Undiscovered Voices…

So, after holding out for an inspiration-ambush in order to address this week’s Illustration Friday topic, influence (there were *ideas*, but nothing scintillating enough to retain my hopelessly skittering concentration these last few days), I have admitted defeat and resorted to my latest competition submission for blog material.

It took much agonising and many sheets of scrumpled-up drawing paper before I finally lighting upon an appropriate angle for my entry to the SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices competition – opened to unpublished children’s illustrators, in addition to writers, for the first time this year – the brief for which was to interpret both, or either, of the titular words. Having summarily rejected my first attempt to conjure a suitably charming and evocative subject for submission (see post, 20 July – taking the ‘undiscovered voices’ construction in its entirety as my subject, but ultimately hijacked for Illustration Friday instead…), I flirted with a few other treatment options for the same topic, the first being the, in my view, a rather crashingly obvious X-Factor-style scenario (click to ‘enbiggen’):

…followed by an image drawn to something approaching the specified dimensions (119mm wide x 188mm high), again on the undiscovered voices tip, but something a little sweeter (i.e. the tweeting of concealed birds cavorting in the tree canopy):



…followed by my final choice (and one dear to my midnight-snack-foraging heart), which – unusually for me – I rendered as a line drawing using an assortment of fineliners (various grades, 0.05mm – 0.3mm nibs). The competition submission guidelines proscribed that the illustrations be black and white and, while greyscale pencil shading would also be permissible – and I did vacillate, protractedly, as to whether I should luxuriate in this cosily familiar territory and spurn new-and-a-bit-scary techniques from beneath my blanket of pencil sharpenings – in the end I plumped for the challenge of a purely line-drawn piece. Alas, this proved a far more nerve wracking experience than I had anticipated, shackled as I was to the finality of every mark I made where, ordinarily, I would simply reach nonchalantly for the smooth and instantaneous redemption of the eraser. Ploughing new furrows, proverbially speaking, while harbouring ambitions of successful competition participation, perhaps wasn’t the most sensible of decisions, but it felt like an appropriate juncture (at the time) to test my capacity for negotiating the uncomfortably unfamiliar – if I hypothesised that the submission requirements were more restrictive (i.e. “black & white only! None of your wishy-washy shades of grey!”) than was actually the case. I’m not entirely convinced that I succeeded in executing a true line drawing, in the purest sense of my understanding of such – i.e. something that closely resembles an etching – and I definitely caught myself trying to coax the indelible ink into behaving like the softer, more malleable pencil marks I am accustomed to making. What I have ended up with is, I feel, pretty unsatisfactory – it doesn’t achieve the subtle expression of pencil shading, nor the more assured definition of a line drawing, but sits awkwardly somewhere between the two:

'What the....?!' *Meeeeeeaouw!!!* (transl.: 'Well, don't look at me. There's your dirty biscuit-pilferer!')

Disappointed though I was with the finished piece, I couldn’t bring myself to complete an entire retracing of the composition in order to re-shade in pencil – although, to be perfectly honest, I did get as far as tracing the whole image on the lightbox and shading the girl character, so dissatisfied was I with the messy cross-hatching and lack of sufficient contrast in the ink version. It was certainly a sobering exercise, and one that disabused me of the notion I could deploy ink in the same fashion as pencil to achieve accurate (and convincing) dimension in such a scene: where I might work over existing marks in pencil to intensify shadow and add depth, adopting the same technique with a fineliner pen merely resulted in a uniform blackness – very rapidly. In some ways I had to think more along the same lines as when using watercolour, to consider the white space and how I could use it between the black marks to denote light and shade, i.e. how concentrated, or dispersed, those marks had to be – and in relation to each other – to achieve the desired effect. I definitely still have a considerable way to go before I could say with any conviction that I can execute a successful, truly black & white line drawing, but I’m glad I dipped that toe – even if it has cost me a fighting swing at the Undiscovered Voices piñata!

‘Til next week, then – or possibly sooner, if I’m stirred into productivity my tomorrow’s IF prompt – I hope you have a delightful weekend (and that the interminable, but traditional, August-Bank-Holiday-grey-drizzle [or rather driving rain, as it now is here in Staines…] abates long enough for a last barbecue of the summer!).

AP x.


About illustratedbyamanda

Illustrator and time-fritterer extraordinaire
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