Picturing Yitzi Chapter 4 – Final Illustrations

Did I mention that I wanted to challenge myself in creating the art for this book? Well, I did…and boy did I get what I asked for.

I had taken a course the summer before on how to create watercolour monoprints and I really loved it. So I did a couple of “practice monoprints”, took them downtown and showed them to my editor and then boldly announced that I planned to make all the final illustrations in the book watercolour monoprints.

To make a watercolour monoprint, you begin by painting in watercolour directly on plexiglass (you need to rub sandpaper over the surface of the plexiglass first until the entire surface looks cloudy to prepare it to receive the paint).

Once the glass painting has dried, you carefully lay a wet piece of watercolour paper over the dried painting. This is where the printing press comes in if you have one. But if you are like me and don’t have one, what you do is cover the back of the wet watercolour paper with a sheet of mylar (plastic) and then over top of the mylar you place a sheet of tissue paper and then you rub like crazy over the whole surface with the bowl of a wooden spoon, applying some pressure.

Now comes the exciting (and also terrifying) part…peeling back the watercolour paper to see how things turned out. What should happen is the image forming the watercolour painting will transfer to the watercolour paper in a dazzling way!

What actually happens (at least to me) is that the image mostly transfers but in some parts of the painting the image transfer is not complete.

But I didn’t stress too much when this happened… because most things can be fixed by touching up the monoprint after it dries, by adding details or, in some cases, adding colour to areas where the colour didn’t transfer.

Picturing Yitzi Chapter 3 Continued – More Spot Drawings!

Once I get going doing spot drawings it’s hard to stop me. Overall, I must have done fifteen or twenty spots for Yitzi and the Giant Menorah. But only a handful of them ended up in the book. The others are either still on the walls of my studio or buried in a sketchbook somewhere. But I never view ‘extra drawings’ as wasted time. It’s part of my process to make a lot of drawings and then pick the best ones to go in the book. Also, sometimes the one that goes in the book is one that I could only have drawn after I drew another spot that didn’t make it to the book – if that makes any sense!

Picturing Yitzi – Chapter 3 Spot Drawings

Spot drawings are small, careful sketches that I like to include in my picture books to add balance to the full colour illustrations. They can also add another visual element to the storytelling. I have a lot of fun doing these because I enjoy working in charcoal… I often use a piece of compressed charcoal called “conte” to make the spot drawings. Depending on how much pressure you apply you can get many different effects with the same piece of conte. Sometimes I smudge parts of the drawing to create a shadow effect. There is nothing quite like the the joy of getting your fingers all black in the name of art!

Picturing Yitzi – Chapter 2 Rough Drawings

I probably spent a whole year doing the rough drawings for Yitzi and the Giant Menorah. Yes, I draw slowly but that wasn’t the only reason it took so long. There is a lot of planning that goes into each rough drawing… you have to make sure the characters look like themselves and that the scene relates to what is happening in the story. I also like to have fun with the scenes by putting something humourous (at least humourous to me)in the background… for example a cat watching a spinning dreidel or a picture on the wall of a man eating a bagel.

For the scenes in Yitzi and the Giant Menorah I wanted to evoke the feeling of a shtetl in wintertime and for that I spent time researching how people dressed in the shtetls of Europe and what the insides of their houses looked like. I have a small collection of reference books filled with photographs that helped me with this part.