Sunday, January 01, 2012

Chicken Licken

For the second year, SCBWI announced the Tomie de Paola Award, an illustration contest that evolved from Tomie originally choosing promising artists from those showcasing at NYSCBWI. Last year's prompt was from "Heidi." It honestly didn't inspire me, but this year was a different matter. 

The prompt was from Chicken Licken and as soon as I read it aloud, ideas flooded my head, so much so that I had to scribble them down as I read.  You can also see that the format was something that happened early on. I was thrilled to do another comic page, so I got to work breaking up text, arranging panels and deciding on the overall design. I finally settled settled on something similar to this...uh chicken scratch. (harhar)
One of the questions that had been circling my head for a while was how I was going to have my flock stand out from the others. Inspiration came in the form of a birthday present:my first pair of cowboy boots!
Can you believe I've lived in Texas most of my life without cowboy boots? Unnatural! :)
Yee-haw! Thus began my research into the Old West: towns, clothing and landscape. I did a ton of research and very little of it physically made its way into the actual final art, but it was necessary. I think art carries a certain weight of back-story that the viewer unconsciously recognizes. Plus, it love research! (Archaeologist and Librarian were the top of my "When I Grow Up" list for a long time.)

As I'm sure almost all of the contestants did, I also researched the heck out of the birds featured in the story. I can't remember who, but another illustrator once pointed out to me that everyone uses Google now, and so the likelihood of whatever you're referencing looking like someone else's was much more likely. So now I try not to rely strictly on Google and throw in a few books and magazines. With research completed, I got to work on my favorite part: character sketches!

Man, did I have fun creating those characters. I had to decide on their personality, their clothing, their posture. How would they react to the news? Would they freak out? Would they take charge? What position did they hold in this fictional Western town, etc.
I did a few color studies to get a handle on just how I wanted to approach the color of this piece. This one was what I decided I really liked. Unfortunately because of a few curve balls (sick kids,etc) I was unable to take this to fruition, but it's a technique I definitely want to play around with more. 

I sketched up the final panels, made a few notes here and there, redrew it and scanned them into the computer. I colored it in Photoshop, and didn't even have time to play around with that. I was trying to beat a deadline, and so I ended up with....(click on each image to see it bigger)

I had so much fun with this piece. I think all illustrators have a drive to "do better" and mine is particularly revved up with this piece. I'm going to go back to the drawing board and paint this up as I originally intended, but boy am I glad I was able to submit it and beat the deadline.

If you'd like to see a few other illustrators' interpretations of the prompt, head over to The Unofficial Tomie de Paola Gallery blog. There's over forty-five versions of Chicken Licken and it's sure to grow!


  1. Barb Bjornson5:44 PM

    I love your characters along with the clothing and seeing your process. Very interesting. Love your work Diandra.

  2. Nice work! I love the setting, your characters, their expressions, everything. :)

  3. This the most inspiring process post I've read in a long time, Dee! Thank you for serving up "Chicken licken" Old Western town-style!

  4. I love the way you did this! I wasn't inspired by the birds so much in mine. Not sure why.

  5. Thanks for sharing your process. I enjoy seeing how other artist develop concepts. Bravo!

  6. Wow, Diandra Mae..awesome! I love your concept of the story in the Old West and off to tell the Mayor! Very clever and love the illustrations. Thank so much for sharing this and for setting up the great blog of other entries..this is super fun to see!

  7. This is really awesome, Diandra! It makes me wish like heck that I knew how to draw. Thanks for sharing your process .. so cute, the idea of the western. AND for linking to the gallery. There are some very talented artists out there. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

  8. I love seeing the process laid out. This is very impressive! Thanks for sharing!


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