Summer School, Part 3: Picture Book Media

The second class I’m taking in the Children’s Book Illustration certificate program is ART 523, Picture Book Media. It’s taught by the fabulous Ashley Wolff. Her latest book is Baby Bear Sees Blue, and is completely gorgeous, using linocuts and vibrant watercolors to bring her characters to life.

The object of this class was essentially to try as many media that could be used in illustration as possible, in six weeks. Most of the time Ashley picked out reference photos for us to chose from, which was great because we didn’t have to worry about coming up with concepts for our illustrations, and were able to concentrate fully on whatever media we had chosen.

So here’s what we did!


We tried watercolor! (This is a sample board.)


And painted peppers using various watercolor techniques.


And did watercolor value/color studies from the portrait of a child.


And made color wheels.


We tried gouache (a kind of opaque watercolor)!

This is the first step of a really cool technique called gouache resist. You paint all the parts of your image that you don’t want to be black in gouache, very thickly. Then (this is a scary part!), you paint over the whole thing in india ink. Once that dries, you wash the paper. The gouache washes away, leaving behind just the ink; the parts you painted will retain a hint of the pigment from the paint.


Here’s the result! Pretty neat.


We tried acrylics! (This is another sample board.)


Then we painted a forest scene in acrylics, featuring orchids.


We tried scratchboard!

A scratchboard is made of a backing that is covered in a layer of white clay and then black ink. You then use a sharp tool to scratch away where you want there to be white. First we experimented with our tools on a sample board. Once we had the hang of it, we moved on to another board to create a finished piece (this is a picture of a loon).


We tried linoleum block printing!

Linocutting is similar to scratchboard in that you carve away all the parts of the image that you want to be white. You also have to work the carving in reverse, as the image gets flipped when you print it on the paper.


Here’s my print! Since the printing ink is oil-based, it’s easy to go in afterward and add color with watercolors–the black lines resist the paint.


Finally, we tried collage!

These are my sketches and chickens-in-progress. I cut out all the little paper bits first, before I started gluing. Then I glued it all with an adhesive called Nori paste (it’s acid free, and has a really pleasant smell and texture).


And here are my collage chickens in Kentucky Derby hats!

For our final project, we each chose an illustrator that inspires us, and we’re creating three illustrations in the spirit of that illustrator. I chose Virginia Lee Burton (you may know her as the author/illustrator of the Caldecott-winning The Little House), who is completely wonderful. I’m going to be illustrating scenes from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. I’ll post the result next week!

That concludes our jaunt through my time at school this summer. I hope you’ve enjoyed it! Don’t forget to check out part 1 (about Hollins) and part 2 (about my drawing class)!

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2 thoughts on “Summer School, Part 3: Picture Book Media

  1. [...] I hope you enjoyed the little tour! Up next: Picture Book Drawing Fundamentals, and Picture Book Media. [...]

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