Today I’m going to blog a little differently. Normally I post my process photos and talk about the painting, but this time I’m going to talk about something else. My Crow Brings The Daylight book officially releases this Friday (preorder here!) and I want to talk about a part of this project that I haven’t really mentioned yet. It’s actually one of the most important aspects of this project to me.
I’ve sometimes doubted my journey in illustration because it doesn’t feel like enough. I believe that art is an incredible gift to humankind and no one should be without it, but a painting rarely puts food in a hungry stomach or gives illiterate children the gift of reading. So how do I feed the hungry, teach the world and create art? I can’t start my own non-profit (at least not yet), but I can share stories through paintings and give a little back at the same time.
Twenty percent of all the profits from the sale of Crow Brings The Daylight are going to a non-profit called “Save The Children.”
I love this organization for a few reasons. First, they work in 120 different countries, all over the world, including the USA. Second, they work hard not only to provide food for hungry kids, but also early education so that their chances of breaking the cycle of poverty are much higher. Third, an amazing amount of the money donated goes straight to their programs (89%!)
If you want to learn more about where the money goes, check out this video, or watch this one for details on how they work in the USA.
I won’t change the world with this book, or feed every hungry child, but I can give a little back. And if you buy a book, you’re a part of helping me do that. (So thank you!)
By the way, if you can’t afford to purchase this book, but would like a digital copy, please send me an email. Money should never be a barrier to sharing stories.
This was one of the first paintings I began planning for my Crow Brings The Daylight book. A composition very similar to this was among my very first sketches, back when this project began. The angle and the closeness are so odd that I wasn’t sure the idea would work as an illustration, and I kept trying to come up with different ideas. But nothing else had the same magic. I couldn’t get this image out of my head.
The deadline for publishing the book came closer and closer and when I couldn’t put it off any longer I decided to just do whatever I wanted. And I wanted to paint my first idea.
Sometimes the first ideas are the best. Most of the time it’s your 100th idea, but sometimes that first image tells the story better than months of brainstorming can.
In the end this image was one of the easiest to paint. Maybe it’s because I spent so long planning it, or maybe it’s because a white background saves lots of time. Or maybe it’s just because I really wanted to paint it.
This image is also one of my favorites.
It turns out that the odd angle is an awesome angle, and the extreme close up zooms in on exactly the part of the story I want to tell.
So the moral of this story is: If at first your idea seems too strange, try to come up with more ideas, and if those don’t work it probably means you should try that weird first one out.
Ok, maybe I shouldn’t use the first moral that pops into my head….give me a few months to work on that one.
“The ball of Daylight shimmered and sparkled as it fell from the sky. It looked as if the light had almost disappeared. And Anuqa, The Wind, howled and blew again in triumph. The tiny ball of light dropped to the ground at the feet of the people and shattered in a brilliant explosion of light that lit up the entire world. And Anuqa, The Wind, turned into a gentle breeze then disappeared.”
You, my dear readers, may have noticed that I love to work with color, but I usually avoid pastels. Maybe because they feel too much like nursery colors, or maybe just because I like the depth in darker colors. For this painting however, pastels were the way to go.
I wanted to capture the feeling of light exploding onto the Arctic plain. A cold, barren landscape lit by warmth and teeming with life for the first time. I need the animals to feel light, like they could easily travel across the tundra with the spread of the daylight until the Inuit’s whole world was illuminated.
I also wanted this painting to echo an illustration from earlier in the book – Crow Tells a Story. The animals aren’t the same, but the two illustrations bookend the story in many ways. They capture the telling of the story, the moment of hope imparted, and fulfillment of the resulting promise…the promise of daylight.
The finishing touches are being added to the book, and pre-orders will be available in just a few days, so stay tuned!
In many Inuit stories, Crow is a bit of a mischief maker. He plays tricks to get his way and sometimes it’s a little unclear if Crow is a good guy or a bad guy. In Crow Brings The Daylight, Crow definitely falls under the good guy category for the Inuit people, but he still plays a few tricks. Namely, he shrinks himself down to sneak into a house with a ball of daylight.
This illustration is the moment of shrinking, when he hides himself on a girl’s collar and rides his way into her home. It’s there that he spots the ball of daylight and eventually makes himself large again in order to steal it.
Painted tissue paper, cut and ready to be glued.
Arranging the pieces
Gluing the overlapping layers
All the pieces glued down and ready for the next step
First add highlights
And also shadows.
A few more adjustments, and the painting is complete!
