I am using Strathmore 500 series illustration board. Why? I don't know. I used it on tons of other projects and it hold up well to my obsessive crazy ruminating in paint. I would have loved to do this book on canvas but since there are so many likenesses that need
to be spot on, I dont want to be competing against the texture of a rough canvas. The board gives me a smooth surface which allows me to do tinier details.
Then I take the boards and gesso them with a few layers, but this time instead of wasting hours doing this with a big ol brush, I took the edge of a scrap of board and squeegeed it in big swooping arcs. Covered it perfectly smoothly and took a fraction of the time.
Next I take my opaque projector and blow up my little sketches on that to the max size I can get away with (18"x24" being the biggest scannable surface area - at least for the publishers who would rather not spend any more money that they have to).
Once I trace my sketch in its bigger space I begin going over the drawing really carefully so I have a great drawing to begin with. I have learned that only recently. Before
I would trace it out there and just start painting like a crack head. Now I take my time realizing that the parameters I give myself in pencil can make a painting take much less time. I just gotta go slow at first and then the entire process is sped up.
My underpainting is quick and easy. I take a color I want to peek through and influence the tone of the entire piece and wash in on with a softy brush. The second layer of paint is a meandering process, which often ends up like a jigsaw puzzle with areas left out until close to the end.
After that it is, as I tell all my painting students, a matter of layers. Beautiful acrylic. The coverer of my mistakes. The hider of my poor color choices.
Here is the first piece for the poem entitled The Boy From Ninemile:
You can see where I have drawn my border and the gutter line as well. This is only a few days in and I have my underpainting solid, my early layers begun and my drawing really tight under there. Hopefully this one will go smoothly and be a fantastic first image for the book.
Stay tuned for more updates on the book I believe will be my best work ever. I gotta lotta love for this project; for the manuscript and the pen man, Tony Medina, and for my people at Lee and Low, who are a joy to work with, and for the man himself, Mr. Marley. Human indeed, his flaws are easy to see, but his character has been tested by time and has been found to be gold. His reign over the entire earth is for all time. Not since Beethoven has there been this type of artist who singlehandedly shines like a beacon for all people and all time. I tip my brush to the honorable Berhane Selassie.