Year of the Otter

Last year around this time, I was finishing up the final artwork for Sizing Up Winter. The cover features a river otter slipping down a snowy slope into an icy pond, which is meant to be a close up of one of the inside spreads (pictured below).

sizing up winter otters in pond sliding swimming childrens book owlkids

It was a struggle to recreate the river otter’s likeness. Their colouring and proportions have to be just so, or else they end up looking more like seals or bears or groundhogs, even. After a handful of revisions and tweaks to the cover otter’s face and body, I was finally satisfied and all was completed and sent to the publisher.

I was far from done illustrating otters as you’ll see.

otter face closeup paper collage

Soon after, I found myself working on a third otter piece. This time it was a gift for my boyfriend, Kevin. Inspired by one of his otter drawings, I set out to recreate a similarly lush seaweed setting by recycling some paper greenery from a past project involving two goldfish (you can view it here).

It was pretty clear by now that I secretly enjoyed the trial and error process of recreating  this puzzle of an animal.

framed otter art succulent dragonfly paper collage illustration

The drawing I was referring to (pictured below) is titled Twists & Turns, and is one of many beautifully detailed napkin and coffee sleeve drawings that Kevin posts and writes about on his blog: http://kevindrawingonnapkins.com/

kevindrawingonnapkins_otter

otter process drawing sketchesA couple months later, and I was back on the otter track. I began working with Crush on another animation project, this time for Seattle’s Woodland Zoo.

My job was to stylize each of the featured zoo animals, giving them a simplified, geometrical, Charley Harper sort of look. Among the long list of animals to be drawn was the Asian Otter.

“Oh goody”, I remember thinking, as I was quite confident in the otter department by then. It was the quickest turn-around drawing I had ever made, and for good reason I guess. The lion cubs were another story!

Crush designer, Jullian Ablaza, would later transform each of my drawings into beautifully rendered vectorized art. (You can see an example of our process to the right.) Jullian did an amazing job with palette and pattern, and inspired me to consider using a little adobe illustrator in my future art projects (a skill I hadn’t quite mastered yet).

As well as designing some of the animals, animator Yoho Hang Yue, really brought everything to life! You can see for yourself in the final Woodland Zoo piece below.

So if 2013 was the year of the otter, I wonder what’s in store for 2014?

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Hello

My name is Ashley Barron and I'm a Toronto based illustrator. This is my online show & tell of new artwork and anything else I find inspiring. Thanks for taking a look :)

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