If you haven’t already realized that I’m painting the illustrations for this book all out of order, this one should give it away. I finished “Crow Carries The Light” a couple of weeks ago, but this illustration I just finished comes a little earlier in the story. This is the moment when Crow steals the light from a pair of chubby baby hands.
I know, I know, stealing balls of daylight from little babies is generally frowned upon. But Crow had good intentions. Or mischievous intentions. Or maybe a little of both.
The basic shapes
Glueing them down
All glued down, ready for details
Highlighting the hands
And starting to bring out the shape of Crow’s wings
This is the story of my most ambitious collage painting yet. It’s the story of many tiny pieces of painted paper, many hours of painstaking brush strokes, many marks adjusted and readjusted.
It’s also Crow’s story. The story of a world where daylight illuminates animals and plants, rivers and streams, a world beyond the cold and the dark of the arctic ice. A world that stirs hope and longing.
And both of these stories are told here, with pictures that hopefully speak much more clearly than any pile of words.
If you’re interested in a print of this piece, you can find it here. It’s the only print from Crow Brings the Daylight that will be available before the book’s publication, because honestly I just love it too much to wait.
I chose to illustrate the story of Crow bringing daylight to the Inuit people for many reasons, but one of my main inspirations was the simple beauty of the story. Light coming through darkness, kindly carried to a people who need it. In many ways I think this illustration sums up that part of the story. The light is traveling to a new land, and it’s nearly ready to burst upon the new horizon.
The string, cut out of painted tissue paper, ready to be glued down.
All the pieces cut and ready to be assembled.
Pieces glued down and awaiting the details.
I love bird feet, they’re so wonderfully creepy and beautiful all at once.
The feet are shaped, the crow is taking form, it’s getting close!
I hear the wind up in the Arctic isn’t the friendliest wind. I haven’t experienced this first hand, but I believe it. I’ve also heard that back when the world was new and the Arctic was covered in darkness, the wind was a bit haughty. The wind ruled the land, and wasn’t fond of a small crow disrupting the way things had always been. So when Crow left to fetch daylight, it wasn’t an easy flight. It was a cold, dark and windy battle.
Painting a battle in which the foe is invisible is a rather wonderful challenge, one I can only recommend. Representing the invisible in a visible medium is a little like magic, so I like to think that this illustration is a little bit magical. It’s a bit haughty of me, but right now I’m the wind ruling my studio space and no crow has come to knock me down a peg. (At least not yet.)
Creating a cold, dark and windy background.
Every so often I accidentally cut a shape out backwards, and have to cut it out again the right way.
All the layers are glued down, but a bit hard to make out at this point.
If you look closely you can see the shifts in color and the beautiful texture of the tissue paper.
A little bit of white paint brings out the shapes.
More details and a few splatters to stand in for the invisible wind.
Adding final highlights
And it’s finished!
This is the fourth illustration that I’ve completed for Crow Brings the Daylight, you can see the rest of them here.
In the first illustration I finished for Crow Brings the Daylight, Crow spots daylight after flying until his wings were sore and he was almost ready to give up. (See the process of that illustration here.) Seeing that speck of daylight gave him enough strength to continue on, to find a place to land in the land of sunbeams and light. I wanted these two moments to play off of one another visually. The earth covered in darkness and the earth covered in light. The moment of darkness breaking, and the moment of turning towards the warm earth, turning towards the light.
In some ways these images mirror each other, in other ways they are quite different. I like the way they play off one another, leaning apart but not able to completely separate. It captures the feeling of creating the second illustration. Trying to create an image that can stand on it’s own and dance with a partner is easy and challenging, fun and frustrating.
So here are a few process photos, full of fun and frustration. Enjoy!
The pieces before they are put together. Background, earth and crow.
Crow, carefully cut out and ready to be glued down.
This is the first time I’ve ever painted a layer before gluing all of them down. I painted the earth before adding crow in this illustration. It was an interesting change of pace.
Clouds and land painted in, Crow collaged on top.
Starting to add shape and details to Crow.
Once Crow was glued down, it was clear that the painting needed even more detail. More clouds were added…
…Along with hundreds of tiny dots. Dark dots to give the illusion of forests, red and yellow dots to spread subtle color through the earth.
Crow needed more color too. Blue dots, red highlights and a few green stripes helped to tie him to the rest of the painting.
You might not notice all the details in the finished piece, but if they weren’t there I promise you’d notice something was missing.
Today’s blog post is a short story written by my very talented brother, Forrest Davidson. This is the first time it’s been published, and I’m so excited to share it with you guys! If you’d like to see more short stories here, please leave a comment and let us know. If you’re interested in a print of this illustration, you can find it here. Now, without further ado, I present to you The Bear and The Light by Forrest Davidson.
