Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to work on the book again until after I’m finished the Picture Book Course—but I changed my mind. I was sad yesterday, so I started choosing a colour palette to cheer myself up.
On Saturday morning, I woke up to our find our 20-year-old cat on the floor. He couldn’t move. The poor thing must have had a stroke or something over night. Max was a little black cat that always acted more like a puppy than a cat, and loved to cuddle.
Needless to say, the next few days were tough. He slept most of the time while my husband and I took turns holding him around the clock. We slept in three hour shifts at night so someone was always there if he needed anything … he held on until Tuesday afternoon before passing away peacefully in Rob’s arms.
Maximillion Black Shaw 2003-2023
Rest in Peace, Monkey
Paint and Be Happy
To cheer myself up after our sad goodbye, I decided to start working on a colour palette for the book. They say that happy, bright colours can increase your mental activity and leave you feeling rejuvenated and energized. There’s also something about the tactile, organic feel of watercolour paint that brings me joy – especially when I’m using paint stones from Beam Paints.
Beam Paints are made by harvesting hematite pigment in the LaCloche mountain range near their home in M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Lightfast pigments, tree sap, gum arabic and Manitoulin honey blend together to create a handmade saturated colour that is a joy to paint with.
Their watercolours are shaped into paintstones, their version of a half-pan, before being wrapped in beeswaxed canvas and are packaged in slices of cedar and birch offcuts from an Indigenous sustainable lumber operation.
Perhaps because I’ve been a graphic designer for over 20 years, working on the computer most of the time, I’ve really been craving ‘real things’ lately. I took a ceramics class, started growing a dahlia cutting garden (with help from my Mom) and took up ink and watercolour painting to help satisfy that craving and offset the time spent in front of screens.
Choosing a Palette
I’m planning to work with a smaller palette to create visual consistency and harmony throughout the book but wanted to start with a broader selection before I start narrowing it down.
Since I already have quite a few paints stones to work with, I started swatching out some of the colours I’m interested in including. Then, I went onto the Beam website to order some more because, let’s face it: I love paint and will jump on any excuse to order some more!
With my order for a new enamelware mixing tray (again, I loved the tactile feel when using it at a watercolour workshop last month) along with silver, amethyst, rainforest, pumpkin and mars violet paint stones on the way, I think I’m off to a good start.
My current vision is a fairly monochromatic look with some fun pops of colour to add whimsy and visual interest. Our main character is an old english sheepdog who is white and grey, with the secondary character being a squirrel. We have black, grey and red squirrels in our neighbourhood so I thought of making the squirrels a variety of colours but I’m currently leaning towards making them all grey for visual appeal. That way, I can focus on varying their shapes, sizes and facial features to individualize them in the illustrations.
I feel like the colour of grey I use for the characters is going to be really important, so I think I’ll sketch out a few versions of Bella that I can test in grey ultra, graphite and silver along with a combo for extra complexity and texture. Maybe I could add in some sky blue to make it pop. We’ll see.
Here’s a peek at a couple of the sketches I did this week. As you can see, it’s the beginning of December so a festive theme is emerging! I’m looking forward to touring Casa Loma in Toronto with my husband tomorrow. It is fully decorated for Christmas, so I’m sure there will be lots of inspiration to be found and magic to be felt!
Menno Versteeg (Hollerado), Dave Monks (Tokyo Police Club), Chris Murphy (Sloan), and Sam Roberts (Sam Roberts Band)