Richard Johnson

THE WILD WOOD

CHILDREN’S BOOKS GOLD AWARD

PROFESSIONAL

2012 - IMAGES 36

Richard has worked as illustrator since 1999, graduating from Loughborough School of Art and design. The heart of Richard's work resides in his children's illustration for which he has illustrated over 40 books. Richard's portfolio also contains work for advertising, packaging and editorial purposes. Clients include Templar publishing, Random House, MacMillan, Marks & Spencer, Cadburys, The BBC and The Times Newspaper.

Richard works from a small studio situated on the edge of a wood in Lincolnshire where he lives with his partner who is a design teacher and silversmith.

"The Wild Wood is one of a series of images produced for the Wind in the Willows, written by Kenneth Grahame. It was a lovely project to work on. This particular image came quite easily; I only had to make a few preliminary sketches to get the composition right. My main focus was to try and capture the atmosphere of the scene, showing the last rays of light illuminating 'Moley' as he ventures deeper into the dark and dangerous wood. I guess it's an old trick but making the character very small, surrounded by large trees emphasises his vulnerability and the scale and depth of the wood."

"Winning the Gold award is a great honour and something I am very proud of. It has given my work greater exposure and has contributed to keeping my schedule filled with commissioned work!"

richardjohnsonillustration.co.uk

BRIEF: To illustrate 'The Wind in the Willows' written by Kenneth Grahame. The artwork had to be a mixture of double page spreads, single plates and vignettes.

MATERIALS: Pencil, acrylic paint, colour pencil and heavy paper.

RESEARCH: Research for this particular image came quite naturally as I live next to a large forest and enjoy the feeling of being lost in there, alone with my thoughts. It helped me to really get to grips with the intensity of being surrounded by trees, which almost start to take on personalities of their own.

PROCESS: The first stage of the project was to really develop the main animal characters from the story, their forms, body language and their clothes. So then, in this particular illustration, I could develop the composition through thumbnails, working my ideas into a proper detailed rough, knowing how the character would react within this environment.

RESISTANCES: When I received the commission, I set myself a challenge to try and give the settings and locations an almost realistic quality. My intention was to play this reality off against creating characters, which would be animated, fun and friendly, capturing the warmth and humour of the story.

INSIGHT: I built up the image using acrylic paint applied in layers of washes and also thicker opaque areas. I then drew back into paintwork using fine pencil and colour pencil some of which was over painted again. A limited palette also helped give the image focus and tonality.

DISTRACTIONS: My guitar, a puzzle that I can pick up, play badly and lose many an hour.

NUMBERS: 26 pairs of eyes glaring out of the darkness.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I am rarely completely satisfied with my work, though with this image, I can say I am happy with how it turned out.

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