Sketch of Pears

By heather at 4:20 pm on Monday, May 28, 2007

pears sketch pair

© Heather Castles

Went to the market yesterday and bought some fruit… and I loved the curly tops on these pears! So I sketched them while watching a movie last night, then tinted them with colour in Photoshop this morning with a light layer of each green and yellow.

pears sketch pair

Filed under: sketches, illustrations2 Comments »

The Brotherhood of the Stinky Underpants | Varnish and Underpainting

By heather at 6:00 pm on Sunday, May 27, 2007

acrylic painting

I took a couple snaps today and yesterday of my work in progress for Elizabeth Austin’s children’s book, The Brotherhood of the Stinky Underpants. The finals for this are to be in oils, and I tried a different set up this time. Instead of redrawing my sketches onto the illustration board (which takes a few hours,) I made copies of my sketches, printed them out, and glued them down onto the cold press illustration board. Then I painted a coat of polyeurathane to seal them. When working with oils on paper, the oil paint can over time eat away at the illustrations, so sealing them and then painting with acrylic for the underpainting keeps the oil paint from the paper and keeps the artwork from deteriorating.
acrylic painting

Then I’ve gone over and painted in big blocks of colour with acrylic for the underpainting… feels like a really bad colour by number! But don’t fear… the more garish & crazy it looks at this stage, the better it will look in the end!

acrylic painting

These colours are REALLY bright right now, because when I paint over with the oils the more toned down shades, I’ll leave those bits of bright colour peaking through at parts. It’s easier to start bright and dull back, rather than the other way around. It looks a bit messy at the moment, but it will add lovely texture to the illustrations.

acrylic painting

© Heather Castles

Filed under: work in progress, illustrations, childrens books, The Brotherhood of the Stinky Underpants3 Comments »

Step-by-Step How to Colour a pencil sketch / drawing in Photoshop

By heather at 4:09 pm on Saturday, May 26, 2007

monkey photoshop

This illustration technique me feels like I’m a little kid again and colouring in the lines! I really enjoy this style, as I can take my time with my B-pencil & smudge stick rendering an illustration… and then hop on the computer and create the final black & white and colour print-ready files respectively in a matter of minutes. It is an ideal style for creating a lot of illustrations in a short amount of time, as it achieves a traditional feel without the time involved in creating watercolour paintings.

The step-by-step process I follow to colour my illustrations in Photoshop is :

• Illustrate the character with a graphite pencil on bond paper (I like printer paper as it’s smooth and fits on the scanning bed!)
• Scan each illustrations at high resolution
• Create a Photoshop file for the character illustration
• Remove the character from the background and place it on its own layer, carefully removing the whitespace with a soft edged eraser tool or feathered magic wand selection (see below)
monkey photoshop

• Adjust the contrast
• Save out a flattened, grayscale version as a TIFF (I’ve set up an action to do this in Photoshop automatically for me)
(Read on …)

Filed under: work in progress, illustrations, business of illustration, tutorials, Little Land Adventures8 Comments »

Little Land Adventures - Characters & map

By heather at 4:09 pm on Friday, May 25, 2007

animals map storybook

I’ve just completed the final character illustrations & map for the The James Family’s “Little Land Adventures : Book 1″ and am quite excited by the results! I had the challenge of the book being printed in both B&W and colour, and thought I’d try a technique I developed while at Image Craft Inc., of scanning my finished graphite pencil illustrations and colouring them in Photoshop. It’s a different feel to watercolour & coloured pencil… as the soft pencil drawings give it a sketchy texture, and the tint of colour gives the illustrations a nostalgic colour palette and feeling.

animals map storybook

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The Brotherhood of the Stinky Underpants | Sketches

By heather at 7:25 pm on Tuesday, May 22, 2007

stinky underpants sketch

Here are the final sketches for Elizabeth Austin’s children’s book, The Brotherhood of the Stinky Underpants. I’m pretty excited about starting the final illustrations on these, as the story is pretty fun, and Elizabeth was great to work with having a lot of cute suggestions for the illustrations along thee way as well. The final illustrations are going to be in oil over an acrylic underpainting on illustration board…should be fun! I’ll post again once I’ve got the underpainting done.

stinky underpants sketch

stinky underpants sketch

stinky underpants sketch (Read on …)

Filed under: work in progress, sketches, illustrations, childrens books, The Brotherhood of the Stinky Underpants4 Comments »

Little Land Adventures - Sketches

By heather at 5:12 pm on Tuesday, May 15, 2007

little bird illustration sketch

I’m working book with The James Family called ‘Little Land Adventures’ about several little animals and their adventures! The sketches are finished & approved for the first book, which stars four of the thirteen little characters, so I’m ready to start the final illustrations, whoooo!

little bird illustration sketch

This is going to be a little different, as the books will be printed in 2 formats… B&W and colour, both different sizes. So I’ll have to keep the contrast of the illustrations high so that they translate well both in colour and black & white.

little bird illustration sketch

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What Makes A Good Kids Book Great

By heather at 12:01 am on Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I thought this article by Ayun Halliday was a good read, with some insight into some of the simpler things that parents are being encouraged to look for in great books for their children.

