I have a fluid process. With layers to create the setting, individual characters, lighting, filters, camera lenses and settings, there is lots of play that goes into getting my images and sometimes interesting surprises. 

I begin an illustration by sketching. I then build the layers. For the most part, I use ink on Yupo paper, a plastic paper. It has strength, and no grain. It catches the light quite beautifully too. Spraying it with different oils, alcohol, and rolling over inked areas creates unusual surfaces. 

Once I have my layers, I install them in one of my theatres, like a tiny stage set. My husband has build several theatres for different purposes, though I usually work in the smallest one. He gave it to me for Christmas in 2009. The images here show me working on the book Fall Leaves. 

When everything is in place I set up the lighting. Different filters, direction and type of lighting create different atmospheres. I also use the opacity/transparency of the Yupo paper to create shadowed areas or areas that beam with light. Sometimes I get multiple images from the same scene with quite different moods.  It is also nice being able to alter just one aspect of an illustration. Below shows images for the page Snow Falls. I preferred the Sumak over the Dogwood.


Essentially, the images are photographs of paper theatre. Sometimes I refer to them as light-box dioramas. It is an illustration technique that I developed from making tunnel books. The trailer for If You Hold A Seed shows my process. 

Elly MacKayProcess