My bird book has increased to a 36 page flatplan, a template for which I couldn’t seem to find online so drew one myself, and have decided to definitely go with the Centre Page Spread (CPS).

Discussions on what to do in this expanse of two pages – which now my book is only 90 x 140mm feels quite generous – roamed around between silhouettes of flying birds; some sort of scale indication; females; breeding vs winter plumage; birds in situ. As I said in my previous post, I wanted to do something a little painterly as the illustrations of the bird are quite stark, and there were lots of suggestions for ‘background’ which I really don’t like with the birds themselves, but it would be useful to have something defining for the book theme so I put together a scene to scan in and play around with. I had a mental image of a sort of quaint town or village, so I got my rather tired tubes of gouache and conjured this sort of Lewes/Balamory/Tunbridge Wells sort of vibe which was fun to paint.

This process reminds me a bit of fuzzy felt. I wasn’t sure how to best represent the birds: to just get their outlines and patch them in? Keep them in their white circles? How should I arrange them?

I spent a fruitless afternoon trying to extract the birds themselves from their background which I am sure for anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Photoshop could do in a couple of clicks, but my brain started to melt. I am getting the hang of InDesign but only by a laborious combination of making mistakes, Googling, Adobe tutorials, scrolling through each menu but BUT I am indeed learning and have come a long way. It’s tricky to get someone alongside me at the moment to show me and to be honest I find repetition the only way to cement things in my head so I am sure I am taking significantly longer than I could or should but I do want to be able to work things out myself.

Here are some screenshots of the experiments:

My reasons for having a scene in the centre with a ticklist:

  • it’s a bit like Bird Bingo, adding a playful element to the book
  • there are no names so you need to know who is who
  • it provides colour and context
  • could be a map of a specific location or Reserve
  • has the potential to be turned in to a poster
  • it shows the range of birds we have
  • it shows the paintings to good effect

I have 2 more birds to scan in, hence the empty circles, and the background is at 70% transparency. I might refine the scene a little more as although you can only see part of it, I want it to stand on its own in case I want to use it as a cover or poster or something.

I am using a swatch for this book which ranges from a coffee-cream through to a deep burgundy, and intend to have a specific palette for each book in the series. This ties in the row fill on the tables, the stroke colour surrounding the birds and circles and some of the peripheral text.

The fonts I’m using are Avenir Next Condensed and Baskerville, and it’s around 10pt for most of the text.

I’m really pleased with how it’s coming together – it seems to be developing its own momentum which is brilliant and having spent the last couple of years wondering what to do with the paintings, I am so enjoying working with them as images rather than just trying to sell them as originals. It’s also giving some focus to the other birds I need to paint. Being able to switch between screen and painting suits me very well and I’m finding it easy to stay motivated in spite of being busy with other things.

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