As a printmaker and illustrator I have developed a rather eclectic method of making images, utilising both traditional and digital media to create images which retain a ‘hand-made’ quality.
I consider myself rather fortunate as I had a traditional art education in the (almost) pre-digital age of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.Training first as an Illustrator at Cambridge School of Art, working almost purely in traditional non-digital media such as paint, collage and printmaking, typography was hand-rendered and we used the library for all our research, no Google back then! My love/hate relationship with printmaking continued as I pursued a Post-graduate Diploma in Fine Art printmaking at Brighton University, where I discovered that traditional methods of printmaking are both time-consuming and frustrating, but there is also a wonderful sense of achievement in the hand-made.
|Isabelle Vandenabeele illustration from Een Griezelmeisje ('A Horrorgirl' written by Edward van den Vendel, published by De Eenhorn 2005)|
Traditional illustration seems to have come full circle, from falling out of favour to photography in the early 1990’s to being superseded by CGI and vector graphics as digital technologies evolved. There are now more opportunities than ever for a broad spectrum of traditional and digitally created images (or better still a combination of the two) in picture books.
I admire Illustrators such as Marc Boutavant, who creates all his work digitally, yet his images have a beautiful mid-century auto lithography aesthetic, combining retro colours and charming animal characters. Belgian artist Isabelle Vandenabeele creates beautiful illustrations combining traditional wood cuts, which are then scanned in layers and coloured and composed using Photoshop. John Lawrence works in a similar way, his intricate wood engravings are again assembled using digital techniques, this method was utilised to great effect in his illustrations to Treasure Island (Walker Books, 2010) and more recently Wayland written by Tony Mitton (David Fickling Books, 2013).
|A wood engraving by John Lawrence (© John Lawrence/Walker Books)|
Although I now regularly use Photoshop as part of the process of making illustrations, I also have a genuine respect for traditional methods and this will always be the starting point of my work.
|Printing from traditional wooden fonts in the letterpress studio at Cambridge school of Art|
|The final text, scanned and digitally coloured using Photoshop|
Monoprints are created by rolling a very thin layer of printing ink onto a smooth surface (such as plastic, glass or even a table top), next place a piece of paper over the ink and draw on the paper. The pressure of the pencil transfers the ink onto the paper, creating a beautiful ‘feathered’ line. Interesting effects may also be achieved by painting printing inks directly onto the clean surface with a brush, laying paper on top and taking a print by applying gentle pressure with your hand. Different effects can be achieved by wiping ink from the surface with a rag, or drawing into the inked areas.
|Making a Monoprint|
Printing blocks can be created by cutting shapes from sponge or rubber and gluing onto a wooden (or mdf) block. These can be inked with a roller and pressed onto paper, rather like a rubber stamp. Linocuts are also easy to create at home without a printing press. Use a linocutting tool to carve your design onto a piece of lino, ink with a roller, place a piece of paper over the inked lino and apply pressure by ‘burnishing’ with a spoon.
|Rolling ink onto a linocut|
|Printing from handmade relief blocks|
|The final illustrations, coloured and composed digitally using Photoshop|
I also recommend Martin Salisbury’s books (Illustrating Children’s Books, Play Pen: New Children’s Book Illustration and Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling)
All images © the artists and publishers.
Julia Groves works as a lecturer in Illustration and graphic design, but is also currently in her final semester on the MA Children’s Book Illustration course at Cambridge School of Art.
Follow her blog here.