Jim Henson

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Beyond The Bramble: Character Design

Published July 18, 2016 by baileyquillincooper

A good friend of mine, Sarah Marie Bacavis, has also written a children’s book called Beyond The Bramble.

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It’s a middle grade short novel (not a picture book) that is best classified as a children’s fantasy adventure story. The book is now nearing completion and is currently in a similar stage of production as mine; getting the first reader/first print copies made so she can get some feedback and send her book out to some literary agencies. The story is about an imaginative girl who goes with her dachshund puppy Annette to visit her grandparents, only to discover a hidden world inside of the overgrown bramble in their backyard. The book is also about, you guessed it, goblins!

To simplify things, the three main reasons why Sarah and I are friends in the first place are Glam Rock, goblins, and the internet. We both fairly active with our Deviantart accounts back in 2008/2009, and we sort of found each other through our artwork and our extreme affinity for this somewhat odd combination of subjects. Some major influences of ours included David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper, Cuddly Toys, Brian Froud (well all three of the Frouds, actually), Jim Henson, The Dark Crystal, The Labyrinth, and The NeverEnding Story. We later discovered that we had even more of the same influences in common that we had just never bothered to mention before. Maybe we’re just like one of those creative matches made in heaven, like Henson and Oz. Either way, it’s always a pretty amazing thing to chance meet a creative who is from your very same “planet.”

When Sarah asked me if I could help her with designing the characters from her book and then illustrating the cover art, I was more than happy to help. She already had drawn that idea for the cover and some sketches of three of the characters from the story. We decided that I would first help design the characters, and then do some more basic cover artwork for the first read copy. The first read copies will be be going to the printer very soon, so for time’s sake and to differentiate the first read edition from the more finalized text, we are going to go with a more simplified design for now.

So far I have completed the designs all three characters. First we have her sketches of a goblin named Sim Sala Pim, “but Pim is plenty.”

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Here’s my pencil drawing:

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Inked:

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Colored:

Pim Design

Then we have her drawings of another goblin called Wilden.

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Here is my final design for Wilden (because I guess I forgot to take more work-in-progress pics again!)

Wilden Design

And last we have Coragrinn The Finder, a very scowly, grouchy, and somewhat pretentious junk collector goblin who spends most of his time digging through dirty garages.

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Coragrinn was by far the most difficult character to design. I actually had a feeling that he might be, so I ended up tackling this one first. The reason he was so difficult was probably because he has such a strong personality and needed to have a scowl that was just right. Sarah also had the most trouble envisioning this one and left her drawings very open to interpretation. I took a long while playing around with the shape of his face before I ever got started on the final design.

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As you can see from my sketches, I had pretty much decided from the beginning that he needed to have short, lopsided bangs and some very deep frown lines. I also decided that I liked him better with a taller forehead and a longer face, because it somehow made him look more intellectual but also a lot grumpier. Putting all of the things that I liked about the different face designs together, I then came up with this:

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Here is is all colored in (and yes, that is my sneaker!)

Coragrinn Design

That’s the design that I first ended up sending to Sarah. She loved his scowly face, and she said that he reminded her a little of Rabbit from Winnie The Pooh crossed with the Gallagher brothers of Oasis (a disturbing yet hilariously apt observation!) The term “Squidwardian” was also tossed around a bit when designing this guy. Ultimately the only major changes that Sarah wanted to make to this first design was to darken the coloration on his muzzle and feel to make him look even grungier, and to give him longer, gnarlier toes with claws more similar to those of a kangaroo. Since I am an old school traditional artist, a correction as minor as that just takes a little bit of creativity:

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Presto!

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After his “pedicure” was complete, I got the final approval from Sarah that he was at last “the perfect grouchy filthy hoarder” that she hoped he would be!

So that’s all I’ve got for the character designs. Next I will start work on the illustration for the first read cover, and I’ll be sure to post more about it in my next one!

 

 

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More Book Progress and Upcoming Excitments

Published February 28, 2016 by baileyquillincooper

It’s been a couple weeks since I last posted and a lot of things have happened. I want to get back into my one post a week routine, so this one is just going to be a fairly brief written summary with mostly photo explantations in an attempt to catch up.

So what have I been up to? Making new friends:

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Photo taken on Valentine’s Day at Lovecraft Bar during my husband Martyn’s Glam Rock D.J. night, Whips and Furs. In the picture is Mike Wilcox, our new friend who we met at the Bowie Sendoff at in Pioneer Courthouse Square, and Monika Wolf, another new friend who we met that very night. She ended up becoming our official stagehand and backup dancer. Well, more like the best dancer in the whole joint who got a lot of other people to get up and dance by the end of the night.

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She’s a lot of fun, and perhaps a little accident prone.

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We still to this day have no idea how she cut her hand and got blood all over the place. She still made the most of it, I suppose.

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Whips and Furs was such a success that Martyn is now on the permanent roster for the Lovecraft event calendar, so his Glam night is now going to become a monthly event!

