Feathers for Peacock

Feathers for Peacock

It’s been a long wait but ‘Feathers for Peacock’, written by award winning author and poet Jacqueline Jules for Wisdom Tales, is about to be published!  I’ll be so excited to see it on the bookshelves in April of this year.

I don’t usually  illustrate books for younger children so this was a lovely chance to simply enjoy colour, shapes, decoration and character without having to research too much detail (apart from the birds of course).  I loved the permission to be exuberant, experimented with gouache (an opaque chalk based watercolour paint) for the first time and used 1970’s flower power wall paper patterns as inspiration for the plants.

The story begins in the depths of Winter, in a time long ago when all birds were featherless and needed to hibernate below ground to stay warm…

Poor featherless peacock shivers below ground...

It tells of how the birds learn, with the help of the Springtime moon, to grow feathers and how poor peacock gets left behind (naked!).

And finally, how the power of friendship gives him a magnificent (and warm) tail of many colours…

I had free rein in designing the layout of each page – as usual, starting with thumbnail sketches and always taking into account the story arc and pace of the narrative.

thumbnail sketches

Thumbnail sketches

From here, I went to full size pencil sketches or ‘roughs’.  At this point, changes in drawing, character and composition could be made easily.

Illustration rough

And when acceptance of the sketches was confirmed by the publisher, I hit the colour.  It’s always a chance to get messy, with paint and collage paper – of which I have a huge selection from paper bags and wallpaper to decorative origami paper.

Painting for 'Feathers for Peacock'

Painting for ‘Feathers for Peacock’

I found working with Wisdom Tales, an offshoot of Wisdom Press, a real pleasure from start to finish.  They even allowed me to choose the Pantone colour for the endpapers (a beautiful peacocky bluegreen) and influence the typeface for the text.

The evenings are getting lighter and first blossoms are shooting already.  As I write this, I can hear birds calling in the gardens outside (OK- they are mainly seagulls!). Spring is the perfect time for ‘Feathers for Peacock’ to find its way into the world.  It’s a refreshing, colourful and quietly funny read for kids – teaching them the importance of helping each other and how very small acts of generosity can become a very beautiful gift.  I enjoyed illustrating it so much and really hope it’s a book that’s treasured for a long time…

Buy! (Available from 1st April 2016)

Publisher – Wisdom Tales

Author – Jacqueline Jules

Publishing date – 1st April 2016

ISBN – 978-1-937786-53-3

 

 

 

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Call of the Wild

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Scene from ‘The Call of the Wild’

It’s been a while since I last posted – but that’s not to say I haven’t been busy… There’ve been several further books that I’ve been unable to shout about until they were finished (The Call of the Wild – Miles Kelly Publishing) or published (Feathers for Peacock – Wisdom Tales – to be on bookshelves April 2016).

Miles Kelly have graciously let me post about ‘The Call of the Wild’ – an 8 month project that finished finally this Monday.  The classic American novel by Jack London tells the story of Buck, forced to work as a sled dog in the harsh but beautiful snowy wastes of 1890’s Yukon during the gold rush.  He eventually hears the call of the wild and escapes to recognise it in his own heart…

Jack London himself travelled to the Yukon, living in tents and working with dog teams. The novel is full of details of the brutality both men and dogs tolerated and it’s clear much was based on real life experience.

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Jack London and his dogs.

I find it strange that I am attracted to tales set in cold places, of snow and ice, of dogs and sleds.  This will be the fifth book – the others being the ‘Inuk Quartet’ and ‘Fireside Tales’ (Barefoot Books).  The author of the Inuk Quartet, Jorn Riel, also lived and studied in the snow but with the Inuits of Greenland.  I too, had my own dog sled adventure above the Arctic Circle a few years ago, mushing my team of three through the dim starlit midwinter days in the awesome silence of the snow. Perhaps that is the seed of my fascination.

Working on ‘The Call of the Wild’ was pretty challenging.  Many of the images depicted dogs fighting, being starved or beaten which meant researching some difficult subjects.  I use photographic material researched online to help inform my drawing and there were images I found that I wish I hadn’t had to see.  Drawing requires intense observation and I had to stay with those photographs for many hours.

Obviously, the photographs or pictures are reference material; to be adapted and used to create something new. I would never simply copy them – they help me understand for example, how muscles work or which direction dog hair lies.

fighting dogs

Fighting dogs by Frans Snyders. I used this image to help me understand dog anatomy and adapted some of the poses in my own illustration.

Of course I loved the historical research, however.  Like the ‘Inuk Quartet’, ‘Call of the Wild’ took me to places and times I hadn’t known about and I learnt a lot. Details of clothes, of canvas tents, of harnesses and sleds became my world for a good part of the year.

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dog harness

Fittingly, the project ended in the dark days of the British winter – somehow it has felt like one of the gloomiest winters in years.  I had been working some long hours and began yearning for some blue skied wilderness of my own – perhaps that was the sound of the call of the wild itself. But days spent hunched over a table with a light box, battling bronchitis and listening to the rain blowing off the sea are over now and an early Spring is on its way.

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My desk working in the gloom of the Christmas holidays. Loo roll to mop up watercolour paint and my dripping nose…

I’ll look forward to seeing the published book out around August when the cold days will be long gone…  And perhaps it will inspire others to listen for the call of the wild themselves.