680 – Arthur Spiderwicks Field Guide

Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide

Black Phooka (Praestigator fuscus)
Colored pencil and acryla gouache on Bristol board
Collection of the artist

If I was thinking of Arthur Rackham while I was illustrating the chapter books of the Spiderwick Chronicles, I was thinking of John James Audubon when I was illustrating the Field Guide. The Field Guide, in some ways, is very inspired by the Gondwanaland Field Guide I made back when I was 12. But I wanted to draw and paint very common and beloved fantasy and fairytale characters with the eye of a naturalist. And how would a naturalist paint them? How do they really look?

And so I studied a lot of Audubon’s paintings for birds of North America and quadrupeds of North America and really pushed myself to see how realistic I could paint trolls and goblins and mermaids. So there was an incredible amount of reference and observation that went into each and every paining. Every single element of the painting was referenced from the fur on the pooka to the bark on the tree that he was perched on.

It was all painted in an incredibly short amount of time. Despite the fact that I had been sketching on the book for years, when it came time to actually create all the paintings for the finished book, the Spiderwick Chronicles had become so popular and so successful that there was a newfound pressure to release the books at a very quick clip. And so all the paintings that were done for Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide were done in six months, and that meant I was creating a finished painting about every four or five days.