Friday, October 21, 2016

Creating your cast of characters

After studying and drawing all of my reference I designed my rhino family for the book. I have altered and played with a Black Rhino's anatomy a bit. I have enlarged their eyes to allow for more expression and played with their face a bit. I wanted them to be quite realistic but not too cartoonish. 

My linears or blueprints for spreads are very close to my character concepts. Whenever I illustrate or design a character I need to learn it inside out until I can spontaneously draw it right out of my head. I know I am getting close when I can put my reference away and just draw. This can take awhile. So I look and draw and doodle until everything flows. Then I do diagrams of every character in the round. This makes great reference for me and helps me carry the characters with some consistency through the book.

Early Concept Drawing of Mama Rhino for Rhino Rumpus. Copyright Tara Anderson 
  Our book in based in fantasy. In reality a Rhino Mom would never have so many little ones unless she was traveling in a large group of mothers with babies ( highly unlikely in this century) or living with orphans in a zoo or sanctuary. A rhino pregnancy takes 15 to 16 months. A healthy Black Rhino weighs 80 pounds or more when it is born! Imagine that. A year later they are approximately 167 pounds or more! With that in mind I starting doodling!
I also gave my characters little elements of costume. The girl has a sock monkey. ( My daughter's sock monkey Felix) She wears her big coral bow in every spread. It just helps distinguish her as the sister and adds a little fun. Mama has her stylish earrings.  She is also wearing her pearls too.
Early Concept drawing of Big Sister Rhino for Rhino Rumpus by Tara Anderson 
I have tried to make the baby look like the littlest and sweetest of all of the babies I found. Baby rhinos are so cute. When I first read Victoria's story I jumped on google to see just what they were like.  This little guy is a bit different in my linears. All of my characters have evolved into looser versions of these of early sketches. 
I hope you enjoyed peeking into my sketch journals! Stay tuned and watch this project become a published book! 
Happy sketching. Tara Anderson

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Good Research Helps You Be An Original!

Stage One - Researching Your Subject

The first thing I do is read the manuscript. I make copies and put them all over the house. I write down my ideas and thoughts on them and just try to step into my author's brain. Then I dive into my research. I learn facts, history, natural habitat, animal behavior and everything that makes this particular animal unique.

 A variety of visual reference can really help you see your subject from the inside out.  I looked at skeletons, illustrations of muscles, videos and of course lots of pictures. Never copy anyone else's work. It may be tempting if you are struggling with skills and technique but it is the shortest path to ending your carrier before you get started.

Do you ever have a bad drawing day when nothing works? When that happens to me I go back to kindergarten.  I will build things out of plasticine before I resort to copying anything. Never under estimate the power of looking at your subject in the round. It can unblock your creativity and help you perceive things from a new angle.  No one has to see the mess you just made! I have used this technique so many times. In college I used to build things out of Lego when I was struggling with perspective and just really tired. 

The best piece of reference that I came across was a documentary on YouTube. Watching a baby rhino bump around and live in a house was very enlightening. Wow did it help me perceive their scale and power. Having empathy for your subject is so crucial for an illustrator. If you can infuse your emotions into your characters they will take shape and have presence. I would recommend this documentary but beware this is not for little children. I found it quite upsetting.

Stay Tuned! Stage Two is coming up next! Creating the cast of characters for the story....

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Year, A New book! Welcome to the process of Picture Book Illustration.

Well it is a new year full of possibilities and new challenges. I am in the middle of a brand new project with Pajama Press and Victoria Allenby. Our new picture book is scheduled to release spring 2016 and I have approximately six weeks or less to produce my finished art from my linears! I am so excited.

 I have been working on my roughs for a little bit. Juggling a toddler and a picture book is a little challenging but I wouldn't have it any other way. I thought it might be nice to share the process of how a book is illustrated. The final art is the last stage of the creative process for the illustrator. 

Stage One - researching & keeping track of your references

 Wow the internet and blogs and pinterest boards are really helpful tool for an illustrator. I would have loved to have these things in college. Gone are the days when I would be locked down in the Toronto Reference Library trying to find great original sources! I love libraries but they are tricky to navigate sometimes and only open at certain times. I don't miss photocopies either! What a fortune I spent.

I have two research sites where I bookmark and document everything that I have used, looked at, watched or read. All of my visual reference is saved for the future. Nothing is created in a vacuum and plagiarism is a serious thing. I always remember to account for my sources. I use hundreds of photos to create my reference drawings which I then base my character sketches on. If my publisher ever requests to see my references this makes it really easy. They can just visit my blog! A rhinoceros is quite something to wrap your brain around and this is how I've managed it.

My blogger research site was the first place that I began bookmarking helpful videos and tidbits. I love the format of blogger but then I just started pining things because it is so much faster. To check out my pinterest board visit: Tara's Rhino Rumpus Research. I hope you enjoy and learning about these wonderful creatures too! Please enjoy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Big News! Nat's In the Bag! - Learning Partnership's Welcome to Kindergarten Program

Nat The Cat is part of the Learning Partnership Welcome to Kindergarten Package! So thrilling. My biggest hope has always been for my books to reach children that may never have any. Nat The Cat Can Sleep Like That is doing exactly that! Our book is in the resource package given to every family that participates in this program. Thank you Learning Partnership!

To find out more about this program and how to get your community involved follow this link. The Learning Partnership Resource Kit

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tara's Brand New Book is out in Bookstores!

Nat The Cat is out in books at last. After many months of planning, drawing and designing he is here! Horray! 

Meet the cats that inspired the art for Nat...
This is Sasha and I. Once it was decided that Sasha would be our leading lady it became easier to create visual narative to support Victoria's text.
Sasha inspired  the kitten for Nat The Cat Can Sleep Like That

Nat was inspired by Tigger our sweet boy. I miss him everyday.

Tigger watching another cat in our house.
 He is perched on the piano which is not allowed.
I always let Tig break the rules.
Tony our first family cat. He came into our lives in 1994 when John, Quin, Duran, Zephora , Mom and I all became one big family.
Tony keeping me warm while I work in February at the farm in 2003
Bear of course who is still with us. He and Tigger were litter mates, brothers and the best of friends. He is such a kind soul and so wonderful with kittens. He just happens to be a black cat. It's really tricky to illustrate black cats at night and convey lot's of expression. So Nat is orange. 
Bear Bear and a foster kitty
Check out the cool book trailer too! I never saw that coming! Inventive ways to promote books on the internet. Thank you Erin Woods!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Working Away.... with my new watercolours!

Busy! Busy! Still working away on the book. Yesterday I started painting! At last the fun begins...

 I discovered a new brand of watercolour that I am over the moon about! Has anyone heard of Yarka watercolor from Russia? They are amazing! The reds and blues are to die for. They are hard to come by in Canada. is starting to sell them but they only carry the original set. I bought mine from  in North Carolina. I have been stocking my PO box waiting for them to arrive for the last 3 weeks. Yesterday they came! Woo Whoo!  The first thing I did was to give them a spin. The following picture shows some to the special colours in the extended and sequel set.

 I still love my old Windsor and Newton set. However the Yarka half pans offer a broad spectrum of colour that I have never found before in a half pan set! The reds and blues are amazing. The range of greens are really special too.
I did end up with some doubles and triples of the basic colours but it was worth it. Many of the startling blues, greens, and reds are in the extended and sequel set. The pan system also makes it really easy to customize your palette if you are working on a large project and need a handy selection of colour ready to go. For anyone out there who is into sketching the outdoors this is a must have! Back to the studio- Bye for now. Tara:0)