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Writer | Artist

Posts from the Process Posts Category

These past two weekends, I’ve been at work on an illustration for a potential picture book project. The story, featuring two mourning doves, was drafted during a prompt for the Remarkable Monkeys on “Why Is the Moon Late?”

Mourning Doves by Priscilla Mizell
I started with a rough sketch.

FullSizeRender (3)Next, I mapped out my layers, a highly scientific process where I use a lightbox to trace the general shapes from the sketch (e.g., head, eye with pupil, bit around the eyes, top layer of beak, underlayer of beak, etc.) on a separate sheet of white paper. I cut out those mapped pieces and used them as patterns for the fine paper.

By last weekend’s end, I had put together Little Dove, Mama Dove, and a version of their nest. It was a solid start but it wasn’t working yet, so I decided to let it sit.

IMG_0656Throughout the week, I returned to the illustration to consider changes. By the time Friday evening rolled around, I had a pretty good idea of what to do.

I remembered a talk Peter Brown gave where he said, “You cannot get the eyes wrong in a picture book. If you get the eyes wrong, you will have a problem.” It was clear that Little Dove’s eyes weren’t right. So, I pulled off his pupil, cut it down, and tried a few different placements. That was much better.

Then I added layers to the little guy, including a division between his breast and his mama’s, a tuft of down along his forehead, and lots of little feathers. Finally, I ripped up the nest and layered different papers over and under. At last, I was satisfied with my characters.

IMG_0753Because this scene is set at night, I needed a deep, blue paper for the sky. The week before, I had laid my birds and nest onto various shades until I narrowed my options down to three.

On Friday night, I tested them again with the revised doves, nest, and tree to make my choice.

For the tree, I started with a piece of plain, brown paper into which I cut wiggly lines to serve as grooves of bark. Then I cut and pasted other colors and textures on top. This step involved quite a bit of trial and error, hence the pile of cut-up squiggles on my desk.

fullsizerender-2.jpgThen I glued the sections together!

FullSizeRenderThe final illustration is 9.5” across by 5.5” high. The collage was cut with my trusted EK Success Cutter Bee Scissors and adhered with an Elmer’s glue stick and PLUS’s 6mm-wide, honeycomb glue tape. I used the following papers, all from my beloved Paper Source:

IMG_0760It can be a challenge to scan a cut paper collage when there are multiple layers. While the colors are subdued, this one scanned pretty clean. A victory!

Mourning Doves by Priscilla MizellThanks for reading!

For the 2017 Tomie dePaola Award, Tomie invited SCBWI illustrators to mine their memories for a significant moment from childhood and create a self-portrait that might appear in a picture book.

I’ve included humans in only a handful of cut paper collages, so I saw this prompt as an opportunity to stretch my skills and step out of my comfort zone.

I settled on picking out my first pair of glasses. Here’s my illustration:

tomie-depaola-award-entry-priscilla-mizell

The winner and runners-up were announced today. Congratulations to Katya Tabakh for her soft, snow-swept illustration of sledding at night! You can find her submission here.

Diandra Mae, the illustrator coordinator for the Houston chapter of SCBWI, has assembled an online gallery so we can see all the other submissions, too. Stop on by! (My illustration is on this page.)

Thank you to SCBWI and Tomie for this challenge! And thank you, Diandra, for collecting the submissions and sharing them with us!

Like many of my illustrator friends, I’m in the process of revamping my portfolio for the L.A. SCBWI conference. This weekend I took an existing design that I liked and gave it an update.

“The Dance Lesson” is an illustration that my marvelous agent pulled from the slush, so it will always be close to my heart. It also inspired a picture book WIP that I love. But two years have passed since I finished that collage and I knew I could make it better.

dance lesson redo

Before: The Dance Lesson, circa 2011

So, on Saturday, I set to work. I began with Owl and Ostrich. These characters have evolved somewhat since the original design, so I wanted to make sure they would be consistent with the most recent O&O illustrations. Both Owl and Ostrich lost a toe to better resemble their real-life counterparts (ostriches have two toes and great horned owls have three in the front and one in the back). Owl 2.0 is a bit more solid with a larger beak. Ostrich 2.0’s legs are a bit longer and more muscular. I also adjusted the tilt of the birds’ legs and wings so they’d look more active. After all, they are dancing!

