The Night Before World Penguin Day


Marlo here. I've just come back from my annual NESCBWI conference, which was wonderful as always. I attended my buddy Russ Cox's session on character design on Friday, which really got me thinking about not only character design in general, but the design of our penguins.

Russ, who is a master of character design, had us try a progression of speedy, unexpected drawing experiments, which immediately pushed me to draw in ways I usually don't. They allowed me to loosen up and explore in ways I hadn't considered.


Now, these rough sketches may not look like much, but to me what they represent is something very exciting indeed—both for our Pixel Movers & Makers work and for my illustration style in general. My transition from wildlife artist to illustrator has not been speedy or always smooth, so I do need these reminders to step outside my comfort zone—clearly displayed in the image at the top of this post—and remember I also love to make stuff like this:


I hope to create a place in between for our animations.

Now, back to the drawing board!



Tuesday Night Mad Scramble

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity for us both. Kev has been keeping himself busy while I prepare for NESCBWI 18. Check out his latest illuminating animation — It's a map, and your home is on it

I’ve been readying my postcards and illustration portfolio for this Friday night's Portfolio Showcase, in which art directors, editors, and agents, followed by conference attendees, will have a chance to peruse each illustrator’s portfolio. 


My big goal over the last two weeks has been to create a new Antarctica-inspired piece. As you may have realized by now, we're both enthralled by polar ice. I'm particularly interested in the relationship between polar ice and the ecology of the surrounding environment (as well as how that ecology acts upon the ice itself), and primarily, how it affects the success of phytoplankton. Among other things, I've been wanting to make a piece that explores the role of icebergs in ocean fertilization. 

I decided to make something showing a simplified food chain around the iceberg, with an informational shape poem about the "life" of an iceberg, from the formation of the glacier from which an iceberg calves to its eventual melting out at sea. 

Last week, I showed you the early stages of that process

After a detailed pencil drawing of each element, which I scan, I am using digital oil paint.

After a detailed pencil drawing of each element, which I scan, I am using digital oil paint.

Since then, it's been a race against the clock to complete the illustration in time for my printer to do their thing. (Shout-out to fantastic Iolabs who patiently put up with my last-minute rush every April; thanks Emma!) 

And now for the reveal of the final piece:

Text and image Copyright © Marlo Garnsworthy 2018                                             

Text and image Copyright © Marlo Garnsworthy 2018                                             

Now, it's back to making penguins for Kev to swim and waddle!


Note: this post also appears on my Wordy Bird Studio and Polar Bird sites. 

Tuesday Night Arting

This is the level of polish I'm heading for in the artwork I'm creating tonight. (See, I just love Antarctic krill!)

This is the level of polish I'm heading for in the artwork I'm creating tonight. (See, I just love Antarctic krill!)

Marlo here. Tonight, I'm taking a different artistic approach to what I've shown you so far. I'm employing a technique I use quite often, including in VOLCANO DREAMS by Janet Fox, which comes out in September.

It's a multi-media approach, and it employs digital tools. First, I spend many hours designing the piece. (I'm not going to reveal that design until the piece is complete, however—one must keep a little mystery before the big reveal. This one happens to have an accompanying acrostic poem—a shape poem—which was very fun to play with.)

Once I have a solid idea and have developed the design, I run it by my critique partners for feedback. I have a great team for that—which includes the lovely, talented members of Team WD (consisting of Priscilla Alpaugh, Julia Ann Young, and Emily Wayne), plus my extremely talented artist mum, Patricia Tremayne, who has taught me so much of what I know. I also run it by my writing crit group, who are talented visually, too, and other family. It's key to get feedback from both other artists and non-artists to make sure everything is working and "reads" well. (Kev actually made a great suggestion on the design for this piece, too, which I was grateful for.) 

Once I've tweaked the design, I draw individual elements, such as this humpback whale. I use a mechanical pencil on Strathmore drawing paper, which I like for its texture. 

IMG_9769 (1).jpg

Then I get them into my computer and start the next—and digital—stage. 

When you're on a tight illustration deadline and you have a publisher requesting last-minute changes, it's great to have each element on a separate layer, so it can be recolored, resized, or deleted, etc. at will. I use both Photoshop and Corel Painter, and I frequently flip back and forth between the two on any given piece. I'm on a super-tight deadline for this piece, so this method is really going to work for me.

Once I have the drawings in, I lay in some color and start to work the piece up using digital oil paint. For SOOOO many years, I wished for a way to combine pencil and oil paint—and with these digital tools, I can! 


I'm also layering in some real watercolor, just as I did for VOLCANO DREAMS.

Starting to work the krill up a bit...

Starting to work the krill up a bit...

I have four evenings left to finish this piece in time to have it printed ahead of NESCBWI8. So, I must away!