My palette of choice for mixing my watercolours is an old porcelain plate.
If I need a large amount of the same colour for a series of paintings such as for At The Pond, I will use porcelain bowls of different sizes.
I have plastic ones but I find they can get scratched over time and then are hard to clean.
The porcelain plate cleans up beautifully and the intensity of the white glaze gives the paint a transparency similar to the paper.
Just try to get pure white ones with no design or colour to conflict with your colours. The best and most inexpensive were picked up at an Asian food store near my studio.
Or just check out the nearest reuse store near you.
If you are in the Guelph area next weekend, please drop by my studio to see the original paintings and studies that went into “At The Pond”, my latest book that was short-listed for the 2018 Governor General’s Award in Children’s Illustrated Books.
Date: Sat-Sun, May 11-12
Time: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Address: Catch 23 Gallery
23 Wyndham St North. N1H 4E4
I will also be doing live demonstrations and sharing the process behind “At The Pond”, from sketches to practice paintings, maybe even stretching paper. I hope by sharing my journey, I can help to inspire those of you interested in creating your own illustrated books or for anyone who is curious.
The exhibit will be available until May 31st. After May 12th, the exhibit can be viewed until May 31st in person by appointment.
Please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
I will also be posting more “At The Pond” process work here, so make sure to check for updates!
Hope to see you next weekend!
On Thursday January 31st I was at the Ontario Library Association Conference signing copies of At The Pond at the Scholastic booth. It was fun meeting librarians from visits in the past, and making new acquaintances. I always look forward to the OLA. It’s also a chance to meet with other authors and illustrators. Scholastic was very generous with all the copies they had there for me to sign for the attendees. I admit that I do worry about no one coming, but the line was long and many friendly faces to chat with as I signed copies for them. I wish I had been able to get a photo with everyone I met.
It was great to meet Vicky and Lauralee again from the Rideau Lakes Library branch in Elgin Ontario. There’s a special connection to At the Pond with where their library stands. When I got the go ahead from Scholastic that it would be published, I needed waterlilies. Mine no longer bloom because of the shade of overhead trees in my yard. So the lilies in the book were painted from studies done in a canoe in the Rideau Canal by Chaffey’s Locks. Elgin Library is nearby, and the owners of the canoe once arranged a visit to the Elgin Library where I met Vicky and Laralee.
To make the signing just a bit more special, I asked everyone who got a signature to give me theirs. I’ll be drawing from all the names to send the winner a print from Snow Day! To make it extra special, I’ll be drawing twice: one for the hockey print and the other for the image of the falling snowflakes.
Good luck to the winners.
(for those wishing a print of their own, contact me, or stay tuned for the opening of my image store and gallery on this site)
Porcupine in a Pine Tree is going to be performed in Windsor tonight!
Wish I was there.
Music professor Bruce Kotowich will lead the WSO Chorus, education faculty member Danielle Sirek will direct the Windsor-Essex Youth Choir, and alumna Erin Armstrong Dickau (BMus 2007) will direct Music Moves Kids in song with the orchestra.
The program will feature an adaptation of Helaine Becker’s book A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas, set to the traditional carol with images of Werner Zimmermann’s illustrations projected on stage. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.
Two of the three performances are already sold out; there are still tickets for 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16.
The orchestra will collect donations of non-perishable food items for the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association, and invites patrons to arrive early and enjoy a warm beverage as the lobby fills with carolers and the sounds of brass quintet.
The Capitol Theatre is located at 121 University Ave. West; buy tickets from its box office, by phoning 519-973–1238, ext. 2, or online at www.windsorsymphony.com.
Happy Singing everyone!
At the Pond, published by Scholastic Canada, is a finalist for
the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Awards in Young People’s Literature – Illustrated
I’ll let Scholastic describe the book:
Spend a lazy summer day exploring a tiny, perfect slice of nature! Count goldfish as they swim about the tranquil pond. Watch as sunlight moves across the water. Spot a water lily blossoming, frogs and water striders hopping through, a heron flying by. With a simple text and rich, lifelike paintings, Werner Zimmermann has created a peaceful meditation on nature and a unique and beautiful world for readers of all ages to enjoy.
