Bear and Chook by the Sea

Layer upon layer: painting the illustrations for Bear and Chook by the Sea


At this stage I’d drawn the outlines with a waxy Chinagraph pencil, and had just begun to paint the artwork for the opening spread of Bear and Chook by the Sea.



Here is the same artwork, a little further down the track – it’s still crying out for some colour. I used acrylics paints, just as I did in the first book. It had been eight years since I’d painted Bear and Chook first time around, but luckily I’d kept notes on the shades of paint I’d used for everything, so I was able to dig out that list and make the two characters exactly the same colours in the second book – a nice watery Australian Sienna with touches of Red Oxide for Chook’s feathers, and washes of Cobalt and Cerulean Blue on Bear.


Many layers of paint later, the artwork is finished and ready to be scanned for the book. I wanted Bear and Chook’s sleeping arrangements to be symbolic of their relationship. In the first book, Chook always comes out rather the worse for wear in Bear’s ventures. Here, even in repose, Chook’s comfort is at the mercy of Bear’s every move. If Bear turns over in his hammock, Chook’s little basket bed will swing precariously. When Bear gets out of bed, Chook will plunge to the floor!

Before I painted the illustrations for Bear and Chook by the Sea, I went to Jibbon Beach on the edge of the Royal National Park, NSW to sketch and take photos.



This artwork – the final spread – is half painted. Chook doesn’t yet have his red comb and wattle and there are no shadows or texture on Bear’s fur.  You may have noticed that the first book is open on my desk –I referred to my original artworks continually. I wanted the final two spreads, with Bear and Chook lying by the pond and watching the moon, to be similar enough to reassuringly echo the corresponding scenes in the first book, but not to replicate them exactly.

Here it’s nearly finished. I’m painting the background a creamy colour. You can see the watercolour paper has been stretched onto a board and fixed down with gummed brown paper tape, to prevent the paper from cockling when it’s wet from all the washes of paint. A nice, flat artwork scans much better than a curling, wavy one.



The artwork is now finished. I have soaked and peeled off the brown paper tape. If you compare this painting to the illustration in the book, you’ll see I’ve painted colour out beyond the edges of the printed page (this is called the bleed). Illustrators do this to make sure there are no unintentional slivers of their unpainted paper showing at the edges of the pages.

It took a long time to get to this stage, with all the artworks finished and spread out on the floor for Lisa Shanahan and me to check. It finally looks like it’s a book. I like this stage!

Time to pack them all up, and send them off to the publisher.