Monday, August 18, 2008

In Praise of Real Paint!

Since I've been extolling the virtues of using real paint on illustration board, I thought this might be a good opportunity to show some samples of the art I've done for various Disney books over the years. These are all painted with gouache, an opaque form of watercolours.



As I've often mentioned in previous posts, "The Jungle Book" remains my alltime favourite of the Disney animated features. Therefore, it was a real treat to illustrate this book for Random House, which was just a simple retelling of the story targeted to beginning readers. It was one of a series of books under the umbrella title of "My First Disney Story". I drew and painted four of these books and did the pencilling for a fifth that was painted by another illustrator. I am quite comfortable using gouache, and endeavor to paint the backgrounds fairly close to what they look like in the original films.

Painting the characters in these illustrations is a bit tricky, and I always start by masking them out with frisket so as to keep the characters untouched as I paint the background behind them. That way, the characters are still just my pencil lines on clean white areas of board when I go to paint them in. As you can see, I keep the tonal rendering on the characters to a minimum, so they don't start looking all shiny like plastic. (I don't like the Disney video box art for that very reason.) I find that just a bit of dry brush shading on one side gives them the clean, crisp look that I prefer.



These samples from the "Bambi" book I illustrated for that same series unfortunately never saw the light of day. This particular book was sadly never published, as Random House execs were keeping a close watch on sales of the other books and weren't sure how well "Bambi" would do. Though I was still paid well for my work, it was a real disappointment not to see this one in print, as I had really enjoyed doing these paintings. In addition to these two titles, I also illustrated two others in the series on "The Lion King" and "Snow White", as well as having pencilled the illustrations for a "Dumbo" book.

This was at a time when Disney Consumer Products was still greenlighting lots of fun projects, utilizing characters from many of their classic films. Sadly, the mindset there is far different now, with book product limited pretty much to just the "Disney Princesses" franchise and "Winnie-the-Pooh". The only other films that still get some book tie-in seem to be the Pixar titles. Frankly, I miss the days when Disney was still celebrating their classics of the past, as these were the characters that I was happiest to work with. I wish that the folks at Consumer Products would realize just how big an audience still exists for those classic animated films. Additionally, it would be nice if Mickey and the gang would start to be used again properly, instead of relegated to just that preschool "Mickey's Clubhouse" with its unfortunate computer generated animation...

16 comments:

Tony DiStefano said...

REALLY BEAUTIFUL WORK.I AGREE WITH YOUR OPINION.I WOULD LOVE TO SEE YOU DO THE SWORD IN THE STONE.

Mélanie Daigle said...

These are awesome Pete! I'm in the middle of illustrating a book myself at the moment, and this is great inspiration as I'm trying to keep the computer out of it (the story's theme is nature, and approaching it digitally just seemed... wrong... it wouldn't have felt right). Thanks so much for posting! :)

pumml said...

Beautiful! Thanks for posting these, Pete. Further proof that traditional is king.

Bitter Animator said...

These are absolutely gorgeous. Really beautiful work. It's a real shame that Bambi book never got published.

I'd say Jungle Book is probably my favourite Disney film too. Mostly, because it was one of the first films I ever saw and it just blew me away but, after that, because it just seems to have so much life. And life is what it's all about. It's a great movie.

Raff said...

Really good.

When you paint these, what order do you go in? Do you do work from light to dark like with watercolors, or do you block general shapes in and add highlights on top?

Wes Riojas said...

I agree. My daughter is 2. She loves the Mickey Mouse Clubhoue, but I think it's cg crap. The saddest part is, you can pause the end credits and see that it's animated somewhere like Korea. Makes me sick to think that even Mickey Mouse cartoons aren't animated in the U.S. anymore.

Steve said...

Pete, phenomenal work my friend!

Tapan Gandhi said...

*sigh*

pete these remind me of the days in your class when u'd bring some of these paintings in to show us.

do u think u could bring in the jungle book ones sometime this coming year? i would love to see them in person :)

inspiring as always!

Jamie Metzger said...

Fan-freakin-tastic, Pete! Migod, I am so excited to start your course. Yes, please do bring in some of these for us to see. :) Traditional kills.

Pete Emslie said...

Tapan and Jamie - I dearly wish I could bring in these paintings to show you, but alas, these particular originals were sent to Random House. However, I do have other original backgrounds from various Disney books that I can bring in, as in those cases, I scanned in the background art and melded it together with the character art which I'd coloured with Photoshop to look more like cel overlays. For those books, Random House just got a disc containing all the final art instead of a whopping big package of illustration boards! (Much cheaper for me to Fedex too, by the way).

Mitch K said...

Beautiful Pete! Your brush strokes are beautiful and controlled.

Mitch L said...

Wow beautiful! I didn't watched youre blog for a while. Got a lot to catch up!

marcobucci said...

those are awesome paintings, Pete! And I read your post below, and agree with you. Actually, a lot of my learning came with the digital tools, but now about 90% of my personal work is all done in age-old oil paint. I like having an original, as well as the craftsmanship aspect of mixing pigment and placing it on a surface. I do think digital paint is a great arena for testing ideas QUICKLY, because it gives you immediate results, and can be treated (almost) exactly like traditional media. If I'm ever testing ideas, or keying out colours, digital is the first medium I turn to. But when it comes to spending time and care on a piece, I'm getting more and more distant with the computer.

AndyG said...

Those pieces are so juicy and vibrant that they literally take on a life of themselves.

I totally agree with the need for more traditional (natively made) animation and art. Ie. the beginning of Kung Fu Panda, where it was very well illustrated. That definitely can be made into something more.

I can't imagine being any more excited than I already am to be going back to school and focusing another great year on art. :-D

Floyd Norman said...

I agree! Beautiful work.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Will Finn said...

How cool to see these! The JUNGLE BOOK ones bring back fond memories of the illustrations in the old storyteller vinyl LP. The cover art of that album is one of my all time favorites.

I have read your posts on this topic with interest and sympathy. Although the digital tablet and the Sketchbook program have lent a whole new feel to my drawings, getting them past the rough sketch phase is an unpleasant labor in the digital world. I've decided to go back to the old fashioned media myself at least for some of my personal work.

Thanks for sharing your art and your experiences. The ongoing dialog has been a real benefit for me.