Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chicken Licken - *Warning!* a very loooong first process post for the New Year

Happy to see you here - hope you all are having a wonderful 2012 so far!

I wanted to share with you a recent illustration that I had painted late last year. It was a challenge for me that upon reflection, pushed me to work hard, think hard and try harder with my watercolors. I am pretty happy with the result and very much enjoyed the process!

Presenting my official entry to the  SCBWI Tomie dePaola contest . If you aren't familiar with the contest, Tomie dePaola chose text for all to illlustrate and wow him..and so I wanted to come up with a concept that I thought would be interesting and also be fun to execute.

My concept was to draw Chicken Licken (Chicken Little) as a jester of a royal court. The text ends with "off to tell the King" so every character I felt needed to be of the royal court. I also wanted to use the author's heritage (Danish) throughout and so I put Turkey Lurkey in a Knight's outfit with Denmark's Coat of Arms, the Rooster and Hen are prince and princess, Goose is the Herald, Duck is the King of Arms, and Chicken Licken is the Fool. The toughest part was painting the lion on the Knight's outfit. One of the other things that kept going through my head was to give it a very classic old-time nostalgic feel, and so I went ahead with my sepia-toned framing of the oak trees and you can see a tiny squirrel up at top, hidden. Perhaps he was hiding the nut that fell? : ) I ultimately finished the piece with my "gothicized italic" handlettering which was a ton o' fun!

Finally, I thought I'd post my process as I managed to take a few snaps of the illustration before I finished painting it. Hope this is a bit interesting for you! : )

Step 1: Sketches - (about a week or so, jotting down ideas when they came to me)

Sketched late at night before going to sleep, here are my sketches..you'll note I had a little help from my youngest as well..see the sketch with clothing! : )

I didn't resolve the illustration until I added some color to the images, so I scanned the sketches and very quickly and roughly added some color...
Step Two: Scanning in thumbs and adding rough color

I had not done this step ever before, but it really helped me to solidify the illustration that I thought would have the best focus on Chicken Licken. I also asked my family which character was the focus of the piece, and they all helped me figure this out.
Step 3a: Create the template for the Watercolor Block
I don't have a pic of this but what I did here was take the thumbnail image I thought worked best, increased the size to a workable final illustration size (about 14" x 20" (the largest I've ever painted so far), and printed out a full size thumbnail to use as the outline on my watercolor block.

Step 3b: I then took the prints (four 8.5 x 11's stitched together with tape), rubbed graphite on the backside of it, and traced over the thumbnail lines onto the watercolor block.

Step 3c: The long part: drawing. I love this part though..I spent quite a few hours drawing with my Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2H pencil and kneaded eraser the final illustration that I would begin to paint.

Step 4: Start painting with watercolor! : ) Here are snaps of the process..

Step 5: Painting, painting, and more painting..and if you notice, I left a bit of the painting on the bottom right free..I was going to add a little mouse there, but instead decided it would take away from the piece...what do you think? Should I have added him/her?

That was it..I painted and added more detail as I went along, taking about a week on this piece which was very enjoyable all the way through. After the painting, I decided to add the handlettering, so I got out my calligraphy box and got to work. I will post on that too.

The winners were announced yesterday..and I am SO very happy for Yvette as her piece was one that I was drawn to. Diandra Mae, a talented and hard working illustrator in Houston, created this fabulous gallery where you can view many entries to this year's contest. Thank you Diandra! It's been so neat to see the many different concepts and executions from one excerpt of the Chicken Licken text.

Thanks for taking the time to read..I hope this was interesting and I am so happy to read your comments..it means a lot to me! Til next time ~ Shirley


  1. REALLY nice! And I LOVE seeing your process!

  2. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing your process. It's sooo interesting. I really loved the thumbnail sketches and seeing your thought process behind the art. All the care and attention you put in the details of the characters really paid off. It's a fun and beautiful illustration!

  3. Il est toujours passionnant de voir l'évolution d'un travail... J'apprécie beaucoup vos oeuvres.
    gros bisous

  4. WOW thank you for sharing the process. wonderful result! :)

  5. Amazing work Shirley...I loved the process behind it and the progression. To travel along with the artist during creation is so special. I visited the site to see the winners.
    Best Wishes and all the Luck Shirley:)

  6. Wowowo! This is magnificent.

    I am going on limb here. Was this an amateur contest? Please pardon me. These choice of winners leave me baffled.

