For much of the last year I have been occupied with an illustration commission. Working with Chloe McCracken, I created a series of 42 paintings based on her concepts and ideas. We met only once in person after a response I made to an ad I came across online and I had the immediate feeling that we would be working together. Just the day before I saw her advertisement I was slowly sifting through a Tarot deck I had on my bookshelf and admiring the artwork. I was thinking about how cool it would be to design something like that.
A few days after our meeting she chose me for the project. I was initially overwhelmed by this seeming mountain of 42 paintings that had to have a cohesive feel yet each with a distinctive message. I took a deep breath and dove into the first illustration. I was given a list of descriptions for each image as well as simple thumbnail sketches to give me an idea of composition. Some of them had very specific instructions, such as the fairy must have red hair or be looking to the right. The first image I chose to do was the Clover Faery you see below.
It took about a week, trying to achieve a look and feel I thought Chloe was after. What sort of clothing should the faery have? Should the wings be stylized or realistic?
For each card I made the initial sketch, sent an email of the image and waited to see if I should make any changes to the composition before getting started. From the first, Chloe was honest in her reactions and could often see improvements I couldn’t when I got too close to the work. A warmer color, a different texture, a slightly altered landscape…in each case, the changes requested improved the image and I came to rely on and appreciate her comments.
I had a few favorites of my own. I don’t yet know how to read the deck (I will have to wait for the instruction pamphlet that comes with the publication) but some of them give off a feeling.
The original paintings measure 11″ x 15″ and are done in acrylics. Before working on this project, I was doing most of my painting in gouache. It is a medium that dries very fast and has a chalky, matte finish. I needed something that was meant for more surface area that allowed for the extended drying time I would need for blending. I also needed something that would be forgiving if I had to paint over it to make changes.
I never made such good use of an entire pad of Bristol paper until this project. I usually have pads of various papers in the studio for years until they are used up, filled with half started sketches and paintings..in this case, each sheet had a destiny.
The faeries are meant to be about 25 centimeters tall so scale was something I had to keep in mind throughout. How big would a flower or a leaf be in comparison? A puddle could seem to be a large pond; a blade of grass, an imposing slash of green in front of the figure.
This next image has quite a different feeling from the clover fairy, one of loss and melancholy. From looking at my portfolio, this may seem a more natural image for me to paint. I am typically compelled to work with darker subjects, and this piece moved along very quickly for me.
Please keep an eye out for the upcoming publication and for more information and updates on Chloe’s blog at: http://innerwhisperscouk.blogspot.com/
Please also visit her website at: