Character Study — Renfrew the Racoon

Another character in the Spam and the Sasquatch graphic novel that I’m working on, in partnership with author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, is Renfrew the Raccoon. (see yesterday’s post for links to catch up if you’re just tuning in) He’s rather a felonious fellow, who just can’t resist picking up anything shiny to make his very own. But he is Spam’s good friend and assistant detective, and can usually be counted on to join in on an adventure and lend the advantage of his opposable thumbs to the cause, as long as it doesn’t get too scary.

I used to draw raccoons quite a lot in my days of doing wildlife art, but that was long ago, and I wanted to refresh my skills. So today I pulled out some of my old reference photos and books and started doing some sketches, trying for a lot more simplification than I used to do; after all, this is going to be a comic book character! I love drawing raccoons in detail; the patterns in their fur are really quite wonderful, but I wanted to keep the drawings simple because I’m going to watercolour them.

I have a triple agenda in mind for these; in addition to the design itself, I’m doing materials research — yesterday I tore down some sheets of five different kinds of paper that I’m thinking of using for the novel. When you’re doing 64 pages — OK, it’s a short novel, but I don’t think anyone calls them graphic novellas; I could be wrong there — anyway, as I was saying, 64 pages is a lot, and I wanted to have paper that I was going to be happy to work on the whole way through. So each of these is done on a different type of paper, for a total of four kinds, and the Sasquatch from yesterday makes the fifth type.

I’m also practicing drawing with a brush in India Ink, because I’d like to use that as my primary drawing tool for the book. I found that all the papers performed well with the brush and ink, so the decision will be which one handles the watercolour in the way that I like best.

So here are the results — they look kind of odd at this stage because I haven’t filled in the darks, which will happen when I watercolour them.

Renfrew and a young friend. This was referenced from a postcard photo by James R. Fisher.

Renfrew and a young friend. This was referenced from a postcard photo by James R. Fisher. (on Opus Watermedia paper — Opus is an art supply store here in BC, but you can order online from them.)

Renfrew with one of his favourite things to thieve — a cellphone.

Renfrew with one of his favourite things to thieve — a cellphone. The reference for this one is a wonderful book called Wild Animals of the World, by Mary Baker and William Bridges. It has the most gorgeous illustrations by Mary Baker. I made my version rather fluffier and of course the original one didn’t have a cellphone. (on Arches 90 lb. hot press watercolour paper)

Renfrew, being equipped with opposable thumbs, can gather up lots of treasures if he has something to bundle them up in. However, carrying them is then another matter, because he hasn't figured out how to become truly bipedal for any length of time.

Renfrew, being equipped with opposable thumbs, can gather up lots of treasures if he has something to bundle them up in. However, carrying them is then another matter, because he hasn’t figured out how to become truly bipedal for any length of time. The reference photos for these were by Bob and Ira Spring, from their book Wildlife Encounters. (on Opus Student Watercolour Paper)

Renfrew, like any raccoon, likes to wash things. His idea of a good location is somewhere that has running water nearby so that he can wash his treasures. Sometimes they don't work anymore after he's done...

Renfrew, like any raccoon, likes to wash things. His idea of a good location is somewhere that has running water nearby so that he can wash his treasures. Sometimes they don’t work anymore after he’s done… This one was referenced from a photo in a little booklet that I think I bought in a national park one time called Guide to the Wildlife of the Rockies, by David and Susan Hancock, but by this time I was feeling much more comfortable with my raccoon anatomy and changed it quite a lot. I think I’m ready to start drawing Renfrew as a character now! (on Opus Finest Watercolour paper)

11 responses to “Character Study — Renfrew the Racoon

  1. I adore Renfrew! He’s such a . . . raccoon! We used to have coons living under our deck and we got to watch a mother coon raise her three babies. Precious. Coons are amongst my favorites in the world of the furry critters.

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    • Heehee, yup, he’s a raccoon alright! I like watching them too; though I worry about the cats getting into scraps with them. There used to be one around here with a gimpy front leg that we called Tripod. He was around for years, but I haven’t seen him in a while. I miss him.

      I’m going to try to get these Renfrew studies painted to post tonight.

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      • We had a family of feral cats and the coon family all living under the deck together, along with a possum or two. They seemed to get along very well, surprisingly enough. The coons were tamer than the cats and would come all the way up to my feet to be fed. They were so cute. That mama coon did something I had always heard was never done among coons. She adopted the baby of another coon who was crippled and disappeared. Mama coon took care of that baby just like it was one of her own, even though it was much younger than her own babies. They completely won me over and I miss them a lot.

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  2. Pingback: Testing Watercolour Paper with Renfrew the Raccoon | Karen Gillmore Art·

  3. Wow! My first encounter with raccoons was when I was in my twenties, living in Seattle. One evening our cat, Fang (we named him that because it was fun to lean out the door and call “here, Fang!’) came racing through the patio door, which we left open a bit for him in the summer, with his hair all standing on end. We saw some red glowing eyes outside and thought it was another cat. When we went to shoo it off, we saw more eyes — and a whole tribe of raccoons! The adults were standing on their hind legs with their arms out, almost holding hands, shielding some intensely curious half-grown youngsters. The all climbed up the willow tree in the back yard and sat looking at us (studying us?) for another hour before they ambled off. Fascinating critters.

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  4. Oh! Typo! Heehee, thanks — no, not mean, I took it as “week” — it could have meant, did it take a week, or what week drawn, or is this a weekly raccoon! I myself am constantly swearing (genteelly of course) at the spell “correction” thingie…

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