What else have I been up to? Saw a couple of movies–The VVitch and Deadpool in the same weekend. Was so pleasantly surprised by both, and both were so refreshing for the overblown, overdone genres that they represent. The VVitch was hands down the best and most visually inspiring straight horror film that I have seen in a very long time. As a former strange child who spent a good portion of her middle school years in the library poring over every book on the Salem Witch Trials, The Occult, and American Folklore that was available to me, I can also give my full endorsement that the director got everything so right and as accurate as possible!

I also was finally given the opportunity to finish up a few more long-awaited projects for Trader Joe’s. Behold the belated frozen chocolate banana slices sign for Chinese New Year, Year of the Monkey, based off of some traditional Chinese paper cutout decorations that I had researched:

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He looks particularly cool whenever the light shines though him.

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Also at long last I finished the last permanent illustration for the backs of the new chalkboard endcaps. The King, trapped behind the soulless and terrifying brown paper mask of Trader Joe:

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Here’s a close up shot:

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And here it is pictured next to the endcap back that I finished before it, more monkey art coincidentally:

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I got the idea to draw an Elvis chalkboard because I had already had to do this very same private label end cap concept a few years ago at my old store back in Atlanta. The last board I designed for the subject matter was Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe:

Andy Warhol Endcap

I was proud of how that one turned out, even though it was a little tedious hand drawing the same face twice in a row. Anyway I didn’t really know to follow that one so I figured, what else goes with Marilyn? Oh yeah, Elvis. Sometimes when your job is to literally make the same boring things over and over again you’ve just got to find new ways to entertain yourself.

Speaking of which, yesterday I had to make a sign for Shaved Brussels Sprouts so this is what I came up with:

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The funny thing is that’s like the fourth time I’ve drawn that anthropomorphic Brussels Sprout. I guess he’s kind of a reoccurring character.

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Virgil Collage

While I was doing all this other stuff I’ve still been teaching my painting classes at Vine Gogh and making progress on my children’s book. The new Vine Gogh Tigard studio, Vincent’s Loft, is still a work in progress as they finish up the last few details of the construction, but it should be finished very, very, soon. Once that’s done I’m going to be able to start designing my own classes. I work in a lot of other mediums besides just acrylic painting, so it looks like I’m gonna be the one to come up with some of the crazier and more experimental classes…stuff that nobody else is teaching at any other artist bar type places right now. I think I can see classes in illustration, cartooning and caricature, and polymer clay/mixed media sculpture in my near future!

As for my book, I’ve been just plugging away at the illustrations in an attempt to put it all together and get an initial first test copy printed by the end of May. The reason for that particular timing is because that is when I will be attending the annual SCBWI Oregon Spring Conference, Between the Pages, and I would like to have something a little more polished and comprehensive than a super rough dummy book to show potential publishers and agents. I plan to use crowd funding to self-publish the book regardless, but just in case any traditional publishers are interested I’d like to present something nice for them to look at. If nothing else, maybe an attractive debut piece might catch the eye of an agent that would want to work with me on other freelance illustration projects in the future. I’d really love for either of those things to happen and I know that the best thing I can do is to just work hard, go to these events, and keep trying!

So here’s a couple of work-in-progress photos I snapped of page number 27 of 32…the pencil sketch:

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The inked line drawing:

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My dog Grendel yawning and being bored as I try my best to ignore him and get some more work done at my art desk:

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Grendel and Miss Loon, The Black Babies. They somehow can make doing what I love very difficult.

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I have to make myself a super nutritious lunch to break their power over me…

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Fishcakes, fishcakes, roly poly fishcakes…

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…And back to work. Sometimes my coloring process somewhat resembles a printing press, with all of one color at once and then so on. Here it is with just red.

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Then I started adding all the green.

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I’ve done a lot more to it since that last photo…it’s not quite finished yet, but as soon as I get another minute to myself over the weekend I’ll have it knocked out in no time. I’ll post more pictures of my progress very soon, and I definitely won’t wait so long this time!

The last little bit of upcoming excitement that I will mention before heading off to bed tonight is that over the past week I was able to sign up for a now sold out Toby Froud rod puppet Workshop at The Fernie Brae in April!!! Some of Toby’s past creations to give you an idea of the kind of work he does:

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The Frouds have been my number one artistic inspiration ever since I discovered my very first Faerie book in middle school. I can collectively credit Brian’s paintings, illustrations, and concept art, Wendy’s dolls and puppets, and their son Toby’s puppets, short films, and current work with Laika Studios for teaching me how to layer colors together, how to make flat two-dimensional paints appear to glow, how to draw and sculpt fantasy characters that still somehow tell the truth and appear believable, how to sculpt professional art dolls in polymer clay, and how to make the seemingly impossible dream of handcrafting puppets and movie magic akin to the Jim Henson fantasy film heyday in today’s time possible. Probably some other stuff too that I can’t even think about right now. Just know that going to this Toby Froud workshop is not only a dream come true and a big deal for me, but should also prove to be very important and inspiring for my future career. I’ll be sure to post more about that, as well as some other very potentially exciting news, very soon when I feel that the time is right. Until then…goodnight!