Continue the learning journey at the end of the book, where you’ll find more information on all the animals that call the pond home. (From Scholastic Canada
I’m honoured to be on the list with 4 other beautiful books sharing the nominations. My congratulations to my fellow nominees
& Please check out my links in the coming days on how this, as well as my other books, have come together.
If you’re a turkey, it’s not really a good time around Thanksgiving. Or Foxes.
That was on my mind when I painted my favorite turkey, the one in ‘Henny Penny.’
Henny Penny was my second book. I was in Germany at the time and turkeys aren’t the tradition there that they are in Canada. Finding one to paint wasn’t easy. I ended up using reference from photos, but had a great time with Turkey Lurkey never the less.
In the book it’s never clear whether he ended up dinner for Foxy Loxy or whether there was a feathered getaway.
When I visit schools I always ask for a sequel for what may have happened after they entered the Foxy Loxy’s den. One day I want to do another book: The True Story of Henny Penny.
If you think you know, feel free to send it, and if it’s good….we may just be working together.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving if you are reading it in Canada, or a bit later in the land south of us.
Have some fun drawing the Porcupine from Porcupine in a Pine Tree, Dashing through the Woods, and Deck the Halls.
Feel free to skip the intro and jump to 1:48 for the drawing.
Animals have to be my favorite things to draw and paint, As for favorite times of the year, Christmas has to rate near the top. And finally, barns have always been places I’ve been drawn to for both their size and feeling of coziness in the stables.
That’s why illustrating Pippin the Christmas Pig for Jean Little & Scholastic was a special treat for me: all three came together in one story.
There were many drawings made for each of the paintings in the book, and although I’d love to share all of them, I’ve chosen to post the drawings of the barn. The exact building doesn’t exist other than in my imagination, but it was drawn on from barns I’d known since my childhood. Maybe one day I’ll own my own.
When I create a scene for a book, I like to create a space in which I could move around in and see from all angles. This image never appears in the book. I drew it so that I would know what entering the barn would look with all the important elements like the manger and even the door in the ceiling in place.
Barns often have trap doors in the upper floors to allow hay to be dropped down to feed the animals below. I used this one to give the reader a peek from above onto what was happening below.
I like putting different viewpoints into my pictures. Perspective changes add drama and excitement. Perhaps it may be because I’m not too fond of heights and this lets me conquer that fear, but never the less I find it fun.
I needed to set the stage for the scene where Pippin brings the woman and child into the warm stable from the cold outside. I chose a wide view to allow the cold of the open door to contrast with the warmth at the other end.
I also wanted it cozy, so I chose to create the warmth in the middle surrounded but the walls on three sides and the barrels and tractor creating a front wall. The mice on the barrels are spectators to the scene just like the readers who find themselves watching from behind. The stairs on the back left lead up to the upper barn and ultimately to the trap opening above.
Of course the empty stage is nothing without the actors, and here it’s Pippin bringing the woman and child in and confronting the surprised stable mates.
After the pencil there are colour studies to help set the feeling for each scene. In this book I wanted to contrast warmth of the stable with cold whether outside or upstairs in the barn loft.
Pippin the Christmas Pig is a book about the contrast of warm and cold hearts; hearts that eventually warm too. Jean wrote a lovely story and I was pleased to have been given the chance to illustrate it.
It’s November, and in Toronto it means it’s time for the Royal Winter Fair. Every year I go with my college students to draw the beautiful animals. This year due to a very tight schedule, I won’t be going, However, I thought it’s a nice time to post some drawings from past fairs.
From the books I’ve written and or illustrated in the past, you can easily see that I love drawing and painting animals . I take every opportunity to study animals when I can. Whether pets or farm animals, or even at museums, it’s always best drawing live animals from life and not just from photos. That’s why the Royal is so special: so many animals together in one place, and all so close you could touch them.
For me, creating good characters for books means studying them, especially from life. Photo reference is good, but being able to see an animal from many sides, especially if they move, makes for the greatest understanding. I feel if you understand your subject, you are more able to be in control of your character regardless how you pose them or even change them in caricature.
Rabbits are some of favorites at the show. Here are a few of my sketches.
Coming soon: Drawing pets
Well, I suppose ‘easy’ isn’t the right way to describe it, but when illustrating a story, there are a few steps that must be taken. I’m using the images here from an exhibition I once put together called ‘From the Inside Out: stages in the making of a Book.’
