Thursday, October 31, 2013

Collaborative Illustrations with Leah Becker

I had the pleasure of illustrating two poems written by my dear friend, Leah Becker. She wrote the two sweet, lively poems for her parent’s Birthdays. They were a joy to read and work with. I used a complimentary color pallet and reversed color emphasis on either one so that when they are printed they can hang side by side and bring out the colors in one another. I had hours of fun bringing each family member’s likeness to life, especially all of the hair (detail image at bottom).

As an artist, I always love hearing about process. For these, first I wrote down “mood words” that captured the feeling of each poem, taking some words from the poems themselves. Then, I started drawing rough scenarios of what the characters could be doing in the scene based off of those moods and what Leah had told me they enjoyed doing together. I studied the family’s faces and made each into a cartoon character that I felt resembled them and played up their most notable features. Next, in Adobe Illustrator I created a pressure sensitive pen tool and drew the characters onto the page via my Wacom Intous 5 tablet, redrawing each limb or prop until the shape was right. Each character and object got its own layer. Then, I created a layer underneath each character and colored them in. It was exciting to see the characters go from line drawing to solid, colored image. Once each part was perfected, I could use the grouped layers to move each person and prop around the composition until I felt the piece was balanced and had compelling movement. Here are the in-process screenshots (my favorite part):

I hope that the Becker family loves their illustrations as much as Leah’s beautiful, whimsical poems! I made an extra illustration for the Becker Trio just because:

In case you couldn't read the poems, here they are:

Father, Daughter
 He taught her not to be afraid, for
“This is America:
You can go anywhere!”
And so she learned to adventure,
And to dance in public,
And to always make funny faces,
And she was not embarrassed,
For her Dad was never embarrassed,
And she wanted to be like him.
He taught her to always laugh,
But when she did cry,
To be honest with her self
And let the tears flow
As freely as her laugh.
And he always let her speak
And he respected her,
For she was his daughter,
And he admired her large thoughts
Behind her bright eyes.
And they learned from each other
To laugh when life was easy
And to pray when life was hard.
And they sometimes circled apart
But always came back together
In the eternal waltz
That is Father and Daughter.

 Mother, Daughter
 She taught her to sing her loudest,
Even when her voice felt small
And the barrage of life
Threatened to overwhelm her.
And because of that,
She sang her times tables,
She sang her history,
And eventually she sang onstage.
She sang about language
And she sang about love.
And when her voice got caught
Behind her inhibitions and nervousness
Her mother sang for her
And taught her how once more.
And her string of advice never ended,
Nor did her care ever falter,
For she was Mother
And eased into the role
As if it were the proudest
And most royal hat to wear.
And she celebrated her Daughter,
Which made her Daughter celebrate herself
And made her go to places
She might not have gone to otherwise.
But when the world became too frightening
And the burden too large,
The Daughter came back
To the one world she knew best:
The world of Mother and Daughter.

For more examples of Leah’s writing, you can find her at 

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