I finally got my act together this morning, and mounted up the finished artwork for Dragon's Dinner. This is my latest project, illustrating a very funny story written by Susannah Corbett. The artwork is winging its way to Hodder as we speak: a massive package nearly a metre long with FRAGILE - DO NOT BEND scrawled all over it!! Slightly nerve-wracking, because things do go wrong occasionally.
So far I've been lucky, but a good friend had a disaster a while back. If you have young children, you probably know the fabulous author/illustrator Lydia Monks (Aaaah Spider!, I Wish I Was a Dog etc.). She had the artwork for a whole book go mysteriously missing in transit once. She had to do the whole lot again. I can't even begin to imagine doing that - I'd just melt into a sobbing heap. Please Mr Postman, take note!
Actually, I'm fibbing slightly about Dragon's Dinner being completely finished. I still have the cover artwork to do in a couple of weeks. We generally leave that until the end, as it's the most important drawing. By the time I have drawn the whole book, I am well practised at the characters, plus it's easier to get ideas for the cover when you've seen what it all looks like.
This is a picture of me colouring the artwork for Dragon's Dinner. As you can see, I have a very big drawing desk, which means I can tack my line-drawing of the page I'm working on alongside the artwork sheet. This really helps, because the pastels very soon cover up the pencil lines that I've traced onto my pastel paper. I also tack a finished illustration to the board, for colour reference: it's really important that the characters stay the same all the way through the story, and that a blue chair doesn't suddenly become a red chair by accident! Sometimes I also stick reference photos next to my work.
By the way, the smock I'm wearing is rather special. It used to belong to my grandad, a fanatical painter, who liked to copy old masters in oils. I always wear it, partly because chalk pastels are so incredibly messy, but also because it feels like a lovely homage to him. It still has little holes in the front where occasionally he dropped roll-ups into his lap while he painted! Unfortunately after so many years of loyal service, it is beginning to fall apart. The cotton seems to be actually rotting away, so eventually I will have to put it away and get a new one. What a shame.