For this I’ve taken examples from ‘In My Backyard’ written by John DeVries and illustrated by yours truly. I admit I’ve chosen it because for it, just as I am doing currently, I drew a frog.
Step 1: divide the story so that it will fit into the number of pages for a book. This is important because for cost reasons and simplicity of printing and cutting up the pages, picture books are generally either 24 or 32 pages. I don’t think there are many people who would like to buy a book with the end missing, or a bunch of empty pages at the end unless I suppose you got to draw in them. Some stories are easy to divide up, but others take a lot of thinking on what page which words will go. Sometimes a page has no words at all. If you’re doing a book, give this a lot of thought.
Step 2: Characters (or places). Most books will have characters. It’s very important to take time to know your character. Taking time to sketch your character from every possible angle and view, and every possible expression is valuable. No one wants a character to change from page to page, unless of course that’s part of the story. Keeping your character the same is a challenge and takes practice regardless how simple or complex.
Step 3: Rough linears. They are called that for two reasons: 1) they are rough, and 2) they are just lines. This is important. Never get into details too soon. This stage is when you sketch out your ideas for the whole book, not just individual pictures. You want to work fast, small, and therefore quite rough. If you put too much detail in at this time you will be hesitant to want to toss the drawing or make changes should there be a problem with any particular drawing fitting in to the overall story and look of the book.
Remember, it’s a book, and not just one page you are drawing.
Oh, I forgot to add, and never forget this: this is when you decide where the words will be in the pictures. It is important that you consider the words a part of the picture, and not an afterthought.
Step 4: Clean linears. This is when you clean it up before you put on any colour . This is when you can finally put in all the details you want. In fact, this is when you decide what will be in the picture and what stays out: NO ADDING AFTER THIS! No kidding, this is when all the decisions about design other than colour are finalized. If you don’t, you will only have horrible confusion and a lot of tears later. Well, maybe not so bad, but if you make changes after this, it truly can be confusion and tears. I write from experience. Trust me.
Step 5: Paint! Yes, this is when you can have fun and splash and toss and smear and….Ouch! I didn’t say that, did I? Yes you get to paint or use whatever technique you want, but at this point you should have everything figured out so that there won’t be any surprises. And yes, there will be, but that’s part of the fun.
Good luck! Enjoy!
p.s. you may have noticed that one of the sketches in the book ended up not only in the book but also the cover. It doesn’t always happen that way, but when it does, Bonus! You get some time off to go play.
Just as important as finding the right words for a story, finding the right colours for a book takes a lot of consideration.
Colour of course is only one of the many things that make the pictures in a book both interesting and pleasing. Colour sets the mood for the book. It sets the ‘feel’ that the author and illustrator want the reader to experience. Colours also move the eye through the book.
I have a lot of colours to chose from, and yet I have to narrow it down to just a few. That’s not to say you could use as many as you want for, lets say, a garden of many flowers or people with different cloths. Of course that would be ok. But I have found that a few well chosen colours can tell a visual story much better, at least for me.
For this new book I need to paint a goldfish pond. I’ve chosen mainly greens: for lily pads, for the water looking down into the pond, and for the frogs. But goldfish are anything but green, and yet even though they are very orange, they have to fit to the picture. And of course what is a pond without a water lily. This one is white. But every artist knows there is no pure white in nature.
The last problem that has to be solved is how my paints get along, not as colours, but as chemicals. It’s true that some of my colours are really just dirt, but others are chemicals, and they don’t always get along. Combinations which should be simple can be disasters since they just don’t want to mix. Or they don’t like being put on top of each other; pulling the bottom colour off the paper even if it’s dry.
So you see, choosing the colours for a picture book is both fun and a bit of work. And for that reason you can see there are many tests and tries just to get it right even before I start the actual pictures that will end up in the book.
Ever wonder what it’s like to illustrate a picture book?
Putting a book together, from first idea to finished covers is an adventure. I’ve always wanted to share the process and here’s where it’s going to happen.
Every week there will be lots of pictures and lots of suggestions on what you might consider illustrating your own book.
Join me as I share the fun of new work and old. And when I can, I’ll answer your questions too.
See you soon.