    Where are the real story telling illustrators in the mold of Rackam, Caldecott, Wilcox, Clarke....

    Your illustration tells a story.

  7. WOW Shirley, even though you did not win WOW! Above all I'm convinced you had some extraordinary time just painting this piece, and it sure was fun to look at the whole proccess-I admire you even more! :)I love your piece and I think you did amazing job, especially with all those details. I hope your 2012 brings you more good things, more exciting projects and rewards, of course. Always lovely and fun reading your posts, no matter the lenght! xox Ant

  8. Happy New Year! Shirley, I absolutely LOVE this piece and your wonderful process post. No wonder your work always looks so amazing. You work so hard.

  9. Awesome post, Shirley! I'm amazed of how many thumbnails you did for this illustration. I bet you loved the psd planing. It saves SO much time. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Very nice Shirley!!
    Happy New Year to YOU!!!!!!!
    Thanks so much for sharing this with us!!!

  11. Its wonderful to see your process Shirley! Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. Oh wow Shirley you should have won! What an amazing piece you created. It's so interesting to see how your ideas developed. A belated Happy New Year to you.
    Jane x

  13. You really put a lot of careful planning into this painting. It's great to see the sketches and painting progress... I feel like I'm peeking over your shoulder in the studio :) Thank you for sharing! And a lovely painting to boot.

  14. I LOVE process posts, and yours is definitely a fabulous process. It's a wonder to me that you have your pencil lines so sketchy & paint over them like that. I'd be so uptight!
    The Danish details & color proofs are both smart ideas, too. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Shirley, this was the first time I witnessed this type of process from beginning to end, and I'm in awe of your skills! It's amazing how talented you are! I love the outfits on the characters and the hidden squirrel on the top! Denmarks' coat of arms looks snazzy on the turkey's top! :)

  16. Oh Shirley! As a huge fan of process posts, this was an unbelievable treat! (As someone who draws, and rarely paints, I am amazed by your abilities.) I love the finished piece. And I think that the sepia-toned trees serve as a beautiful old carved wood frame of the whole scene...what an inspired idea.

    Thanks for the links; I will peruse the gallery when I have time to really go through it, but I do like the winning entry. I can't imagine having to make that decision!

  17. Ah well, we didn't have a four way tie; maybe next time ;) There were so many great entries, I'm sure he had a difficult time picking one.
    I love your entry Shirley and I love seeing your process too. You really put a lot into it. I'm usually too lazy or impatient to do that many color comps.

  18. COMPLETELY mesmerized! I am totally fascinated by your process. Wow, I love how the painting is gradually built up, layer upon layer, rather than one portion completed at a time. I'm just tickled by your sketches!!! And absolutely, that lion is mighty impressive. Wowie, Shirley, thank you for posting this! You are always a winner in my book!

  19. Wow Shirley, you know I knew you were a professional, and now I KNOW you are a professional! This is just so informative. And your patience and workman like ethic are sublime. You know, great art is technique, skill perseverance, hard work and taste. And you have all of those things to the overflowing.
    I think you must have been up there on the shortlist (with the other three of us :) :) :) ).

    It's such a fresh vibrant work, if you pardon my clumsy personification, you use water colour to the best of its abilities.

    see you

    thanks for showing us all the steps. Oh I love the clothes :) !

  20. Lovely sketches and final concept - thanks for sharing.

  21. I so enjoyed seeing the process for your Chicken Little!!!! It amazed me to see how the piece evolved step-by-step. Congrats to the winner of the competition. Tomie DePaola is quite a legend around here, as we live where he grew up as a youth.

  22. Thank you very much for this post. It's inspiring for someone like me who loves illustration to see the way a professional works. Thanks for all the time you took to give us a free tour into your creative process. The final piece is beautiful and like I said, it's inspiring :)

  23. Hi Shirley, you know, I prefer the "kitchen", that "the set table"
    and this that you show is exciting.
    Ugh, you're the queen of patience !!!!! :)

  24. It's really neat to see your process for this illustration. That's a lot of hard work. Thanks for sharing!


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