Yifat Fishman Illustrations and Thoughts

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Dancing Bears

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Things that I’m busy with while the kids are on summer break:

Write a synopsis for my next book. I gathered the ideas that floated around for the story in a short and clear paper.

Research and sketch character ideas for the new story.

Working on a (first) storyboard.

Carve a linoleum block for this merry group of dancing bears which I plan on printing later to check how printed bears work with painted bears in one piece.
I might attempt to create a GIF to show the work progress at the end of the project.

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Pacing bears

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What’s behind this illustrator’s artistic choices? Let’s share some ins and outs of picture book making. When drafting my storyboard I planned ten spreads of full page illustrations, that is one large picture painted on two joined pages. And five spreads with spot illustrations, which means two pages featuring an assembly of several small scenes. Like this one, and the one below:

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When there’s a lot to say visually I may chose to break a scene into several small pictures. Perhaps I want to show that the character is doing more than one thing at the same time, or show a sequence of events that are connected, and since there is a limited number of pages in a book those events will group together on one spread.
Also there is the matter of pacing, which is a prominent element of a picture book. Several small scenes on one spread will read slower than one large scene. They may serve in building up anticipation to whatever happens next. They may create a sense of urgency or tension. And then the next page may be a full spread where the riddle is solved or possibly something big or dramatic will happen that is a result of the former hyperactive spread.

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Praises for tracing paper

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Lately, I’ve become fond of tracing paper. It may have something to do with childhood memories of working with it in elementary school? or was it later, in college? probably the latter. I use tracing paper for transferring a sketch to a linoleum block, where the tracing paper’s transparency comes in handy as it can be flipped over for the image on the block has to be a mirror image of the original. I’ve also used tracing paper for quick sketching and positioning elements of a picture before deciding on a final composition. And then, I started using the tracing paper for trying out color schemes for an illustration.  It’s so handy. A quick rendering over the pencil sketch with rough pastel is just so satisfying. Then combining all the layers together, the pencil drawing, the print and the colored  tracing paper, eh voila! The planned illustration becomes tangible. And I can’t wait for the print to dry so that I could draw and paint the final art.

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So, going back to this print. With the pencil sketch completed I wanted to move on to printing a section of it. As this spread has three spot illustrations combined to  one scene, and since it took me a while to decide on the composition, I wanted a fast reward. So this time guts called the shots. The linoleum carving and printing were all one day’s work. My right hand protested but I could still eat a snack halfway through the work, using  my left hand, if somewhat awkwardly, so on with it until the work was done.

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Bears are back on track

2014-09-16 13.39.55-2I am currently working on the first pages of the book. With the numerous teddy bears in this opening scene, drawing attention to the main character was challenging. She’ll jump to the front of the spread when the background will come out flat in the final print. I am hopping to achieve an interesting rendering of the bears as some will get printed while others will be illustrated in pen and watercolors. Also the color scheme as seen in the following picture will be almost monochromatic, apart from the girl and her beloved teddy.

2014-09-16 13.36.42-2And so I’ve prepared the linoleum block

2014-09-16 13.36.09-1I’m tempted to leave the linoleum block as is… Isn’t it pretty in brown, yellow and simple pencil lines? This humble start will inspire me to do a decent job on this block.

Trees Bees and Bears

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This picture started as a sketch, which could have led to any number of completed art in different artistic mediums. However, I wanted to print the background and trees so that they would seem flat and let the perspective and illustration of the characters play out. So next is the final print that required three linoleum blocks. One for the yellow background and two for the trees. The slightly off placement of the trees over the yellow field was created intentionally.

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I use Daniel Smith water based inks because my studio is located in my house and so I do not want to use colors that would smell badly, and I use the kitchen sink for cleaning the blocks and tools.
Next I drew the outlines, first in gentle pencil touches and then in brown ink with pen and fine brush.

And then I got very anxious over having to make color choices.

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Of course, I had a color scheme prepared way before getting to this stage. Not. In fact what I had was a good sense of how I wanted to color the girl and the little bear cub. For them I made preliminary colored sketches. But the little forest creatures, Mama bear and the teddy bear needed a lot of thinking while the final art was created because the decisions made at this point would apply for the rest of the book.

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Trees, Trees, Trees!

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The past two weeks were all about trees, trees, trees! I made two separate linoleum blocks of trees for one spread. Two, because working on 12×12 block is much easier than working on 18×24 block, as I tend to twirl it around while carving. Printing the blocks for the first time was amazing. Everything fell right into place!
Above is the (very crude) first print.  I also made a final print of the yellow background which I’m kind of saving for a later post when more details are ready. And if you’re interested in technical specks, my chosen paper was Arches, hot press watercolor paper 90 lb.

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After mentally approving the blocks I moved on to color. And since printing is more fun when I get to play a little with imperfect results that would tell a story about creating art, I set out to print the trees in two layers. Ah! but then color choices needed to be made and they should have enhanced each other. Below is a photo of some of the trial prints. I learned so much about color consistency that is just right for showing the fine details of the trees, and had fun mixing a myriad of hues with five ink tubes, one of which is a transparent medium.

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Making a Picture Book: Spread 10-11 Trial Prints

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Creating the background of an illustration by carving linoleum takes a lot of imagining and guessing of what the final print should look like. And that’s also part of the charm and reason for choosing this particular technique. Basically the linoleum block forms a negative image and whatever is left uncarved will get a coat of paint in the final stage of printing. So above is a trial print which turned out overall quite well… phew. The border lines of the images are crisp clear and the fine details of the bee swarm show nicely. I will make little changes to the teddy bear and the final print will not have these clear borders and will “spill” out to leave room for cutting in Photoshop. But I need to see a nice image so I fitted paper to the borders before applying the ink so that this trial print will look closer to what I had in mind.

Here’s the linoleum block:

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Choosing the right paper is tricky since I’m working with mixed media. Printing paper is smooth, watercolor paper is textured and the difference will create a grained, textured print or a smooth one, depending on the paper. Also the paper should be soft so that I can hand press it to the block and get all the fine details on print. I am still looking for the right kind of paper.

Here’s what the wall in front of my drawing desk looks like:

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Notice the little bear? He is not sure yet how he’d like to be pictured in the final art. So while working on printing the background I’m also thinking about color choices… And of the second layer of print that I should start carving next.

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Making a Picture Book: Starting spread 10-11


I’m so excited to start working on this new spread! Here’s the sketch which works like staging directions. Next I’ll be working on the first layer of the illustration with a large linoleum block to set the background. Then add another printed layer for the trees. After that I’ll draw the fine details in inks and watercolors.