In today’s disposable culture, the classics of children’s literature continue to exhibit remarkable staying power. You won’t find many copies of Margaret Wise Brown’s sixty-year-old “Goodnight Moon” clogging the landfills. Jim Carrey and Mike Myers are no match for “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and “The Cat in the Hat” in their original format. Savvy marketing alone cannot account for the popularity of Ian Falconer’s “Olivia,” who landed a postage stamp in 2006, just six years after she was unleashed on an instantly adoring public.

Of course, for every “Olivia” there’s a wheelbarrow full of unrecognized but deserving candidates and a back hoe’s worth of witless, poorly illustrated tripe. Given the less-than-discerning nature of childish taste, there’s a real danger that your kid’s favorite book, the one you’ll be asked to read aloud several thousand times, will concern some cartoon teddy bear’s insufferable adventures in the Land of Rainbow Twinkles. Think about that the next time you’re browsing the children’s section. Remember that the greats share certain elements in common. And while all of them need not be present to signify a masterpiece, a book that is entirely bereft of these attributes could spell trouble in your reading future.

Stage-worthy Dialogue
Given that you’ll be serving as the text’s primary interpreter, quirky, character-driven exchanges are always preferable to lackluster lines offering no clue as to how they should be performed. Look for something with pirates, or better yet, treat your inner ham to the over-stimulated and wonderfully articulate vintage toys populating Tony Millionaire’s “Sock Monkey” series.

Repetition That Feels Like Poetry
Children love recurrent lists. Most parents do not. Hold out for repeaters that achieve the rare, echoing beauty of Abbie Zabar’s “55 Friends” or Verna Aardema’s “Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain.”

A Light Touch When Imparting Moral Lessons
As in life, actions speak louder than words. Don Freeman, the author of “Corduroy,” could refrain from force-feeding his readers such pablum as “it’s okay to be different!” because that worthy notion is embodied so well in his main characters’ conduct.

Recognition of Anarchy’s Comic Potential
The unspoken damage to the mattress and multiple injuries sustained by “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” would not be funny in real life, but on the page there’s a gleeful, vicarious thrill to their refusal to be brought to heel. Any parent suffering through the natural anarchy of toddlerhood will appreciate the grim humor of Emily Jenkins’ “Love You When You Whine.”

An Ultimately Charitable Attitude Toward Younger Brothers and Sisters
Real as sibling rivalry may be, why reinforce the rift with pandering references to “dumb babies” and “stupid, stinky” brothers? Reject this maddening trend by reaching for the far more valuable tenderness redeeming the characters in Russell Hoban’s “A Baby Sister for Frances.”

Illustrations That Actively Further the Story
Often these will feature an exasperated, exhausted parent. Witness the look on Olivia’s mother’s face when her husband’s offer to buy their wailing daughter a new and better toy in “Olivia and the Missing Toy” is met with a happy cry of “Oh, Daddy, I love you better than anybody!”

The Power to Bring a Lump to the Adult Throat
There’s no shame in getting a bit choked up over “The Runaway Bunny,” especially if you’re haunted by the scene in which Eileen Atkins reads it aloud to a dying Emma Thompson in the film “Wit.” After a long day, “Walter the Farting Dog’s” dedication to “anyone who’s ever felt misjudged or misunderstood” just might be enough to bring a tear to your eye.

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My Worst/Best Sleepover Party is released!

By heather at 6:11 am on Friday, May 11, 2007

sleepover storybook children second story press

“My Worst BestSleepover Party
Published by Second Story Press
Written by Anna Morgan & Dr. Rachael Turkienicz
Illustrated by Heather Castles

It was fun seeing on today that my 10th children’s book, “My Worst Best Sleepover Party,” is printed and in the shops in Canada! It is a pretty cute story and was fun to illustrate, I’m happy to see the finished product online. (Read on …)

Filed under: illustrations, childrens books1 Comment »

India Miniature Paintings : Peacocks

By heather at 5:10 pm on Thursday, May 10, 2007

The peafowl, I discovered while in India, is the most beloved of their beautiful birds. We saw dozens of them (peacocks are males, peahens are females) in the wild… roosting in the trees, running around in the brush. Once we saw a male ‘dancing’ with his tail feathers fanned out… and were told that is ‘very lucky.’


So when I was introduced to the Indian Miniature paintings, the first I looked for was artwork of peacocks. This painting is only 4×6 inches… the paints are vegetable based, similar to tempera. The detail they put into these miniatures is incredible.


This piece of art was from a book, there is script on the back of the illustration, all hand painted text. We bought one more, which I’ll post in a couple days!

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Apples Are Green

By heather at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, May 9, 2007

green my apple

I was so happy to read this today! After only a few months since Greenpeace’s Green My Apple Campaign, Steve Jobs has delivered the best news we could hope for… a greener apple! Way to go Steve, keep up the good work!

A couple hours ago, Apple put a banner with the words “A Greener Apple” on the front page of its website, linking to a personal letter from Steve Jobs. In it he says in effect that Apple’s consumers, employees, shareholders and the industry “want us to be a leader in [becoming greener], just as we are in the other areas of our business. So today we’re changing our policy.”

That’s right, people: you’ve done it — you’ve moved Apple. (Read on …)

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