Today, with a few spare hours to spend at the AGO, I took an ipad2 into the gallery to do a few sketches and studies of the paintings of the Group of 7. That I love their colours is no secret, and copying something you love in order understand it is a good thing.
As long as you are learning and not just trying to make a copy, I am all for doing it.
I chose a lovely autumn painting by Tom Thomson. While working on it two very bright fellows looked in over my shoulders. Naturally, I invited them to help.
That’s when Zephyr and George stepped in to assist.
I’m not sure their ages, maybe 4 and 7, but when it came to handling an Apple pencil, they knew their thing.
Regrettably I messed up with saving the image with their additions. What you see below is an attempt by myself to replicate their masterwork. I hope, if they see this, they will accept my apology.
Next time we meet at the AGO, I hope you two give me a hand again.
It’s been 30 years since Farmer Joe appeared. Thanks to Scholastic Canada, Nancy Wilcox Richards wonderful story about a farmer with a big heart but sometimes different way of doing things got put together with my drawings to appear in Farmer Joe’s Hot Day.
Farming will never be the same! Happy Birthday Joe! Thank you Scholastic and Nancy!
Join me as I celebrate over the next few weeks with peeks into who inspired him, how it was made and stories about the other two books that followed.
And if you have any stories of your own, I’d love to hear and share them.
See you soon!
I’m about to start painting the new book for the fall. Sketches are done and approved and now a new level of work starts: painting. It’s a bit scary to start since I’m never really sure if it is going to work out, and if it doesn’t, I get to start all over again with the painting. That’s why I do small sketched like this one to try out colours and make my mistakes early.
I haven’t been keeping this site up to date, and for that I apologize. You see, I’ve been busy teaching and drawing and now working on a new book with Quilliam and friends.
I’ll be posting more in the next few weeks about where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.
In the meantime I hope you’ll like this sketch I did for practice the other day.
Congratulations to students at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Mount Forest!
They are the winners of the draw for a free full day in the school with me!
Draw was held at the Bookshelf Cinema on Saturday December 13th.
I’ll be spending a full day doing whatever they wish. I’ll even be principal if they want, but somehow I don’t think that will be happening!
Consolation Prize of books and Porcupine Box Set donated by Scholastic went to Victory Public School in Guelph.
Choosing a winner from the video entries wasn’t easy.
Winner of a visit to their class for singing of Dashing Through the Snow went to the choir of St. John’s Catholic School in Arthur. Congratulations to teacher Joyce Peloso and her group.
I’ll be sharing a drawing class with them in the New Year.
Runner up was St. Mary’s in Mount Forest.
Thanks to Scholastic there were prizes for those in attendance. Winners are pictured below with smiles and prizes.
Thanks to everyone for entering. Over 75 ballots from area schools were entered for the draw
Thanks also to all the teachers who at a very busy time of year took the time and effort to record and send their entries for the song contest. (One entry came all the way from Airdrie Alberta! Something special will be coming their way.)
A special thank you to the great kids in Grades 1 & 2 at Central Public School in Guelph who helped launch this contest by singing with me, and graciously continuing when I was the one making mistakes.
And a final thanks to both the Bookshelf in Guelph and Scholastic Canada for their enthusiastic support.
Come join me this Saturday for a special event at the Bookshelf Cinema in Guelph.
We’ll be showing the winning video of a contest for the schools of Wellington County. Entries for a visit to a class singing “Dashing Through the Snow” will be shown on the big screen with the winner to be announced.
Winner of the contest for me for a day in a local school will be drawn.
Lots of Prizes and a sing along to the big screen.
See you there!
Bookshelf Cinema, Quebec St. Guelph.Scholastic Christmas Card 2014
Public libraries across Canada were invited by Scholastic to decorate a porcupine tree. This is just a small selection of some of the entries. So hard to chose the best. Contest is still open. A Porcupine in a Pine Tree Holiday Contest for Libraries | Facebook
Last night I drew the name of the person who’s school I will be visiting for a day in 2013. However I haven’t been able to contact her. If anyone knows who’s school Nicole Abrams child or children attend, please contact me or give Nicole a call. I’d love to announce the name of the school! Until then, please stay tuned. It could be your school in the Guelph area.
