Sunday, January 27, 2013

"When will you make an end of it?"

Or so says Rex Harrison, playing the irascible Pope Julius II, to Charlton Heston's Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy.  That line always stuck in my head, especially as I worked on large projects, like the creation of my first illustrator's portfolio, or massive projects, like the composition of my dissertation. Michelangelo's infuriating response remained, time after time, "When I am finished!"

The last picture that I had time to create in order to meet my Feb 1 SCBWI portfolio review deadline was an ending page. I wanted to include a mini-bio, and have it tie in with the last images that were in my portfolio.  To see the proper order, visit  The last page will be my Goose Girl end pages that I completed in 2012.  It's still one of my favorites, it's extremely representative of my style, and I feel that it's a good way to end this version of my portfolio. Like I said in the post below, had I another month, or another 6 months, or another year, the end result would be much different.  I wanted the last page to be simple, to tie into the title page and to the Goose Girl illustration.  I like its simplicity.  Tonight I will sleep well. I can rest my eyes, suffering from eyestrain, which has prompted a four day-long headache.  Thank God.

"End page" pencil. Copyright 2013 Jessica Boehman

What's in a Name?

Prepping my portfolio for the SCBWI conference has been a lot of fun, but time constraints have prevented me from completing what I would consider the ideal set of work. Last semester's retail shows, commissions, and teaching (and grading!) obligations sucked a lot of the time I had set aside for portfolio development.  If I had another two or three months, the portfolio would look different than it will when I drop it off for the portfolio review at the start of February.  As it is, January has been a blur.  It's been many, many very late nights in the studio.  One more tiny drawing to complete, and it's out of my hands for now. 

One of the requirements for the portfolio is a given: include your name. I decided (not uniquely) to make a title page for the portfolio, but that was not as easy as it seemed at first. In fact, it took me five tries.  I wanted it to jive with the rest of the work, but be unique on its own.  I read online on an artist's blog that a good way to have people remember you is to have your title page match up with your business card and your postcard.  Uh oh...I already had printed the latter two and they were not related.

My new business card for looks like this:

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 While the postcard is my Little Women illustration:

I began to despair. They are not similar at all.  It surprisingly took me a few minutes to figure out that there was a link. Look closer at the Little Women illustration:
The light bulb went on. You see, it's a faulty switch now that I am getting so little sleep.  Realizing that hippocamps were the common thread, I knew I had to go in that direction.  I wanted to use a decorative border to match up with several of the pieces inside the portfolio, but the border of my hippocamp drawing already made use of a sea theme.  I decided on a garden theme instead (who wouldn't want a hippocamp in their garden?). 

Here it is in progress. You can see how the left half is rendered while the right half is a line drawing:
Voila! The completed title page.

"Title Page" pencil Copyright 2013 Jessica Boehman

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Day in Central Park

I have been planning a Three Billy Goats Gruff picture for about five years, since I lived in Philadelphia. I still have all of the original sketches, which show some of my original ideas about the work.

Here you can see how I first used myself as a model to get the body position of the goat: I had planned to have him walking across the bridge, looking over his shoulder. I imagined him walking like a person would, hesitantly. The clothes had to go.

You can see that the troll in the composition sketch above is huge. He doesn't live under the bridge, he exists in its same space. He has trees growing on his head, in the vein of Theodor Kittelsen.  My friend Alison brought me a troll book of his from Norway which I still page through for inspiration.

This was the troll sketch I liked the best. The path that cut across his face is the bridge. I had a hard time composing an image where you could see all of his face and the goat at the same time.  So, it languished for five years. 

After moving to NYC, my husband and I spent a lot of time in Central Park. It's the one place in the city, thanks to the century-old efforts of Frederick Law Olmsted, where it seems like monsters could actually exist.  A few months ago I came upon the plan to make the Central Park troll, using the bridge we most commonly used, on the south-eastern border of the Park.  Here's the final result!As you can see, my troll has stayed the same, but now he is a true bridge troll, living in the bridge's shade, and none too happy about it.

"The Gruff Family Picnic" Copyright 2013 Jessica Boehman

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Time to Weep

Last year I made my first illustration of The Goose Girl (click here).  I return again to the theme while prepping my portfolio for the SCBWI conference.  For those unfamiliar with the story, The Goose Girl is the dark and sorrowful Grimm fairytale about a princess who, on her way to be wed, is cast down from her position by her handmaiden and must live as the girl who tends the geese.  In order to ensure silence, the handmaid-turned-princess kills the princess' horse, Falada, severing its head and hanging it at the town gate.  But the horse had been enchanted; in life it could speak, and in death it continued to talk to the lowly goose girl as she exited town with her flock.

'Early in the morning, when she and Conrad drove out their flock beneath this gateway, she said in passing,   "Alas, Falada, hanging there!"   Then the head answered,   "Alas, young Queen, how ill you fare! If this your tender mother knew, Her heart would surely break in two."'

The end of 2012 and the start of 2013 has not been gentle. It's been a true time of sorrow in our family, with tragedy and another threat of loss looming on the horizon.  It's been a time for tears.  This made this artwork particularly difficult to draw, as it did nothing to lighten the mood of the house.  Even so, I think my sadness helped me to understand the pain of the Goose Girl as she caresses Falada as he hangs there on the town gate.
"Alas, Falada, hanging there!" Copyright 2013 Jessica Boehman

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Margot vs. the Squid

At that moment, the great Squid rose out of the sea.

"Margot vs. the Squid" Pencil Copyright 2013 Jessica Boehman