The illustrations for Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear! were rendered in water color and colored pencil on stretched Coquille Board, the same paper and media I used for The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear. In fact it was difficult to locate the exact same paper, since it is no longer manufactured in the form I used 18 years ago. I ended up shopping on line at antique and antiquated art materials sites.
The texture of the paper is very important to the look of the art. The water color washes that I apply first cover the eggshell surface of the Coquille Board completely, both the peaks and valleys. Later, the colored pencils, when applied to the bumpy, water color washed surface, leave their pigment only on the higher peaks of the paper texture. The water color washes remain visible in the valleys. This creates an interesting texture for all of the colors.
Prior to the drawing of the pencil sketch, I spent some time drawing real mice in a pet shop. It is especially important to become familiar with their body language, and to observe their physical details, such as how their feet and ears work.
Next I made a dummy, or little rough book, in order to plan how to divide the text between the pages and to decide which scenes to paint. Then it was time for the full sized pencil drawings.
This drawing was rendered on tough vellum, a surface that allows an infinite number of erasures and corrections. If I drew directly on the Coquille Board, I would ruin its delicate surface.
Then, using the old grade school technique of transfer, I applied graphite to the back of the drawing.
Next I turned the sketch back over, so the graphite side was down, and positioned the vellum on top of the stretched Coquille Board. Using a pencil of contrasting color (so I can tell what Iâ€™ve done) I trace over the sketch. This transfers the drawing onto the Coquille Board.
Time to get out the water colors. My palette is arranged in families of colors. I begin to apply water color washes onto the drawing. The stretching of the Coquille Board keeps the moisture of the paint from causing it to wrinkle.
The water color work is completed.
Finally, I apply the finishing touches, high contrast, and details with the colored pencils, and the page is done.