Friday, May 28, 2010

Abhorsen's House!

First off, I updated with some new work! If you've been keeping up with the blog there probably isn't anything there to surprise you with, but if not check it out!

Second: This is a really long post!! I did a lot of sketches and prelim work for this month's picture book report piece so I'm just dumping it all here! Apologies for the extensive Sabriel-jargon and analysis, I don't blame you if you just skip through to the pictures. ;)

Third: Sabriel! Whew, a bunch of false starts this month! You can check out my little narrative post at The Picture Book Report.
I was having a really hard time deciding what scene I wanted to do next...Sabriel runs away from the Mordicant, she gets to Abhorsen's house, meets Mogget, and sets out in the paperwing. All really cool things I'd like to draw! In the end I probably chose the least narratively-involved thing to draw, but I needed a bit of break from all these dark, intense scenes.

When I was trying to decide what to do I made a bunch of super-quick thumbnails from different scenes in the book I was interested in. I then narrowed down the total 12 (or 11, since I missed a week) that I'll have done in the end...super hard, there's so much cool stuff! I don't think I'll give anything away by posting these because my sketching and handwriting probably look like chickenscratch to anyone else:

I was still struggling between drawing Sabriel and the Mordicant, or something involving Mogget at Abhorsen's house, OR the scarier form of Mogget Sabriel encounters a bit later on...I decided not to do the Mordicant, since it will show up in an illustration later, so I thought maybe the Free Magic version of Mogget would be fun (he's kind of a big lighting-monster!) I ended up with this color sketch:

But the colors weren't working, and the pose was so-so after a million revisions and I was just feeling stuck. I decided to set it aside and try a different subject. However, in the process of making this sketch I had to work out Sabriel's Abhorsen outfit. As I've pointed out before, I really love researching into illustrations and I wanted to be accurate to the book's description of her wardrobe as well as realistic to similar medieval counterpoints. Here's the different pieces of the outfit, in the order they are layered:
*A thin cotton-like undergarment
*Baggy drawers
*Linen shirt
*Doeskin tunic
*Supple leather breeches, reinforced with hard segmented plates at the thighs, knees and shins (and a padded bottom for riding)
*Long armored coat, buckled at sides--knee-length split skirts, swallowtailed sleeves, made of interlocking ceramic/stone plates, like a fish's scales.
*Hobnail boots (guessing they came from Ancelstierre since they're more modern)
*Blue surcoat with embroidered silver keys
*Sword belt and bandolier, with a helmeted turban

Whew! Lots of stuff, eh? Well, in the end a lot of the layers wouldn't fully be shown, like the tunic or shirt, but I like the idea of knowing that they all exist and what they look like together. Here's my sketchy thoughts:
Because I was lazy I didn't put the keys on the surcoat or the plates on the armored coat on the right hand side
I made sure the armored coat and the surcoat were split up the front and the back, because side slits (though sexier) are of no use when riding a horse, and the book points out that her pants are padded for riding. Medieval surcoats in general seem to be sleeveless, or have very short sleeves (probably so they don't get caught while you're flingin' your swords) so the sleeves of her armored coat would be sticking through--probably with a bit of her linen shirt showing at the neck and wrists. I also kept the neck of her doeskin tunic up high, for a bit of extra protection around her neck where the armored coat might chafe. I think the idea of the pants are pretty cool with the sewn in armored plates, even though they're not seen much--it made me think of the overlapping layers of a samurai's armor. Hobnail boots seem to come up around the mid-calf region, so plating in the pants would have to end around there.

I decided not to have Sabriel at all in this month's piece, but at least my rough guide will be helping me in illustrations to come!
Instead, I was charmed by the idea of taking a break and giving Mogget & Abhorsen's House their own illustration. I did many bad sketches, or starts-of-sketches. Some of them started working better:
Mogget by the front door, Mogget in the study, Mogget at the end of Sabriel's bed
Abhorsen's house with Mogget at the front door
I liked the close-up drawings of Mogget that I did, but I thought drawing the house's exterior and doing something brighter and more architectural would be a nice counterpoint to the figure-dominated pieces I've been doing. Plus, I like looking for excuses to use the white of the paper in a spot-type piece, and the whitewashed exterior of the house would be perfect for that. (We have a great Battaglia book here that's a big inspiration for that sort of style). I wanted the house to be a safe-haven (and typical of mishmash medieval architecture), but still a little ominous. Here's the resulting final:

Geez, if you guys stuck around and read even half of that you deserve a pat on the back!! I always really appreciate your comments, and if you want to weigh in on the outfit or Mogget or how I write too much I would encourage it. :)

SABRIEL, as always, is copyright Garth Nix.


