Blanche And Pearl...”They Only Ever Had Each Other”

Today seemed to be a good day to share one of the illustrations which I’ve been working on while my chickens helped some with a few pictures for “My Life With Gracie.” This illustration work really is work!

This is one of four large illustrations for How To Explain Christmas To Chickens. It is for the first section titled “Blanche And Pearl.” Each section will begin with a large illustration and then each chapter will have a smaller panoramic banner illustration. (Imagine just the bottom third of this drawing.)

It is a drawing challenge for me to work with only black lines and gray tones because I definitely miss being able to use color which adds so much life and emotion to a drawing. But with the cost of color printing, it is the only affordable alternative for a book of this length. Having grown up with only a black and white television, I am comfortable seeing the world without color, and I think perhaps the drawing style may somewhat recall a previous time period.

Some things are the same as the drawings which I’ve done from the beginning such as the low horizon line which gives a “chicken’s eye” or “child’s eye” view of the world. Also the illustrations which include people, such as The Bottle Cap Lady, will only show no more than the lower body, not the face. (Not because I can’t draw faces, but because the chickens are the main characters. It’s also important to the story’s message for The Bottle Cap Lady to be anyone anywhere, and facial details or a regular given name would interfere with that.)

You may notice a bit more realism in this drawing. Much of this is because the novel explores Pearl’s real genuine emotions about not being accepted by the other chickens and then later losing Blanche and needing to face life alone. Those themes don’t seem suited to a lighthearted cartoon style of drawing. There are also many straight lines and angular shapes, and only the chickens and the German iris use curved lines and rounded shapes. I think this contrast helps bring attention to the smaller elements in the drawing like the chickens. (Often Pearl feels small and insignificant, though she never gives up hope.)

My goal is for this illustration to capture the relationship between Blanche and Pearl and the feelings expressed by this key sentence from the story’s first part: “They only ever had each other.”

You may be thinking this doesn’t look like a typical Christmas illustration or sound like a typical Christmas story. You are quite right. But then Pearl is not a typical chicken and The Bottle Cap Lady is not a typical neighbor either!

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

How does this drawing look to you? Can you tell which chicken is Pearl? And is this Pearl as you might imagine her in a world of black and white? I live with these chickens and with these illustrations, so it’s often a challenge to see things with different, and perhaps more critical, eyes. Your perspective, even if not-so-favorable, is truly appreciated.

37 thoughts on “Blanche And Pearl…“They Only Ever Had Each Other”

  1. I quite like the black and white illustrations but your color illustrations are great too. I never really considered the tone of illustrations reflecting the tone of the piece but it makes perfect sense (as does the reasoning for not showing the Bottle Cap Lady’s face.) Interesting stuff. Can’t wait to read the finished product!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Good memory! Your illustrations will work whatever route you end up taking for them. They are uniquely yours and its easy to see that you enjoy what you do.


  2. Agreed with above! This has all the charm of your colored drawings and I love that you articulated for us all the choices you made arriving at the final result. Thank you for sharing your process both as an artist and writer.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It is very exciting to follow your creative process and thoughts, John.
    Thank you for trusting and giving us the feeling to be a little bit involved.
    In my opinion, the process – or journey – is the joyful reward and not arriving at the destination.

    Well, I love the idea of the chicken`s eye perspective…and immediately had the notion that it would be also interesting to possibly switch perspectives in the course of an illustrated dialogue.
    I am a fan of French art comics. The illustrators are grand masters in storytelling by playing with perspectives and zooming +/- as stylistic device.
    The ability of changing perspectives is important and makes life more exciting and multifaceted…if you are not too lazy, narrow-minded and able to deal with differences constructively.

    Beyond doubt, I fully understand that you miss your nice colors. In my view, these “high spirit and warm colors” are part of your signature.
    But the black-white variant is fine too. Life is sometimes about compromising.

    I love it especially if the illustrations look hand-made and show the process of their creation, e.g. in pencil drawings if you do not use a rubber…
    Thus, I like the water color like shadow in the background, ductus lines and so on.

