Keeping It Real (Or At Least Full of Life)!
by Mary Peterson
My favorite picture books to illustrate are full of action and expression. The two little piglets in PIGGIES IN THE PUMPKIN PATCH race around the farm, make a mess, get into trouble, jump, run, and skid. They are happy, startled, scared, mad and finally, exhausted.
Here's the problem--I'm a very tedious drawer. I tend to get bogged down in details so keeping the action fresh and lively is a challenge. If you love your sketches (as I do) but find the finished art looks over worked and static (as I did), try this: quick sketch from life. Go to places where there's lots of commotion, a swimming pool, train station, construction site, basketball game or dog park and draw as fast as you can. Sketch what you see on the television. Keep a small notebook with you to capture unexpected action. At first capturing the chaos will be frustrating but keep at it. Over time you will hold the memory of those quick responses in your hand and eye and learn to trust their authenticity. Of course, old habits die hard---so if you get bogged down in the studio, YOU be the mover! I keep a jump rope close by for when I need a little action.
Mary Peterson was born and raised in Iowa on a small farm surrounded by cornfields and lots of animals. Those early years in the company of critters large and small continue to provide inspiration for her art. These days she lives in Los Angeles with her husband.
Mary is the co-author and illustrator of PIGGIES IN THE PUMPKIN PATCH (Charlesbridge), which was included in the 2010 Society of Illustrators Original Art Show. She is the illustrator of OCEAN SOUP (Charlesbridge) and WIGGLE AND WAGGLE (Charlesbridge), a Bank Street College of Education Best Books of the Year and recipient of the Early Childhood News Directors Choice Award. Mary's other illustration credits include NO TIME TO NAP (Heyday Books) and CAT ON WHEELS (Boyds Mills Press).