23 January, 2016. Nope. Not your usual book illustration. Not at all.
It began when my fellow drawing teacher and I were brainstorming ideas for studio lessons using pen lines. It’s January, art students are already sick of nasty winter weather and growing more and more stir crazy by the day. A boring lesson in cross-hatching or stippling simply wasn’t going to cut it. One of us stumbled upon the work of Cheeming Boey, an artist who makes charmingly arresting and inventive drawings upon disposable coffee cups.
Meanwhile, I was mulling over where to fit book illustration into this year’s curriculum. It’s become something of a tradition for my students to become immersed in a book, to illustrate it, and then publish it. Here, for instance, is Poe’s dark tale of The Raven.
And the even darker story of Macbeth.
These books are completely designed and illustrated by our students. This year we’re creating a children’s book of nonsense rhymes. Could we somehow bring together the very disparate threads of those narratives with the concept of drawing on cups? Well, that’s the idea anyway, and we’re going to find out.
The three views of the cup depicted here today is the example I created as an experiment to find out what marks work best on the styrofoam surface of the cups my kids are using. Using a fine line Sharpie, the surface is remarkably accepting of the ink. One must avoid using too much pressure though, or risk plunging the pen point right through to the inside of the cup! Stippling, hatching, line – all of those mark making techniques work well.
Each student selected a nonsense rhyme originating from the mid 19th century. Several thumbnail sketches were generated, and a tight sketch made of the most promising composition. They are in the process of transferring the tight pencil sketch to the surface of the cup using the same style of Sharpie pen I used in these examples.
Two things became immediately clear: One – we hit a home run with this approach, because kids are really getting into this project. Two – out of all the various drawing techniques that do work, we discovered right away that the “scribbled mark” doesn’t. Thus, we’ve stumbled across something that students enjoy doing, that also forces them to slow down and make intentional marks (without it seeming to be a laborious punishment!) That’s a win in my book!
I haven’t figured out exactly how we’ll reproduce these cup illustrations in the resulting book of rhymes, but I’m intrigued by how the cups are affected by light when photographed. One thing is clear to me: I doubt there’s ever previously been a children’s book quite like this one will be! (Styrofoam coffee cups, Sharpie marker)