My studio is very different now to what it was ten years ago. For 12 years my drawing board was built into a huge bay window in a studio I had designed overlooking a paddock full of cows and two huge Morton Bay fig trees. Since then it has been a multitude of kitchen or camping tables and for a week even a hospital bedside table. For quite a while my studio was essentially a working space the size of the paper I was working on surrounded by the materials I was using at the time. 

For the last year I’ve had a real studio again, but it looks very different. I work on a large sit & stand desk with my computer and drawing tablet at one end and room for me to work with traditional media at the other. 

Influenced by the illustrators I admire I am constantly trying to do better. I am always looking for new innovative ways to create images and tell my visual narratives. So I work in a multitude of mediums and often work with my ‘other’ hand. I work in pencil, watercolour, acrylic, oils, pastels (only with my left hand), pen & ink and more recently digital mediums including Photoshop, Cinema 4D, ArtRage and ZBrush. These mediums often overlap and certainly influence each other. 

Three of my latest books, Ruben, Dippy’s Big Day Out and One Tree are good examples of this overlap and variety of style. Though I used a very simple technique of graphite on paper for Ruben the construction of the illustrations were quite complex. I wanted to create a world that was totally unique but represented very realistically. So I constructed most of the city and mechanical objects in Cinema 4D, a virtual 3d program. This enabled me to light the scenes like you would a theatre set and move around with a virtual camera like a movie set giving me consistency of shadow and form from whatever angle I cared to choose. The end result was due to a mix of old tech and new. 

With Dippy I reverted back to the more traditional technique I used with the Diary of a Wombat series, acrylic on paper. I tend to lay dark colours down first then build up a series of textures using lighter colours and rough, worn out brushes. 

For One Tree I wanted to do something new yet it had to have a traditional feel. I have fond memories of doing Linocuts in college, carving into soft ochre layers, taking away the space between the lines. Then rolling ink onto it and printing the result. Such a great medium. Not having the time or space and being mobile for most of the time I decided to create the technique using Photoshop on my portable Wacom Cintiq tablet and my Mac. I constructed 3 layers in Photoshop, an off white base layer, a dark ochre middle layer, (these colours echoed the lino and were purely for nostalgic reasons) and a top transparent layer where I copied my pencil roughs. I then used the eraser tool with a stylus pen on the ochre layer to ‘gouge’ out the space between the lines. What was left I converted to a black textured line and added the colours on the layer beneath. 

One Tree Technique:
 I constructed 3 layers in Photoshop, an off-white base layer, a dark ochre middle layer and a top transparent layer where I copied my pencil rough. 
2 I then used the eraser tool with a stylus pen on the ochre layer to ‘gouge’ out the space between the lines. 
3 What was left I converted to a black textured line. 
4 I then added the colours on the layer beneath.

The Sweeper  From my concept sketch I created the basic structure and added the lighting in Cinema 4D. This provided the base reference for my graphite illustration where I added more detail and texture. 

Feather Boat  I will often make props to use as reference material for my final illustrations. 

Whether it’s with my own texts or those created with my wife Rosie or Jackie French and others I am always looking for a visual narrative that isn’t in the text. Each text requires a different approach as determined by the story itself and the age of the target audience. 
The illustrators that have had a profound effect on me are Ron Brooks because of Fox and Shaun Tan and Armin Greder for everything they do. These among others keep pushing the boundaries that us mere mortals can only glimpse at.

A 2.5 min film about drawing characters with Bruce Whatley.
Drawing Your Character
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Copyright © 2019, Bruce Whatley - text and photographs . 
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