Rafe – Boy’s Birth Picture

I had done a birth illustration for a baby boy called Joshua back in April 2015 and his proud Grandmother, Angela, contacted me, a few months ago, to say that Joshua had recently received a baby brother, Rafe (the original spelling for the name Ralph) and that she would like to commission me to do a birth illustration for the newest member of her family.

After doing a spot of ‘homework’ about the name Rafe, I discovered that it is an old Norse/English word, which means ‘wolf counsellor’. Angela then asked me to come up with a theme for the birth illustration. I thought ‘Peter and the Wolf’ would be a nice theme for the commission and did some research about this ‘symphonic fairy tale for children’: which is a musical composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936.
On his travels, young Peter (after leaving the safety of his grandfather’s house), encounters a small bird, a cat and a duck, which journey with him on his search for his adventure. Peter and the animals are all depicted by a particular instrument i.e. the cat is set to the clarinet, the duck to the oboe and Peter’s character is set to the string section of an orchestra. As the music unfolds, the different characters can be heard throughout the piece.

I wanted to create a different look for each of the characters and did a small scamp (Scamp – a first rough or mockup) before working on a more detailed sketch with characters in place. This is probably the hardest part of the whole process for me, as it’s drawing it all out and is fairly time-consuming. However, I love the process of creating the finished illustration, as all of the hours spent scamping and sketching finally start to take on a new dimension in colour, shape and texture before one’s eyes.

I was requested to keep the main character of Peter similar to the Disney cartoon, but I did suggest that we alter his hair and the colour of his clothes, as I never like to reproduce anything exactly. The small elephant on Peter’s clothes, relates to the motif on the birth announcement card that Angela received to inform her of his birth.

I am not sure when Angela is going to present her daughter with the new picture for the new arrival, but I do hope that they will like it and the thought and effort that has gone in to it from both the client and the artist…

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Phoebe – Girl’s Birth Picture

Hello.  I’ve been asked on many occasions if I create my birth illustrations with the use of images and computer graphics.  I always state that my illustrations are done-by-hand (the old fashioned way with paper and pencils!).  I thought it might be useful to illustrate (pardon the pun) the process that goes into creating the illustrations that I produce.

STAGE 1 – CONCEPT AND SCAMP
This is the concept/ideas stage.  Once I know what theme the parents prefer (such as kittens, jungle animals, spacemen etc), my brain goes into overdrive and I try the different characters (in this case – kittens) in different positions around the letters of the child’s name.  Once I have played around with the characters, in my mind’s eye, I scribble a very quick ‘scamp’ down on paper – showing different aspects of what I hope to include in the final illustration.

Image  (Stage 1)

STAGE 2 – SKETCH
Following on from the ‘scamp’ stage, the idea is sketched out around the proposed lettering.  I nearly always sketch in blue pencil (I must have some royalty in my family tree!) and refine the ideas and the characters as I go.  Once Stage 3 is completed, the scamp and sketch can both be discarded.  Please note that I try different expressions and ideas out around the edge of the paper.  I also give an indication of colours.

Image

STAGE 3 – DRAW ILLUSTRATION
The final line-drawing is produced for the illustration.  If there are any parts that I wasn’t totally happy with at the sketch stage, these can now be re-drawn.  These will nearly always be minor adjustments, such as, the kitten’s expression has changed on the letter ‘b’ and the budgerigar has moved position on the second letter ‘e’.Image

STAGE 4 – COLOUR THE ILLUSTRATION
This is the enjoyable part (usually) after the ideas and sketching has been done.  I normally indicate (on the scamp and sketch) certain colours that I want to see in the final illustration.  The mother of Phoebe, suggested she would like a gingham design to the lettering and that the budgerigar should be of the green-and-yellow variety.Image

STAGE 5 – PERSONALISE THE ILLUSTRATION
I hand-draw the lettering that personalises each illustration.  The colours of the lettering can often ‘mirror’ the colour scheme of the child’s nursery/bedroom, or, more often, I just select certain colours from the main body of the illustration, whichever is preferred.Image

DETAIL OF THE ILLUSTRATION:

ImageImage

Once the final illustration is complete, it’s  just a case of mounting and framing the illustration ready for hanging.  This breakdown has taken me much longer to do than I expected, but thankfully it’s raining ‘cats-and-dogs’ here today in Great Britain, so there was no chance of me getting into the garden anyway :0(.  Thank you for taking the time to read this (I hope it makes sense…).  Michael