The Bear lived alone. He didn’t have anyone to give him a name so he just called himself ‘me’ or ‘I’ and other animals called him The Bear. The Bear was a good neighbor to the nearby animals. He rarely ate any of them, and when he did, the other animals understood, for that is the way of the world. Mostly The Bear kept to himself and made his rounds of the woods eating bugs and fish and fruit when he could find it. The woods were in balance.
But despite his peaceful and easy life The Bear was not satisfied. The Bear wanted something more. The Bear wanted to meet the Light that he saw every night in the sky. The Light was not the moon, though The Bear did love to see the moon. The Light was not a star, for it was too bright and moved too quickly across the night. Every night the Light came and The Bear watched and was both happy to see the Light and sad that he could not talk to the light.
One day The Bear decided to ask the other animals about the light. He thought perhaps they might know the answer of where to find the light. And so The Bear walked on until he came to the rabbit’s warren and called down the hole.
“Hello Rabbit Neighbors, come and sit with me, I will not eat you for I have already eaten enough today.”
The Rabbits were shy, but The Bear was not a liar and some rabbits are rather curious. A few of the bolder rabbits came from their burrow and snuffled greetings to The Bear.
“Tell me Rabbits, have you seen the Light that crosses the sky at night? I wish to find it and meet it. Do you know where it goes?.”
“No, Neighbor Bear we have seen it but we do not know where it goes. The night is too dangerous for us to go out. We are happy the way things are. We do not want to know about the lights in the sky. Perhaps Neighbor Owl would know. The lights in the sky help her see to hunt at night.”
“Thank you, Neighbors.” And so The Bear walked on to go find The Owl. When he came to her tree he called for her but she did not wake. He called again and shook her tree.
“What?” She screeched down at him, for no animal likes to be woken before they are rested.
“Neighbor Owl, tell me of the Light that travels the night sky. Have you met the Light when you fly? I wish to meet the Light.”
“What light? I do not look at the sky, I look at the ground to hunt. I do not wish to meet any light. I only want to hunt and eat well and become fat. Go ask the Coyote. She studies the sky.”
And so The Bear walked on in search of the Coyote, and the Owl returned to her dreams of prey. Upon finding The Coyote, The Bear called in peace and greeting to her.
“Hello Mother Coyote. I wish to speak with you. I do not want to eat your cubs for I have already eaten enough today.” The Coyote came to see The Bear. She left her cubs hidden in a bush, for though she believed The Bear, she was a cautious animal.
“What shall we speak of Brother Bear?” The Coyote was polite but she sat herself just far enough from The Bear so that he could not reach her, for she was a cautious animal.
“Have you seen the Light in the sky at night that travels faster than the stars? I wish to meet it but I do not know how to find it.”
“I have seen this Light, Brother Bear. I too wish to meet it but I cannot go and seek it, I am too busy with my cubs, and I do not know the way, and it would probably be too far of a journey.” This saddened The Bear.
“How will I ever meet the Light if no one can tell me the way?”
“Perhaps sing to the Light, Brother Bear. Maybe the Light will tell you.” With that The Coyote left to return to her cubs, for she was a cautious animal and did not like to be away for too long. And so The Bear went on to his home to think about what The Coyote had said.
That night The Bear did sing to the light. He sang a lovely sad song because he was sad to think that he would never meet the Light. When he sang the Light slowed to hear his song and so The Bear sang more and the light slowed until it stopped almost directly above him in the night sky. When The Bear finished his song the Light twinkled for a moment before continuing on its nightly path and The Bear was overjoyed.
The Bear continued to sing to the Light for many nights after that, and each time the Light would slow to listen to the song of The Bear. Until, one night, the Light did not come.
The Bear sang to the empty sky and was sad.
The next day The Bear set off in the direction he had last seen the Light headed. The Rabbits did not understand why he would leave his home when his life was so easy. The Bear agreed that it was hard to leave his comfortable home, but he explained that meeting the Light was important to him and he must go and find it.
The Owl mocked him for his foolish pursuit, but The Bear ignored The Owl because she had never looked up at the Light and so could not understand.
“It will be a long and difficult journey” warned The Coyote. “What if you cannot find the Light?”
“Then at least I tried” replied The Bear.
And so The Bear walked on in search of the Light. It was a long and difficult journey, but The Bear sang to himself and to the sky and his journey went easier. He walked and sang, and walked and sang.