The revised characters have different papers, too. The first version of the illustration featured three patterns for Owl and two patterns for Ostrich—with one of these papers (the pattern with the text) being shared by the two. To compare, Owl 2.0 and Ostrich 2.0 have five papers a piece. Happily, I had already planned out O&O’s new looks in an earlier color study, so I didn’t need to start from scratch when picking their papers.

20130602_015926 - 2

Owl and Ostrich 2.0

As for the background, I knew that I wanted to keep some elements of the first illustration (i.e., the natural palette, the floorboards, the border along the top, the music notes), but I didn’t know which papers I wanted to use. So, on Sunday, I spread out every blue, green, and brown paper pattern I owned and did a lot (ahem, a LOT) of pairing and considering. Yesterday was one of those days where the scene just wouldn’t come together. At one point, the husband suggested we get out of the house to think and eat pie. (Always a good idea.) At another point, we went out to buy yet more green paper. (Another good idea.) Finally (finally!), I figured it out and was able to finish the illustration.

The Dance Lesson 2 by Priscilla Mizell

After: The Dance Lesson, circa 2013

The floorboards are still dark, the composition similar. The biggest difference is the backdrop. Instead of incorporating the sheet music into the floorboards, I cut waves from a sheet music paper pattern and layered them atop a different shade of green. My hope is that this detail adds more movement and interest to the illustration.

What about you? Do you have some “before and after” illustration examples to share? I’d love to see them.

ETA: I still wasn’t happy with the background, so I tried out a few more greens, including one from a different Owl and Ostrich composition. I shared the results with a trusted critique partner and she agreed that, in this case, darker is indeed better. (Thanks, Courtney!) The after after illustration is below. This just goes to show that there’s always room for revision!

Edited and Revised Dance Lesson

After Again: The Dance Lesson, circa 2013

Here is a look at my promotional materials for the Kansas SCBWI Fall Conference!

The Business Card

Front of Business Card

Back of Business Card

Like Laura Zarrin, I chose to round the corners with a scrapbooking tool.

Pro Tip: You will get a hand cramp if you try to round more than 100 corners in one sitting. (Ouch.)

The Postcard

Front of Postcard

 

New Scanned back of postcard

Back of Postcard

For consistency, I featured the same character and paper patterns in both designs. The image from the front of the postcard (minus the web address) will also serve as the title page for my physical portfolio.

These materials were printed by Educational Publishers, a division of the company I work for in Manhattan, Kansas.

Four Awesomesauce Resources for Creating Business Cards and Postcards

A chef’s hat tip to Laura Zarrin, Molly Idle, and Alicia Padrón for generously sharing their recommendations and designs in the following blog posts:

THANK YOU!

I have been incognito on the blog because I’ve been hard at work on my latest picture book proposal. I’m happy to write that I recently completed the final piece of our submission package.

Here is what my workspace looked like after I finished.

Whew! I tend to get swept up in a project, so I don’t realize how crazy everything looks until it’s over. Thankfully, I’m married to a super swell guy who understands me and my process.

We live in a one-bedroom apartment, so I store my paper and other supplies in the bedroom closet.

Whenever I want to make a collage, I lug everything out and set up in that little corner of our living room. Then I sit on the carpet and trace, cut, assemble, and paste until the illustration looks the way I want it to.

Despite its appearance, my “studio” meets my needs. There are three sources of light (the patio window, a lamp, and our fireplace fixture) which allow me to see what I’m doing. I have an outlet for my lightbox. My picture books are just a shelf away. And the television is within earshot, so I can listen to a movie or show while I work.

Some time ago, Joda (the cat peering out the window) learned how to navigate the mess without stepping on anything. Jack, our other cat, prefers to play Godzilla, chew up paper scraps, and steal my smaller tools. So he usually gets banished to the other side of the apartment.

The only downside to this space is the required post-project clean-up. Since I work in our common area, I have to return everything to the closet as soon as I’m done. (This latest paper explosion took forty-five minutes to sort out!)

One day, I would love to have a formal studio like the Steads’ or Cece Bell’s. But, all in all, this workspace gets the job done.

Where do you write and/or illustrate?