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  • Robert Martel

canscaip 2020 VIRTUAL ART SHOW



On Saturday, October 24th, the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP) hosted an Artist Talk to accompany their Virtual Art Show.

Both the Virtual Art Show and Artist Talk (via Zoom) were organized as part of CANSCAIP’s annual PYI: Package Your Imagination conference. To view the Art Show head to https://www.canscaip.org/PYI-Art-Show-2020


Yours truly submitted two pieces to the Art Show and had the privilege of participating in the Artist Talk. It was exciting to hear each artist describe the creative processes behind their illustrations.


I submitted two ink and watercolour pencil illustrations to the Art Show--“Dolly is Found Among the Leaves” (at the bottom of the blog post) and “Prospero the Mouse Boy Sleeps” (at the top of the blog post)--and chose to discuss the latter piece at the Artist Talk.


My process for creating the illustration titled “Prospero the Mouse Boy Sleeps” starts with a faint and loose pencil sketch which is then inked using a brush tip ink pen. The brush tip pen is flexible and complements the lose pencil sketch while at the same time gives decisive form and concrete detail to the illustration.


Once the ink has dried, I gently erase all visible pencil lines with kneaded eraser, careful not to rough up the smooth surface of the paper. Since I just mentioned my paper, I should reveal that for this illustration I choose a sheet of 81/2 x 11 inches 20lb photocopier paper. The same paper I used as a child for all my drawing and painting needs. For the two pieces I submitted to the Art Show I decided to set aside my heavier drawing and watercolour paper, and experiment with something that was smooth, with a bit of a gloss, but still absorbent enough to soak up water without any hesitation.


The smooth surface of the photocopier paper is perfect for accepting pigment from my watercolour pencils, which is the next step in my process. Here I apply the watercolour pencils in layers, with the lightest colours first. Once I apply a layer of colour, I brush off any loose and crumbled pigment before wetting that area using a pointed and stiff synthetic brush. After that area has dried completely, I go back over it with a darker hue or whichever colour the image calls for. This is a long process and some parts of my illustration may have four or five layers of watercolor pencil. It takes patience to allow the thin paper to dry and so I often busy myself with applying watercolour pencil to a different area of the illustration while waiting. Because the paper is so thin it is susceptible to rippling once its dried and will take on a somewhat flattened crumpled appearance. To avoid excessive rippling, periodically I will place some gentle weight on the illustration while it dries.


When I’ve applied watercolour pencil to my satisfaction I step away from the illustration and revisit it in a couple of days. With fresh eyes I can pick out the areas that need to be darkened (add pigment) or even lightened (remove pigment). It’s difficult to stop working on a piece. I either see that nothing more can be done or get to the point where I recognise that anymore fiddling will ruin the illustration. Once an illustration is done, I convince myself it looks great!

Below is a scan of “Dolly is Found Among the Leaves.”



© 2020 by ROBERT MARTEL

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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