I'm very pleased to present the latest book in Auntie Kim's kids book series about my cousin, Mac. It's called "Best Dog Ever!" Can you tell by the cover which one it is? What makes a dog THE BEST? Perhaps in the end, The Best is in the eye of the beholder.
I thought in this blog post I'd share a few little art process details, and then give a brief history of my best dogs ever! :D We have had some very nice pets throughout my childhood, and this seems like a good moment to celebrate them.
Changing my method: art Process thoughts
For the first three books I used watercolour and ink as my art method. This time I delved into digital art, and there were certainly pros and cons to this choice.
Cons: I miss the FEEL of the traditional media, as well as the happy organic accidents that occur when you use paint and paper.
Pros: edibility, flexibility, speed and precision. I did try to maintain a traditional looking style using watercolour brushes in Procreate (the iPad app I used to paint the illustrations), but to be honest it's hard to emulate the looseness of watercolour with digital art because you'll always have the urge AND ability to go back and fix little wobbles or "spills." The wobbles and spills inherent to traditional paint have a lot of charm and style to them, so I miss them!
But despite my nostalgia for the wobbly, spill-able olden days, I'm quite happy to be able to adjust colours when they don't look quite right, or redo an inked line over and over until its just right. :D
One thing I did do to try and preserve the organic look was to do all the primary sketches and pencillings on paper. Then I scanned them in and continued the process on my iPad. For some of the drawings I did end up having to redraw over the scanned pencils because I realized my style had become inconsistent or the proportions were off. Cooper the dog kept changing size on me, for instance!
Cooper Comforts Kamerin
When you're drawing kids it's really important that you don't accidentally make them proportioned like mini adults, or else they'll look weird and make the viewer uncomfortable.
"Why is that child wrong, mom?" your kid will ask.
"His head is too small, baby." you will reply.
"No, I think his body is too long." they will argue.
Then you'll flip the page, unhappy and wishing to unsee what you just saw.
Anyway, moving on!
This book was a lot of fun to draw, because of the variety of dogs represented! Each dog in the book was/is a real dog! As are the people. All of auntie Kim's books have a base in reality, including the side characters. Each person in the book knows the Wiebe family in some way, be it as a school mate, friend, or relative. Also each of the dog's strengths have a base in reality as well! Though of course we exaggerated them for the book. My personal favourite is the chihuahua who likes to sing, or the golden retriever who enjoys doing tricks.
Kelly & Tex: Karaoke Kings
Connor and his Amazing Assistant, Daisy!
The Dogs of my days
We have had many more cats than dogs in our family menagerie. We've had some fish, a wild bunny, and two chipmunks! Personally I also collected snakes, frogs, snails and leeches from our creek. Some time I'll have to do a blog about the non-dogs, but today I'll just give a little shout out to Penny and Nigel, our two main dog pets. We briefly tried owning a basset hound once, but he kept following his nose far away so he didn't really latch onto our family.
Penny was a cocker spaniel, and the first Wiebe pet of them all! She was pretty cute, but she'd nip at you if you tried touching her ears or being too cuddly, from what I remember. She also features in my very favourite childhood photo! Aren't we cute?
One memory I have from the Penny days was that on my first day of kindergarten, when I stepped onto the bus for the first time, Penny followed me! To five year old me that was a very embarrassing way to start my school career. What would the other kids think? That I had a rogue dog? That I would bring her all the way to school? Heaven forbid! It's funny to think back on it, because in retrospect I can only say "aww." What a sweet pet, accompanying me on my first adventure. Thanks for being our first dog, Penny!
Nigel came a lot later: a Lab retriever/German shepherd/something else mix. My favourite puppy memory of him was that one time he was running towards me with all his little puppy enthusiasm. I crouched down to meet him, but then I blew a bubble with my bubble gum. A look of terror came into his sweet little black face, and he did a 180 and yipped away in terror. He must of thought my tongue was exploding out of my head!
He was a very good dog, with one fatal flaw: a penchant for porcupine. Apparently when a dog encounters a porcupine for the first time it'll either scare them off from all future porcupines, or it'll irreversibly draw them to all future porcupines. Nigel fit into the later category. So it became a pretty common occurrence to see him cowering pitifully at the front door with spikes stuck all over his face. Then mom would have to bring out the pliers, clamp Nigel between her knees and yank them out as he squirmed miserably. After she had delivered him of the offensive thorns, he'd give her a thank you smile and bound off to freedom. Eventually mom put a bell on his collar to warn porcupines of his presence, which worked pretty well! She also wrote a song about Nigel's porcupine problem. If you want to hear it sung, you'd better pester her for a while until she finishes it. ;)
Minerva the Acupuncture Lady of the Night
by Nita Wiebe
What is this? I hear you’re whining
at my door again.
Such a sorry sight those big brown eyes
so full of pain.
You’ve come back to me your sins confessing;
You’re at my feet, your love for me professing.
Plain as day, you were out all night,
There’s more than egg stuck on your face.
Back woods wander lusting
to her God-forsaken place.
What she does to you is rather awful
What I’d like to do to you is quite unlawful.
Boy, have you been to see Minerva
The acupuncture lady of the night?
I bet you done a double dog dare...
And snuck down to her voodoo lair...
And I can see you got your share
of her, underneath your skin!
Boy, you should forget about Minerva!
She will leave you howling at the moon
Once she gets her pins in you,
She leaves em there,
just like a souvenir,
with love, from Minerva
When the sun goes down your nose is sniffing
at the air.
Where is she tonight, you’ve got to get you
Ohhhh, I know she’s sharp and she’s a charmer!
If you only knew how to disarm her.
Then you’d drag her down from that high perch
she’s sittin’ in.
No more would she be on to you,
like a stick pin.
Boy, let me tell you bout Minerva:
The acupuncture lady of the night.
Once she gets her pins in you
There ain’t nothing you can do!
You won’t have the strength to run or fight.
Boys, let me tell you ‘bout poor Nigel,
Who chased this lovely lady of the night.
She got her pins beneath his skin,
Made him bleed and made him sin;
Left him with a souvenir
Of scars that never disappear.
So here's to great pets! They bring us a lot of joy. What was your favourite pet growing up? What made your dog the best dog ever? (Or conversely, what made your dog the WORST dog ever? Those can be pretty fun stories, too!)