Friday, August 29, 2008

"Lincoln and his Boys"

If you watched that slideshow/film showing all my book covers you might have noticed "Lincoln and his Boys" at the end.
It's a wonderful novel by Rosemary Wells dealing with the close loving relationship that Lincoln had with his sons, Willie and Tad.
I learned a lot from Rosemary's story, and from all the research I did into the subject. And the more I read about Lincoln, the more I liked and admired him.
Rosemary and I even took a trip together to Springfield, Illinois to visit Lincoln's home and the Presidential Museum and Library there.
It was great to see the exact carpet or curtains or wallpaper that Lincoln and his family knew. Unfortunately the fashion then was for very garish colours and extravagant patterning.

I was able to do lots of other really useful research, including a visit to the Railway Depot that has been preserved as it was the day that Lincoln and his family departed Springfield for Washington.
Too much research can be a bad thing though. It can get in the way of making a good simple and striking illustration.
When you have read all those books and photographed all those settings, it can be very hard to choose to leave a lot of extraneous stuff out. I'm too close to the book to tell how successful or otherwise I was with my pictures. In ten years time I'll be able to decide.
I only had to do fifteen or so plates for this book, but I had enough material for fifty pictures, and there were so many scenes that I really wanted to show.
I suspect I will have to revisit the fascinating subject of Abraham Lincoln in some way in the future.

Rosemary is best known for writing and illustrating for younger children, but this book shows her tremendous talent as a novelist.
The book is published in the USA in January 2009.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out

I've just recieved an advance copy of "Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out".
It's a book all about the history of the White House, and I was asked, along with more than one hundred other writers and artists, to contribute something to the book.
I was delighted that the story I was given to illustrate was "Hands" by Patricia MacLachlan, the author of "Sarah, Plain and Tall" among many other wonderful books.

"Hands" is a lovely little story about Eleanor Roosevelt. I was very impressed by everything I read about her in my research for this piece, which made doing the artwork even more of a pleasure.
I painted it in oils as I was pretty fed up with my constant struggle with the medium of watercolour. Since I completed this piece last year, I have done a good deal more work in oils.

I met Patricia MacLachlan at the Keene State College Children's Literature Festival a year or two back. She's what American's would call a "great old broad" and what we Irish would call "great gas", as well as being a terrific writer.
"Sarah, Plain and Tall" is one of my favourite novels, and I even did a cover for it once. I'll have to dig that out and post it up on the blog.
Hopefully I'll collaborate with Patricia again at sometime in the future.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Profile of PJ Lynch from the BBC's "The Hungry Eye"



Here is a short BBC film, directed by Maeve O Cathain about my early books.
Made in the mid-nineties, it features my work on The Snow Queen, Catkin and East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
I was living and working in a basement apartment in Dublin at that time. The only heating was an open fire, and most of the smoke came into the living room, so that for the time I lived there I was always pretty unhealthy. I certainly look unhealthy in the film.
My landlady was the writer Polly Devlin. She is an extra-ordinary, larger than life character.
I came to know Polly's sister, Marie Heaney, and her husband the poet Seamus Heaney. Some years later I illustrated a book of Marie's Irish myths and legends, The Names Upon The Harp.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dickensian Rooftops completed


Here is how the final illustration looked in my version of A Christmas Carol.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dickensian Rooftops



One of the strange things about being a Children's book illustrator is that in the middle of summer I am very often working on cards, stamps or books with a Christmas flavour.
Right now I'm drawing a terrace of snow covered buildings for a boxed set cover. My research brought me back to this drawing I did of Dickensian rooftops for my version of A Christmas Carol. I always love doing this type of picture, and I usually fit one into my books.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Digital Christmas Card

I was a slow starter when it came to computers, but, when I discovered what could be done in Photoshop, I really got into it.
I haven't published any images that I have created in photoshop, but at some stage I would like to do a whole book digitally.



This image, which is based, of course, on Leonardo's The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, is typical of the jokey kind of personal work that I have created on my computer.
I made this one as a Christmas card in 2001, when our first son was about nine months old.
This was pretty much an indulgence, but it was also a great way to learn blending techniques.
You can see how I use photoshop when I am composing a picture in one of my step by step videos, "Making Fairy Tales" with Full Commentary Part 1

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Samhlaíocht Na Sí

Here's a magical little Irish language film about my work made by the award-winning Irish film maker, Neasa Ní Chianáin, a number of years ago.
Neasa made it when she was just getting into film. In fact this was her first broadcast film.
She has since won many awards for her documentaries, and a film she made about the Irish poet, Cathal Ó Searcaigh, last year was without doubt the most talked about Irish film of the year.

The commentary is as gaeilge, that is, in Irish. I don't understand half of it but that somehow adds to the beauty and mystery of the piece.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Art Room pencil study 1979


This drawing shows a much more mature approach than the previous two, but it was also done when I was seventeen or eighteen.
I was moving away from crudely outlining everything, and showing form almost entirely by use of carefully controlled tonal values.
I wish I'd carried on on this tack a bit longer. It's nearly thirty years later, and only now am I getting back into enjoying drawing and painting still life again.

Old Drawings from School Days


When I was visiting my mother last week, I dug out a lot of old drawings that she has kept since I was at school.
It was great to see them after so long. These two are from when I was seventeen in 1979.
I had hair back then of course. Lots of it.

I used to do loads of drawings from life then, mostly of myself for want of anything else to draw.
Art teachers mostly had kids drawing boots and cabbages, if they drew from life at all.
I remember that my art teachers, Messers Maguire and McFadden, used to get the younger kids to sit for me. I was lucky with my teachers, they were a couple of good guys.