Posies. There’s a chipping sparrow that wasn’t included in the finished Birds of Beebe Woods. And at the end is a yellow telephone I made while in art school over 40 years ago.

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Bed book peek: North Africa (part 3)

This is the third post about the North African illustration for my new children’s book. To see more, click the links for Part 1 and Part 2 in the series. The scene will be included in My Bed, which will be 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 HoughtonMifflin in 2020. Here are links to posts showing other finished illustrations for the book:
South America, JapanIndiaAfghanistanRussia. and Iran.
To see a list of all my books, click here.

After constructing the houses with felt, wire and clay beads, and stitching the landscaping, I made this child to sleep on the rooftop terrace. With the exception of the fingers and toes, she is made the same way as the dolls in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures. Her bare feet are similar to the hands, but it’s a bit more tricky to make them look natural. (Sorry, the hand and feet technique is proprietary.)

Hair styling with thread brings out their individuality.

Her nightie is made from an old monogrammed hankie that was part of a relative’s trousseaux. I took advantage of its white edging while cutting out pieces of fabric for the garment.

Here she is, settling down for a cool night’s sleep on the roof deck.

I made my first palm tree for this scene, which required some photo research.

The tree trunk texture was fun to replicate with lots of fly stitches. I played around with light and dark colors to give it definition and dimension.

To give the right appearance at the top, just below where the palm fronds fan out, I sewed a clump of glass leaf beads.

And then there was the really fun part, when I got to use variegated silk ribbon thread! It’s one the few new needlework products I actually buy. I really like the selection of straw silk from Silk Road Fibers.

A felt moon appeared from behind the leaves.

and started to shine with the addition of some metallic thread.

So, that’s it for this illustration. I’m working hard to complete the whole book by next winter’s deadline and will be sharing more scenes in the coming months.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram

Bed book peek: Persian Cat

This Persian cat will be used as a spot illustration in the Iran spread in my upcoming picture book, My Bed. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. Children’s book publishers need at least a year to design, print and market a book, so I have to have everything finished by the winter of 2019. That means I’m practically working around the clock to get it done in time.

Just for fun, I’ve added a collection of cats from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes at the end of this post.

In addition to creating full page illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that will appear on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals  relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene.

Here are links to posts showing the other animal icons I’ve already made for the book: Goldfish and Elephant, Parrot and Sheep, Rooster. To see process photos of the finished illustrations for the book, click these links: Iran, South America, Russia, Japan, Afghanistan.

The research on Persian cats led to photographs of fluffy dark grey felines whose faces are noticeably different from regular house cats. Their cartoon-like features remind me of those 1960’s paintings of wide-eyed waifs, with large eyes and stubby little noses.   First, I wrapped tapestry wool around its pipe cleaner legs. Then, I stitched features onto its felt face. With pinking shears, I cut a mane out of felt and stitched the face on top.

For the tail, I sewed a strip of felt around a pipe cleaner.

To help make the ears point up, I sewed wire along the top edges. For a finishing touch, I added some tapestry wool stitches to its coat.

As a basis of comparison, I’ve selected a group of cat details from illustrations in my 2010 children’s book Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Autographed copies are available in my Etsy Shop.

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bed book peek: elephant and goldfish

Now that our movie LIBERTY and JUSTICE is finished and being entered into film festivals, I’m resuming work on MY BED. It’s a picture book about children’s sleeping places around the world that will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020. 

It will be a crunch to get the artwork completed by the deadline, so I’ll have to work even more obsessively than usual, if that’s at all possible! In addition to creating 3/4 spread illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that’ll be spot art, appearing on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene.

The page set in India will show a little elephant.

To get ideas, I researched traditional decorated elephants from India. After cutting the elephant shape out of grey felt, I embroidered a blanket with cotton floss and metallic thread. I just love the Indian sense of color and pattern!

The trunk has a wire inside to help it curl.

For the eye, I cut a slit in the felt and stitched it like a button hole for the bead to fit inside. Then, I chain stitched a head covering and added a tassel.

To make the legs, I rolled strips of felt into tubular shapes and embroidered toes onto one end.

The wrapped wire tail came last.

The Japanese scene will have a goldfish icon.

Beside all the yellow and orange tones, the fish needed just a hint of glimmer, so I added some metallic thread to its scales.

To see other animals (parrot and sheep) I’ve made for the book, click here.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Bed Book peek – parrot and sheep

Today, I am excited to share a couple of animals, which will be used as spot illustrations in my new book. The story about children’s sleeping places in different cultures around the world is written by Rebecca Bond and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

In addition to creating full page illustrations, I’m making a series of animal icons that will appear on the adjacent text panels throughout the book. The miniature stuffed animals  relate to the geographic area of each corresponding scene.

These little animals bring back memories of the late 70’s, when I made a line of fabric pins. Of course, what I’m making today is much more intricate, but they are similar in size and concept.

This green parrot goes with the South American scene .

After doing photo research and drawing a simple parrot shape, I cut out pieces of felt and began embroidering feathers.

I formed the outline of the parrot’s beak with wire. Its eye is a glass seed bead, set inside a cut out hole.

I wrapped the beak with embroidery floss.

Then I added bird’s feet made of floss wrapped wire.

The sheep will go with the scene set in Afghanistan. In my research, I found pictures of local breeds with particularly long faces and ears.

The sheep’s legs are made with a pipe cleaner, using the same basic technique that used for the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk. It’s face is embroidered wool felt, with seed bead eyes.

Luckily, I had some wool yarn of the right natural shade for the fleece. It was fun to make a tangled mess of french knots.

Then, I sewed on it’s ears, hiding the ends on the top with wool yarn. I’ll be sharing more animals (and scenes) as the book progresses. 

Here are links to posts about other illustrations I’ve finished for the book: AfghanistanSouth America, Japan and India.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Needle Nonsense revisit

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While cleaning up my studio last summer, I came across a plastic bag full of small characters and other props I’d made years ago. The items were used in place of words in a rebus I wrote and illustrated sometime around 2000 for Threads Magazine’s Closures page.

Since then, I’ve shared cell phone photos on Instagram and Facebook of little things I’ve found around my studio. The easiest way to do this was to hold them in my left hand while clicking the camera with my right hand. I realized that showing the scale of these tiny objects with a human hand as a reference point makes you see them differently. The uptick in viewer responses to these images led me to look for more small scale items to photograph in my fingers.

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I looked at the printed rebus again and noticed how the images floating on the white page give no sense of scale. Other than the found objects like the buttons, needle and spools of thread, there’s no way of knowing the real size of the handmade objects.

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With these new photos, you can see just how small everything is.

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