Over the years of writing and illustrating children’s books I’ve been fortunate to visit schools and libraries across Canada and into the high Arctic. Yet sometimes the places closest to home get left out.
Because I believe strongly not only in the beauty of books and the magic of reading, but also in the future of book stores, I want to, with the help of a lucky girl of boy, give a local school a present:
I will be giving away a Day in a School to any elementary school in the Guelph area.*
From now until December 20th, come in and fill out a ballot at the Bookshelf.
No purchase is necessary.
I will be at the Bookshelf Saturday Dec 8, noon until 3 to meet and sign copies of ‘A Porcupine in a Pine Tree’
Hope to see you there.
*Aberfoyle, Rockwood, Fergus & Elora included.
Presentation date to be arranged by mutual agreement between January and March 2012
Winning school will be notified 8:30 a.m. December 21st.
Nancy Wilcox Richards and I are happy to announce the return of Farmer Joe! Reprinted by Scholastic in a new exciting format, the books are now available online and at your favorite book store. Stay tuned for Farmer Joe fun this summer! It just might be a hot hot summer of fun!
As I’m writing this at the Middle Beach Lodge in Tofino, waves are breaking over rocks outside my window and a receding tide is showing a beautiful beach below. A crow sits in the branches of a tree waiting for crumbs to be tossed on our balcony. They’ve been amusing company for the last few days and remind us of Edgar Alan Crow who used to visit us at 0ur home in Ontario. We are here taking a few days between my week in Nanaimo and visits next week in Edmonton.
I was in Nanaimo for a week prior to the Nanaimo Chidren’s Book Festival last Saturday May 5th. I visited great schools and beautiful libraries all week before a wonderful day at the festival. Nanaimo has always had the best festival and it was wonderful to return for what I think was my 4th time since 1991.
All festivals are great, organized by dedicated volunteers and attended by enthusiastic audiences, but there is something about Nanaimo that sets it apart. Perhaps it is the location: Nanaimo set beside Departure Bay and tucked in by Newcastle and Protection Island is a beautiful place for a festival. Or perhaps it is the people like Thora Howell who was the inspiration and guiding force behind the festival 26 years ago. Like Thora, there is a group of dedicated hard working volunteers who take on the task of bringing such an event to life, too many to mention, but to whom appreciation goes out to from authors and illustrators across Canada. I’m just one of many lucky enough to have been invited to share our work with young and old, and someone fortunate enough to be invited back.
This week I am charging my batteries on the beautiful far west coast of Canada in Tofino and Uclulet. Canada is stunningly beautiful from ocean to ocean to ocean. I wish there were a way to bring children from different parts of Canada to see what we have and to grow up appreciating the enormity and beauty of this amazing land.
Next week, thanks to Canada Council for the Arts and to private donors such as Dr. Alan Murdoch and parent donors of schools I will be visiting, I will be sharing my work once again in Edmonton. I’m excited to be returning to the library to share my work, meeting the Children’s Roundtable members and doing drawing workshops as well as an evening PJ presentation. Along with sharing the creative process and my love of books, it will be a time of drawing dragons, wearing pots and any other silly stuff that might happen. One just never knows. I guess that’s what makes it so much fun.
(I’ll post pictures just as soon as I get back from sketching on the beach!)
Join me tomorrow at the Waterloo Public Library Main Branch at 2 p.m.
Wishing all of you Goblins, Demons and other candy seekers a wonderful scary but safe Halloween! This year we just got back from a trip to Paris yesterday and since I teach all day and will be home late, we’ll be missing all the trick or treaters, but promise the return of a very very very scary Halloween next year! We promise!
Hello St. Albert! I’m off to visit schools and libraries in St. Albert, Alberta this week and very excited to be going. Tuesday to Friday will be filled with sharing my work and books, along with drawing dragons and a fun filled evening at the Library. Friday morning it will be my pleasure to say thanks to the great folks at the St. Albert Rotary for sponsoring these next few days! My pots are packed, lots of original artwork in my portfolio, and as soon as Cocky Locky’s legs are glued, my birds will be in their box for another trip across the country. If it’s one of your schools I will be visiting, get ready for an hour of fun (and of course…learning). No test at the end, just the hope that you will be inspired to read, draw and use your imagination to be as creative as you possibly can. See you soon!
Did you know…
... I like using soft pencils