Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey
Leo and Diane Dillon
Vera B. Williams
A crop of Jerry Pinkney's art from The Little Red Hen. Click through to enlarge.
Watercolor paint is transparent and often layered.
Watercolor is made from finely powdered pigment bound in gum arabic glycerin, honey or sugar solution and a dispersant wetting agent like ox gall. The gum and dispersant agent helps increase the flow of watercolor which creates its characteristic transparent washes. Unlike gouache, watercolor is used for transparent painting techniques and can be used in successive layering techniques.
The large number of watercolor examples reflects the popularity and variety of use for the watercolor medium in children's book illustration.
Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey: Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems
Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey worked as an illustrating team, with the outline drawing and composition being done by Aruego and the color being done by Dewey. They worked at a time when color separation was commonly used in book illustration: (See CLRC Digital Exhibit: http://gallery.lib.umn.edu/exhibits/show/pre-separated- art.
In this illustration, bright and multicolored beaks top over 60 black and white penguin bodies as they jump from iceberg to iceberg. They are playful and the vivid colors of the watercolor help capture their antics. The subtle blue of the ocean behind them and the delicate pink sky and sun in the background show another way watercolor can be used for muted, almost pastel colors.
In a review of the book Antarctic Antics, it was noted “The poems follow the lives of chicks in a colony of emperor penguins, from birth ('A Hatchling's Song') to antics that include 'Penguin's First Swim' and 'Belly Sliding'. 'Predator Riddles' describe the perils of killer whales and leopard seals. Adding to the fun are the bright, lively illustrations of Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey.” ( from Bookpage, review by Alice Cary).
Sophie Blackall: Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear
Blackall’s watercolor palette for Finding Winnie has an “old fashioned feel” that represents a time and place. The muted hues, tiny brushstrokes to create fine details is characteristic of her watercolor work.
This original watercolor on Arches hot press paper done in 2016 was part of the American Booksellers Association Silent Auction to benefit free speech in children’s books. It shows Captain Harry Colebourn and Winnie reading Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear.
Tomie dePaola: Strega Nona, An Old Tale
"How did Strega Nona get started? In the early 1970s, while dePaola was at a required faculty meeting at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire, he was sitting in the back of the room doodling the Italian commedia dell’arte character Punchinello with a big chin and a big nose.He drew the profile, but suddenly found he had drawn a headscarf. He added an eye and a smile and continued to draw a little chubby body complete with long skirt and apron. And he scribbled the words "Strega Nona" next to the drawing.He thought he might be able to use her in a book someday so pinned the doodle up on his studio wall."
Leo and Diane Dillon: Brother to the Wind
The Dillons employed whatever medium or technique "worked" for them— The use of watercolor was their choice for Brother to the Wind. In this illustration they employed a muted color palate painting fine details in both panels, showing emotional facial expressions on people and animals. The composition includes a cloud detail in between the panels. The arched panels on this spread, using a soft gray to encase the images, complimented the soft colors of the illustrations.
The Dillions worked as a team while illustrating their books. They also worked in many other mediums including pastels, colored pencil, acrylic, stencils, typography, woodcut, pochoir, found-object assemblage, collage, and sculpture.
Jerry Pinkney: The Little Red Hen
Jerry Pinkney described his watercolor technique on his website as primarily based on drawing. This technique displays his high level of control of the medium and tiny details. He also stated that he enjoyed watercolor’s transparency, as it preserved the quality of his line. Like many illustrators he created many thumbnail drawings that aid in deciding the composition and lighting before moving onto detailed graphite underdrawings. Pinkney often allowed his pencil lines to show through in his work as it, giving the image energy and allowing the viewer to see the process of the picture’s development.
Betsy Lewin: Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type
In Click Clack Moo, Betsy says, “For this book I did the drawing using Windsor Newton lamp black watercolor on tracing paper. I then had the drawing photocopied onto one-ply strathmore kid finish watercolor paper and applied watercolor washes to the block drawing. The advantage to this method is I can get as many copies on the watercolor paper as I want and I can experiment with the color choosing the finishes that I like best.”
Cronin, Doreen. Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, An Imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2000.
Ted Lewin: Face to Face
In an interview with the publisher, Holiday House, Ted Lewin said, "I use photographs as points of departure for my paintings. I transfer my sketch onto watercolor paper using a projector, then make the finished painting while looking at the image on my computer. I use liquid mask to protect certain area to reserve the white of the paper. I peel this off when the background is painted, then paint back into the areas of white. Any white that you see in my paintings is the white of the paper. I don't own white paint.”
E.B. Lewis: Faraway Home and Talkin’ About Bessie
E.B. Lewis’s approach to his illustrations has a fine arts look. When creating his art, Lewis used high quality Winsor and Newton watercolors, with Winsor and Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable brushes on cold press watercolor paper. He began his career as an art educator and teacher and had never thought of being a children’s book illustrator. In the examples here, he used the composition of pictures to help tell the story.
“It’s hard to really talk about the work, or talk about my process without seeing it, seeing me in the dance, and it is really a dance for me. I can't wait to get a blank piece of paper and start the whole process. Well that's kind of the way it works in fine art. But in children's books it’s different, the process is a little longer because you have this manuscript, this beginning of the process. I'm going to go through the whole process of a storyboard, you know, the thumbnail sketches. And then the dummy book after the thumbnails and then you have the scale of the book. I want to know what the manuscript, the words, are going to look like with my images, that wonderful marriage and balance of image and words.”
(Edited from interview with E.B. Lewis on http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/lewis/transcript)
Steve Light: Boats Go!
In this large board book, boats sail across the elongated double-page spreads, rendered in primary-color watercolors. Light’s books start with sketchbook drawings. It is usually something that he enjoys drawing, and it becomes a story. From there, he makes large drawings with full-size pencil drawings in between sketches and finals. Light stated, “This has kept the big finished drawings much fresher, I think."
Susan Meddaugh: Martha Walks The Dog
Meddaugh used bright, bold watercolor to illustrate this wildly popular children's series, which follows the adventures of a dog who learns to talk. The simple lineart coupled with large blocks of layered color lend a light and whimsical quality to the illustration. Meddaugh allows large patches of the watercolor paper underneath to show through, furthering the sense of lightness.
James McMullan: I’m Mighty
James McMullan's watercolor technique demonstrates an extreme amount of consistantcy and control. Every brushstroke brings depth and light. His vivid palate plays with light and shadow, displaying humor especially in his personified vehicles. McMullan has an awareness of his child audience, who are looking carefully at every spread and joyously pointling out the small surprises embeded within the illustrations.
In a New York Times interview, both candid and introspective, McMullan pinpointed his moment of greatest professional enjoyment: ''It usually isn't finding the basic ingredients of the picture, the metaphor, the staging, and so forth, even though those things are often pleasurable. The high moment for me is some small turn that the image takes - often aesthetic - which changes the image in some fundamental way for me. When it happens, I often feel that the image becomes mine.''
Vera B. Williams: A Chair for My Mother
Zesty primary colors light up the pages of this Caldecott Honor book that relates the efforts of three generations of African American women recovering from a disastrous fire. They have discovered that material possessions can never define a family.
Williams used vibrant watercolors to illustrate the apartment buildings, the sky, the flowers, streets and her characters and the beautiful flowered chair. She layered the watercolors and finished the pages with her characteristic borders. In this illustration she used clouds, with suns in the corners, as her border. One the cover her border pulls in the vibrant colors used throughout the book. The close-up shows the vibrancy and variation of the reds in the flower bed, with textures from the water color paper showing.