It is all about Sammy


My cosy studio in the loft

My cosy studio in the loft

I have been doing a lot of watercolour painting the last few weeks.  I was hired by a young man from Kingston Ontario to illustrate a series of children’s books.   He advertised on Kijii and in a moment of euphoric mania,  I responded.  I have never done anything like this before and it has been quite the challenge.   These books are largely autobiographical.  The central figures is a boy named Sammy.  He was adopted from India into a dutch heritage family living in rural Ontario.  The books are about his adventures and travels.

Each book requires approximately ten pictures.  I’m currently working on two books.   My painting skills are improving daily.  Practice has improved my line sketches and I am much quicker  mixing up skin tones.   I love this project.  Its fun to be working again.  My paintings have a purpose. There is a deadline.  My neck in on the line and I must produce good stuff.  The author is counting on me.  There is challenge and risk and a need for affirmation.

Most days I paint for a few hours.   I start out with a quick sketch.  When I have my composition down pat, and my basic gestures sorted out, I repeat the sketch on  good watercolour paper and then start to apply a light wash.  It might take me an hour to finish one page.   Unfortunately, it is usually in the last fifteen minutes that my work goes sideways and turns to crap.  My challenge has been to get Sammy’s skin tone accurate and to be consistent.  Sammy must be instantly recognizable on every page.   He must always look cute and be someone you want to spend time with.   The floor of my little studio is lined with rejected Sammys.  With a simple brush stroke, hours  of work can metamorphose into disaster.  I have one finish painting which is  fantastic, BUT….  Sammy looks too old.   NOooooooo.  crap!

Sammy looking too old

Sammy looking too old

I start again and I’m almost finished.  Just one last stoke…. waaaaaaa  Now he looks like he is grimacing or that he is missing his teeth. … more garbage.

Getting his skin tone just right is very delicate work.  Most of the other characters in Sammy’s life are caucasian.   I am comfortable dropping in a little pink to make the cheeks stand out and look healthy.   But, Sammy does not have any pink in his skin tone.   I don’t want to be racially insensitive but I find it a challenge to paint dark skin.  I start out with a fresh cute Sammy and then painstakingly add repeated washes of burnt umber.  If I am not very careful and only use a light touch…. bamb, next thing I know Sammy has deep menacing eyes and a five o’clock shadow.  Where did that sweet little boy go?  More garbage.

I keep working at this.  It is important to me.   It is my first attempt at illustrating and I want to be proud of the results.  My reward will be to see my name listed on the book’s cover.    When it is all done I will share a link.   You will really want to own this book because, damn it,  Sammy will be so darn cute you will love him.   Damn it.

Sammy looking too youngMore garbage.

Sammy looking too young
More garbage.

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About westlakemusings

In 2013 my husband and I retired. We bought an old pre-confederation house out in the country. This blog is about our new world in the country as we explore all of life's possibilities.
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4 Responses to It is all about Sammy

  1. Diane – I had no idea you were an artist! I must have missed some posts early on, to have missed out on your skills. These are wonderful – I’m sure your finished product will be delightful. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Donna says:

    This is quite the undertaking with wonderful and exciting rewards. Can’t wait to see it in print to see your accomplishment.

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