    The balance between reduction and details to add more realism (and to let the viewer know how the flock is actually living – also providing a feeling of more intimacy beyond the spiritual one) is well done.
    And the iris flowers are beautiful.

    To be honest and straightforward as only rude German can be…I still think about the fence behind the coop that seems to not fit in perfectly. It looks too technical, too much computer graphic alike, somehow too dominant…maybe, it would help to just draw him paler, to indicate /adumbrate him…e.g. by not encircle/ border the shape completely…I`m searching for words…

    Another possible food for thoughts linked to your riddle…where is Pearl?…how do you want to differentiate your ladies in the black-white illustrations?
    Supposedly, the scenario – described in the story – must be very explicit in order to help doing so.

    Blanche & Pearl …“They only ever had each other.”…how do the situations look like, they might be reminded on their very unique relationship and feel not only close to each other but like a team of two in a big, big world, you can be easily lost in?
    And how would Blanche & Pearl express themselves / behave?


    1. As always, much to think about which I appreciate so much. And I completely agree with you about the fence! It bothered me, but I didn’t know what else to do with it! Perhaps replace it with more flowers of a different kind?!? Hmmm…you always make me thing, and I so appreciate that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, Germans are globally critisized to be straightforward and a bit rude…but honestly requires a positive attitude towards other people because honesty requires mutual trust in the goodwill of the other.
        Aside we are determined to do whats necessary to be understood.

        To put it in a nutshell…I am relieved that you accept my food for thoughts and feedback. It is only my first perception and personal opinion.
        Well, admittedly Germans are sometimes also a bit too lazy for lengthy diplomacy….In regard of mentality, we are much more engineers than marketing people.

        …I am relieved that you appreciate some food of thoughts and feedback and look at it as an encouragement like it is meant.

        Refering the fence, I had the same issue with one of my sketches in Norway….a ladder in the background.
        My idea: The human brain like rythm and patterns thus attention is drawn quickly to items like fences, ladders etc..
        For me it was important to keep it because of the aim to create a kind of souvenir with realism. Exactrly, thisI wanted to draw exactly this individual Husky at his authentic place in the kennel…including the ladder that leans against the wall of a cabin.
        Therefore, I spontaneously erased the lines of the ladder partially and created (interrupted) optical lines ….the human brain will complete anyway.
        In my opinion, it worked very well.

        You are doing fine, John! Allthe best to your feathered family!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You mentioned “French art comics”…is that like in the style of the Tintin comics by Hergé? I bought some of those many years ago. The illustrations are beautiful. If not Hergé, can you share a name, maybe two? I’d like to see some examples! Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I am changing my house right now.
        Thus, my graphic novels and art comics already disappeared in the mountain of boxes…..”YIU” (an apolcalyptic, oppulent SiFi series) by Guenet, Téhy (Fee) und J.M. Vee …or the amazing, very charming and funny graphic novels of Guy Delisle (I highly recommend) are two examples.
        At first I was a bit disappointed about Delisle minmalistic drawings but he really got me….his sense of friendly humor and power of observation is awesome!
        I got to know art comics and graphic novels during my French studies in Aix en Provence.
        As a child, I was not allowed to comics except of Asterix & Oberlix.
        I spent hours in the librairie de la provence with its very friendly team…also to exercise my French language.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Of course, I like the work of Hergé very much too!
        Actually, Tintin was the 2nd comic series I was allowed to possess too.

        I also recommend the art comics of Jodorowsky & Moebius.


  4. Your amazing illustration “From A Heart” 2018
    …is one of my favorites and expresses the feeling of being small but brave facing the unknown well, I think.
    I thought of it immediately, when I noticed your headline.

    To have somebody, who is loyal and understanding, at your side will rise confidence, of course. What if the above mentioned drawing would show two chicks?
    Another beautiful motif of yours have been the glowworms…the scenery was sooo magic…like a loving friendship is.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There are others, I love very much too. But this one might have been the first one I connected with personally, I guess.

        Oh,…thank you! I am blushing…😊


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