Sunday, March 27, 2011

The journey of creating books

Image from
Yum! MmMm! !Qué Rico!
by Pat Mora

Growing up in Mexico I learned to speak the language of color at a very early age.
No dar color is a popular expression that translates to an inability to give off color or emotion. For me color and texture is an expression of my identity, my heritage and
I've learned it is the most direct route to the emotions of children and families
who turn the pages of my books.
I live and work in two places: an industrial loft in downtown San Diego and in the 16th century colonial town of San Miguel de Allende in the heart of Mexico. My process begins by wandering the urban landscape of the city or winding cobblestone streets of my native country with a camera.

I work to catalogue the colors and rich textural history of well worn doors, and peeling paint. If you listen and look closely you can hear their stories in my work.

Image from
Book Fiesta
by Pat Mora

The skies, backgrounds, or the surface of the skin of an elephant in my books reveal secrets of places where I have been.

Image from my latest book:
The Cazuela that
the Farm Maiden Stirred by
Samantha Vamos.

I buy my vivid paints from a little tiendita in San Miguel and they come in big jars that look like they should hold pickles. There is no chromophobia in Mexico which makes it the ideal place to shop for the essential ingredients of my paintings. The force of these intense colors is like sampling authentic Mexican chile and I've learned to blend colors like salsa into different combinations to achieve the desired result.

Image from
Our California by
Pam Muñoz Ryan

For the past 20 years I've been painting on pieces of wood. There are tactile emotions associated with selecting just the right piece, hand sanding it and letting the grain speak to me.

When I receive a story I make word lists of key themes or search for poetic parts to post on my wall. I am fueled by the author's words but don't want to mirror the text verbatim. For this reason I have always searched for symbols to represent the emotions or spirit of the text. A favorite quote by Marcus Aurelius says, "the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts." In My Name is Celia the bird is a metaphor for joy.

Image from
My Name is Celia
by Monica Brown

I'm lucky to live close to the library and like to search for books or use the internet to research subjects for my art. On walks I gather rocks, shells, leaves and document found objects and textures that inspire me then bring them into my studio.

I make mood boards for my books and these collages help me to channel the right spirit for my paintings. I'm looking for more than a visual likeness of my subjects but explore patterns, decorations, clothing or the way an animal moves, a person dances or makes music like Tito beating his timbales.

I wanted to share some of my process by showing you the evolution of a painting from my upcoming book My Name is Tito by Monica Brown. Character development is essential and it all begins with sketching to get the right spirit for each person, animal and object. To get it right you have to make boatloads of sketches and put pencil to paper. I am passionate about travel and am inspired by indigenous groups because they synthesize the important traits of living things in a simple, direct way. I believe everything has a personality if you work to find it. I want to communicate on that magical level as it will speak to children in a clear voice and capture their imagination.

I start with gestural sketches to make major decisions about where elements should go. In this phase of drawing I consider the direction of things and use arrows and scale to create a focal point. Then I refine my drawings to evolve the character using references on my mood board to create details.

I always make a miniature book with all my drawings as I want to see the flow of the story and look for inconsistencies in the visual storytelling.

The next step is to prepare my boards with a surface that will receive the carbon and this is how I transfer my sketches from tracing tissue to the wooden boards.

I like to mask things with tape so I can paint selected areas of my composition.
Surrounded by the photographic references of colors and textures I've explored I apply colors to the board randomly and in an intuitive way. I then use spatulas, pottery tools, shells and twigs to scrape the wood and reveal secrets of the surface texture. I keep painting with a variety of brushes to bring in the details and bring visual flavor, color and texture to the story.

Image from an upcoming book
My Name is Tito
by Monica Brown

Please click here to read more.