Thursday, May 22, 2014

Personal Work: Under Wildwood

This may sound silly, but the Wildwood Chronicles were one of the reasons I wanted to move to Portland. In this book series, 7th graders Prue and Curtis discover a magical forest outside of Portland. Written by Colin Meloy and beautifully illustrated by Carson Ellis, the books are seriously good.

Some of Carson Ellis's illustrations from Wildwood

For the Todd Lockwood TLC Workshop last April, we were told to choose a narrative that we wanted to illustrate. I chose a scene from Under Wildwood, the 2nd book in the series, where Prue and Curtis are being cornered by evil shapeshifting foxes. The foxes demand information that would doom that children's friends; Prue counters by threatening to cut the rope bridge and send them all into the abyss.

I was doing this scene from memory so some details may not be accurate. (For example, I left out Septimus the talking rat; sorry Septimus.) I should have re-read the chapter first...but I didn't.

Since the workshop's focus was mainly about composition, I spent an excruciatingly long time (for me) on the thumbnails. At first my thumbnails were very tight and detailed, but Todd encouraged me to loosen up and just scribble, so the thumbnails looked like tiny abstract paintings.

After I had a thumbnail that I thought worked, we went outside to a playground, scared away the little children, and took reference photos. Much self-conscious giggling was had. Thanks to Charles McKinnon for being a good sport and playing Curtis.

Next I worked on turning the thumbnail into a rough. For me this is by far the most difficult part of the process. This is where all the question answering happens. You can scribble something in a thumbnail and say "this is a building" and it looks fine; but then it comes time to actually build the building and you start kicking yourself for thinking a building would be a good idea. Todd noticed that I was having trouble and did a little paintover, bringing the rough back under control. (If only I always had an expert around to do this for me!)

I chose to keep the painting black and white, as if it was an interior illustration for a middle-grade book. I enjoy reading and illustrating middle-grade, so I wanted to practice my b&w painting skills.

Moral of the story: don't mess with 7th graders on rope bridges. Also, go read the Wildwood Chronicles. Thanks Todd for your help with this illustration.


  1. It is absolutely not silly that you wanted to move to Portland after reading the book - I had that urge, too! (Or perhaps we're both silly.) It was the beautiful illustrations on the cover that drew me to the book, and I love your illustrations, too! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Some of those photos of you with the stick looks like you're doing a reference shot for a Harry Potter book (^∇^)


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