P.J. Lynch: Story illustration A-Z

The childhood thrill of make believe looms large for Dublin-based artist P.J. Lynch, 2X winner of England’s Kate Greenaway Medal for IllustrationHe may not come out and say this. But you can’t not feel it in his children’s book illustrations and murals, YouTube videos and lectures about art and painting in Ireland and the U.S.

He puts pretending first, which makes his formidable technical skills as a draftsman and painter accessible to all.

Lynch created two remarkable murals on the theme of Gulliver’s Travels for the Johnston Central Library — in Cavan County, Ireland (where Johnathan Swift wrote most of his classic satire.)

In the video Lynch shows us how he acted out the character roles for one of the large panel paintings.

Illustrators are actors, as Howard Pyle suggested to his students more than 100 years ago.

In the above BBC film short Lynch talks about illustrating the old Norwegian folk tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon and how he asked his mom, girlfriend, neighbor “and anyone who was handy” to pose for him as characters in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

In the videos above and below an older Lynch walks us through the stages of creating illustrations for American Frank Stockton’s The Bee-man of Orn. 

He shows us how he uses the computer to re-arrange his drawings and compose his scenes to best effect.

Elements from his piles of sketches can be “moved about like paper cut-outs,” he says.

“The great thing is they can be enlarged or reduced and you can even change the shape of them. You can even flip them over, like this…”

“Then all I have to do is paint the pictures,” Lynch says with a hint of drollness.

Some of these pictures will take up to a month to complete, he says.  He’ll make sketch after sketch “before the image ever starts to take shape.”

His watercolor demo speaks for itself. At the end he adds touches of gouache for highlights. You’ll enjoy peeking into his blog, where you’ll find more examples of his spellbinding art.

Voyage to Lilliput mural for Cavan County Library

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by George Webbe Dasent (translator)

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See what happened when Walt Disney (and Boy Scouts  movement founder Lord Baden Powell, too) discovered Baloo, Mowgli and other characters from Rudyard Kipling’s darkly themed stories about animal society in the Indian jungle. You’ll enjoy the latest video post up on the Illustration Course blog.                                                                                                                                                      * * * * *

Check out illustrator and teacher Will Terry’s guest post on  preparing your picture book dummy to send to publishers.  The post is part of the terrific on-going PBDummy Challenge series by illustrators on the #KidLitArt blog.

Will offers  some great video courses on illustration and other art-making at his Folio Academy website. My favorites are How to Illustrate a Children’s Book and his two Photoshop video courses. You can read more about them here.

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Are you interested in writing children’s books as well as making pictures for them? You can download two free examination copies of the Children’s Writer newsletter at the newsletter’s website here.

The newsletter is a publication of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Writer Mary Furlong has profiled Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! (On Your Mark, Get Set…Illustrate!) in this month’s edition of the Children’s Writer  (June 2012).

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Discover an instant way to righteously better drawing in these free videos.

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Author-illustrator Mark Mitchell teaches an online course on children’s book illustration that you can read more about here.

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Baby steps

I’ll admit that I was floored by the quality of  the essays turned in for our “Epiphany” contest.

The deadline was Wednesday. Contestants were asked to compose an answer of no more than 400 words to a rather broad question, “What’s the major discovery you’ve made or the biggest insight you’ve learned this  year in drawing or painting, or marketing yourself as an artist in the children’s publishing field?”

The winning essay would net its author a terrific video course by illustrator and teacher Will Terry,  How to Illustrate Children’s Books.

Will Terry's course

Collectively the submissions gave me fresh insight into the readers of this blog. I already knew that many of you are illustrators or artists and love children’s literature.

I didn’t know that so many are writers — good,  analytical, thoughtful — eloquent in several cases — and practical-minded language handlers. These pieces were a pleasure to read.

The answers were so good that I can hardly wait to publish them all here.  I feel a pushing sense of urgency to get them out to you. But it will happen steadily over the coming weeks.

Tonight we’ll publish the winner, by Maya Scharke of Quebec, Canada with its theme of doing, but doing bit by bit.

Epiphany by Maya Scharke

A glimpse into the mind of an artist…oh how quickly the wings flutter, perhaps as  fast as a hummingbird hovering  around gooey artificial red syrup. It seems to churn in the middle of the night, in the early morning, over granola at breakfast, during quick skis in the woods, and most often in front of a warm fire with a glass of wine.

The flurry of activity in my mind is analogous to that of a newly filled bird feeder on a cool crisp day, it scurries, dips, dives, spins and circles. I have often found myself looking into my mind, or that blank canvas saying, “Wowza, what should I do next? I have so many things to do, so much to learn!

Do I develop my story ideas through gesture drawings, do I practice my perspective skills, do I work on character design, or value painting, or brush up on my figure drawing, or, or, um, or…oh boy, Wowza, what shoooould I do next?” I suspect these feelings of confusion that stem entirely from sheer excitement to ‘do’, often overwhelm many of my fellow artists in the same way. I have found it often translates into blocks of anticipation rather than productivity.

This can be stifling, especially when life doesn’t produce many windows of time to deliberate! This type of activity in my mind has forced me to step back, re-evaluate how I quantify my productivity, or should I say qualify my productivity. I mean doesn’t it all contribute to the ultimate goal?

The spinning and thinking and especially the heartfelt, ‘deep in your belly’ emotions experienced for loving the creative process, it has to count for something!?! It must, I really do believe it does! Therefore, in hopes to  practice what I preach,

I have made a pact with myself to approach my expectations of productivity differently, to focus on the overarching aspiration and contribute to that with baby steps.

Open my sketchbook every day, try out new techniques, plan time to move my creative projects along, engage in discussions about art, and really make the ENTIRE creative process a part of my everyday life.

So, that’s it, my epiphany, my insight, lift the pressure and just create! I encourage others to do the same. We don’t know what will come out of it but you can  guarantee satiation, sheer satisfaction, and contentment from fulfilling such an intrinsic desire.