Process Post: We All Belong

It started with the idea that I needed to add some beauty to the school I work in.

I scratched down this idea:

and then I let it sit for a month. After lots of character sketching for other illustration projects, it all merged into a fully formed idea and I set to work.

As with most of my art, I painted the canvas out in black. I do this for several reasons, but mostly because the solid underpainting allows the colours to pop and contrast more in line with how they will look when finished, than if I painted them on a white canvas. I love using dry-brush effects, and so the black peeking through really helps to make the most of the rough brush strokes that I love.

Once I had finished all of the heads, I added some hair. For this piece, I knew I had to go with vibrant, wild hair. Partly, because it was going into an elementary school. Partly, because I needed to make these characters JUST far enough from looking like the kids in the school, so that the kids in the school could look up and see themselves represented.

With the hair almost complete, I went in and painted the white background using a very rough brush. This took a few coats in some spots. I wanted a textured look, not a solid look. This is where the black really gave me the most help.

Next, the faces:

And finally, the words. At first, I went with the lime green. After some consideration and feedback from my critique partner, we agreed that a higher contrast would make for a bigger impact. I roughly brushed in some black, leaving the lime green in place to peek through.

The result? A piece of art that features a pile of people, all of whom are different and wonderful and vibrant. As soon as I showed my class, they hopped up and started looking for the one that might look like them. They knew, instinctively – they all belonged. We all belong.


Joy – A Collaborative Painting

Kingsley and I have completed our first collaborative painting! (It’s at the bottom!)

I am really excited about the pure joy that this piece communicates.


We did some painting the other night (mostly with fingers), and then I scanned it into IMG_7188.JPG
Photoshop. I did the slightest bit of editing. I thought about adding a lot of my own touches, but for this first try at merging traditional and digital, I opted to keep it almost as-is. Sometimes (usually) it is best to leave the adult’s voice out of it.

I grabbed some of the colours from the original painted (using Photoshop) and added in some feathering-out, and then scribbled on the earth. Then I saved it. This is mostly Kingsley’s piece.

Take a close look and notice the uninhibited nature of the work. We can learn so much from kids who are exploring. IMG_7191.JPGFor Kingsley, this was about colours on his fingers and smacking the paper. He was having fun and it shows. To me, this looks like all of the potential in the world EXPLODING into the universe, a sure sign of amazing things to come. It’s pure joy, pure love, pure fun.

How do you collaborate with your creative kids?