Portfolio Piece Rehash: The Mouse at Home

I had so much fun doing the last portfolio rehash that I decided to do another one.

Back in 2013 I did a series of mouse illustrations. They were an experiment into using bolder colors and different materials. While I learned a lot from this phase of my illustration journey, it isn’t exactly representative of the kind of work I really want to be doing. Something just felt… off. So I posed the question to myself: can I re-do some of these pieces, and bring them to the next level?

Mouse at home by Jessica Lanan

Here are some of the things I liked about this piece:

  1. This has a fun “hobbit hole” or “wind in the willows” feel to it
  2. There are lots of charming details that enrich the mouse’s world
  3. This is the sort of thing I would’ve loved when I was a kid

Here are some of the issues I defined:

  1. The mouse lacks personality and narrative. He could be pushed to be a more robust character.
  2. The piece feels stiff. It would be stronger with a looser, more painterly feel. (Easier said than done, am I right?)
  3. The perspective is a little too extreme and is causing some distortion in the foreground. The high horizon line makes us feel a little distant–the exact opposite of the cozy moment I had in mind.
  4. The stairwell behind the mouse is dark and ominous. I keep looking up those stairs waiting for something to creep in from behind. Not good.

The mouse’s lack of character was the biggest problem, so I went back to the drawing board and spent some time coming up with a simple story to add context: a little mouse goes on a wintertime visit to his grandfather’s house. With two mice, this cozy scene would be a perfect family moment.

I redesigned the piece with a round, egg-like composition in order to enhance the safety and stability of the scene. I made a special effort to keep things loose while still including many of the same details of the original. Cold pressed paper and a messier technique helped to add texture. Here’s the final result: (Click to enlarge.)

Watercolor illustration by Jessica Lanan of two mice sitting in a chair by the fireside.

Tips for Loosening Up, Plus a Bonus Giveaway
Portfolio Piece Rehash: The Magician

1 Comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.