Nat Blog

(It’s the Way that You Do It!)

The Idea Develops

The Idea Gets Some Interest

The Idea Takes on a New Direction

The Story Emerges

A Commitment From a Publisher

Checking the Text

Finding the Characters

Finding the Characters

Getting the Paints Out

All About Line Drawing

Finding the Painting Style

A Happy Accident

Choosing The Colours

10 - Beginner's Mind
Getting the Paints Out

June 2011




If you are familiar with my work you will know that my artwork style (and even which media I use) can change from book to book. With my last few books I have used gauche paints; these are thicker than watercolour and I like the textures and painterly feel that can be achieved with them. All I know at this stage is that I want to use gauche paints for this book. This doesn’t mean it will have exactly the same style as those previous books as the paints can be used in different ways; the degree of reality, complexity and simplification can vary depending on the age group or the kind of story I’m illustrating.


I am now at the stage of getting my paints out and finding out what this book’s style is going to be; in other words, what this book is actually going to look like. I notice that I’ve been putting this off and I’m reminded of the fact that I’m always like this at this stage of a book. I can no longer get away with rough sketches which ‘I’ll sort out later’; now it's time to make some decisions and commit to them.


I set up my studio for this painting period by laying out card over my desk to protect it from paint spills, then get out my ceramic palettes, kitchen roll, reference books, page layouts, brushes and paints.  Some of the paints have inevitably dried out since I last used them and so a trip to the art shop is usually involved to replace them and also to buy more of the thin card which I paint on. All this is part of the process of getting into the ‘head space’ of the painting stage.


It may surprise you to know that that after more than 25 years of creating picture books I feel like a total beginner at this stage. I have no preconceptions about how the book will look and this can make one feel a bit vulnerable. (I talk about this stage of ‘beginners mind’ in RESISTANCE, JOY AND EMPOWERMENT, my feature about learning). Once the room and equipment is ready, there’s nothing left to do but jump in and start trying out colours on my pencil sketches. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; the finished artwork for a picture book starts with a single dab of paint on a rough. You’ll have to wait until my next entry to find out how I get on.

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