It would appear that I’ve fallen into a hole the past couple of months since the February drawing challenge. I kind of did. I’ve been busy with odds and ends and little things here and there, work projects, the end of school… And I called up my website just now to see my last image posted was a snowman. Hmmm that won’t do for the first day of summer!

So, here’s a a nice summer image. I’m calling it, “Gold From the Breakfast Tray.” If you’re at all familiar with my artwork, you’ll know I’m often inspired by music. The inspiration here is a lyric from the 10,000 Maniacs song, “Verdi Cries“. I’ve loved this song since I first heard it in the late 1980’s.

Natalie Merchant’s choice of words feels so nostalgiac and other-timely. It’s not what I’d call a mood piece from the 1980’s. So I chose to set my piece in 1910 at a Victorian-era rooming house by the sea. I’ve always listened to this song from the perspective of a carefree girl (who I picture much younger than a 20 year old Natalie) just doing as she pleases, not caring so much why the melancholy man in room 119 sat alone, listening to opera every day.

It also seems to have made a good bedtime song for my 4 year old daughter, who has been asking me to sing it to her every night for the last month (and yes, she posed for me.)

My own experiences, of course, influenced the piece’s mood. I’ve spent various wanderings in my life and stays in various places by various seas, enjoying morning light on the beach, sunny days running in the surf, and cool, late afternoon baths ending in slightly sandy, sunburnt naps on crisp white linen. There were bright colors, bright days, cool porches and halls, and brilliant, restful nights of wild stars and storms far out at sea. “Holidays must end, as you know…”

My three girls are staying the summer at this rooming house. They’re equipped for their next grand adventure in the dunes, E. Nesbitt-style with nets, pails, buckets… The blonde girl can’t resist curiosity anymore. Every day she’s passed this breakfast tray returned to the hall with a napkin-covered basket left un-touched. She’s finally stopped and lifted the napkin to discover the delicious pastries left untouched by the man in room 119. “Waste-not, want, not,” she decides and puts them into her picnic basket, pausing to sample one as the other girls call from the porch steps for her to hurry along.

Some technical details… I submitted my first pencil sketch for review on Facebook’s “PB Illustrators Critique Group” Got some great feedback and did some updating, re-sketching, and noodling of layouts in Photoshop. I then printed out the blackline at 20% on watercolor paper and painted over it. I really did NOT intend to do so much of this piece in actual paint (oh heaven forfend! ha.). I did put the whole thing back into Photoshop and messed around with some clean-up and lighting (yes, you can tell). I’m generally pleased with the results, though I feel like I lost a bit of detail from the original sketches. This is probably a good thing because when I color on the computer, not matter how hard I try not to, I always zoom in too much and spend too much time noodling sharp detail in the backgorund. Anyway, I think I will continue to work with this technique. Thank you to Sylvia Liu and Tami Traylor for further critiques and advice.

This piece was created, predominantly, for Susanna Leonard Hill’s “2nd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Illustration Contest For Children’s Illustrators!!!” with the challenge prompt, “Discovery,” and secondarily for the SCBWI’s new monthly showcase (which is not a contest or competition so a few of us decided it would be ok to also submit to SCBWI) called, Draw This! with the challenge prompt “Adventure.” (I believe they change the content of that link on the first of the month so it’s showing last month’s “Bounce” showcase for the next week or so).

I’m also making this illustration available to purchase as a print (contact me for the details). I’m aiming to have a “Prints” section of my Etsy shop on line by the beginning of July.

Now I just want a mojito… Cheers to the beginning of summer.