Kyle said...

I don't have any constructive comments or anything, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm really enjoying your illustrations and the process narration which accompanies them. I love these books and it's wonderful to see these scenes rendered so true to the way I'd pictured them.

Noni said...

I'm really loving all the research that went into making her outfit! I think your final decision looks great. The illustration of the house is wonderful, too, especially Moggets little red collar! :D

Adam Temple said...

Beautiful! I admired that Eye Weekly cover you did a while ago- So nice to be able to find you and compliment it! Well done!

Anonymous said...

your spot illo at the bottom really caught my eye; the colors and textures are so soft and they work so well together. It's amazing that you make it look so traditional despite the fact that you work digitally start to finnish.

ryan said...

kali, I found your blog through the picture book report. thanks so much for taking the time to post these. its so rad to see your thought process. its crazy inspiring! it also made me realize i dont do nearly enough planning before i decide on a composition.

Kali Ciesemier said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! :)

Kyle: I'm glad they're close to what you imagine too! I'm waiting for the day when someone is like "WHAT? That's not what I pictured at all!"

Noni: Thanks! Research always helps me think better! I wouldn't know where to start otherwise! (and I love me some whitespace.) :)

Adam: Awesome! Thank you, I'm happy you liked it! I never saw it in person, but I'm glad to hear people enjoyed it.

Celine: Thanks! It would probably take me twice as long to make the same piece traditionally (with a lot more screwups, i'm sure) but at the same time I always feel a little bad for working so digitally all the time! Glad you like the result.

Ryan: Thank you! I'm happy to hear that! Honestly sometimes I don't do as much planning as I should's more difficult when you have a quick turnaround for a project. At least with this Sabriel stuff, I feel like I owe it to myself to spend more time on it, since it's a personal project.

Claire said...

I love this illustration with the cat! It's just wonderful! Do you sell prints of it? I'm new to the site, and will check back again. thanks for sharing your stuff.

ArtGhost said...

Just wanted to say how much I love your work. Sabriel is one of my favorite books, and your illustrations for it are amazing. Love seeing all her clothes, too!

David said...

Cool post! The outfit-design breakdown was fun to read - I love doing that kind of research for an image.

Oddly enough, my favorite part of the final illustration has to be that brick path. It's got a pleasant balance of pattern and haphazardness.

Ashlyn said...

I really love seeing all the process work behind the illustration- the path you took to get to the final illustration is interesting! I love also how unassuming Mogget ends ups being in house. It's so calm :)
Love it!

Patricio OLiver said...

OH MY! you are sooo talented! I cant believe I chave you all guys in my book! thanks again
This is a lovely lovely piece!!!!

OH I might be traveling to NY later this year, are you guys too far from there?


Alexis said...

the piece with mogget is fantastic! love the black trees with all the soft colours. really cool stuff. i read the whole thing ;3

Jenny Schwartzberg said...

I love your illustrations for Sabriel and I long for a full illustrated edition with your illustrations in it someday that I can treasure and pore over! This illustration of Abhorsen's house and Mogget is perfect! Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us!

Debbie Reese said...


I just came across your post about Sabriel (someone posted a fbook link to it). Can you put labels/categories in your posts so I can find all the Sabriel ones easily?

Kali Ciesemier said...

Hey everyone! Wow, thanks for all the new comments!

Debbie-- I will certainly do that! I'll work on it tomorrow, thanks for the suggestion!

Jenny--Thank you! It would be awesome to make an illustrated edition, I'm so glad you like 'em!

Alexis-- Sweet, what'd you think? I hope it was a good read for you. :)

Patricio-- Hey man! Good to hear from you! And no problem, we've got your book right on our bookshelf, lookin' good! :) We're not suuuper close to New York, but let us know when you'll be up there and we might be heading up there anyway!

Ashlyn-- Haha, he is unassuming, isn't he? The illustration ended up being more about the relative calm of the house than Mogget, but it'd still be fun to do a Mogget-centric one! Glad you enjoy the process.

David-- Hahaha, I'm glad you like the brick path! Actually, that was one of the parts that took the longest to make & balance out the order and jumble. It's nice that it was noticed :)

ArtGhost-- Thanks! I'm always happy to hear that people who love the book like my illustrations as well! I never know if what I imagine is the same as what other people imagine too!

Claire-- Send me an email, and I'm glad to hear you'll be checking in again! :)

Cara Byron said...

I love this! send me a print!!

Katherine Langrish said...

These are just fabulous!