Sunday, March 17, 2013

When It Rains part 2: A Ghost Story of Characters

In honor of Illustration Friday's theme, Glasses, I wanted to post some sketches to finals of Beyond the Grave, a middle grade choose-your-own adventure novel written by Dotti Enderle, coming from Magic Wagon in September 2013. These were part of my "rainy spring" I mentioned in this post;)

The two main (living) characters are Dylan and Michael. Dylan is the brash commander of the operation who gets the team into trouble, Michael is the timid unlikely sort-of hero. The only notes on characterizations I got from the editorial director were that Dylan should have hair in his eyes and Michael should have glasses. I started by doing several sketches of each boy. Since I knew they would mostly have conniving or terrified looks on their faces I didn't worry much about making them smile or look happy in my sketches. Not sure how this inspired the sketches, but I settled on my final designs while watching Tangled with the kids over Christmas break. Maybe Dylan has a bit of Flynn Rider in him?

Then I worked on the page sketches. In this first illustration from the book, we see Dylan and Michael together in Dylan's room. I felt like this image really needed to set the tone for what was to come. You see Dylan's cemetery hobby taped all over the walls and Michael's hesitance to come into the room. Their body language tells the reader what to expect of these characters as the story unfolds. The room itself is also a "character" as the lighting and decor help describe Dylan for the reader.

In this second illustration from the book, the two boys hatch a plot to do Something Really Dangerous In A Graveyard. I felt like the lighting was everything in this piece. The glow from the laptop underlines the spooky subject the boys are investigating and Dylan looks more determined and sneaky. Michael needed to look interested but not that crazy about the idea. I enjoyed using his glasses to portray his expression.

Here are the finals for the two pieces. Even though these appear sequentially in the book I didn't actually work on them one after the other. I have a habit of skipping all around page order when doing finals since I think it helps make the characters more uniform throughout. More on that in the next post!

Friday, March 1, 2013

When It Rains: a marathon of illustrations, coffee, and 80s music

Well hello, there is still a world out there. A few months ago over the course of about 2 weeks I was contacted by three new clients about doing some projects all due during February. The first was an educational publisher who had seen my work at the SCBWI LA conference in 2011. Their project was a fun little picture book about a girl having a bad day. The typical 16 illustrations plus cover were needed. Then came a call from a school and library publisher with a middle grade adventure novel needing 8 interior illustrations plus cover. How exciting! I'd never worked on a chapter book before and I loved the idea of working in black and white. Now about this time I already had in the mix some projects from the Most Awesome Art Director Ever a.k.a. my friend Keith - about 15 illustrations for various VBS books. Finally just after the first of the year, I got an email from Carus Publishing asking me to do my very first project for Ladybug magazine. That was really special, because it came after years of submission as I mentioned in this post.

Now did anyone do the math on all those projects? Let's see, 16 + 9 + 10 + 1 = one mind boggled illustrator and 2 months of super human time management.

December and January were awash with doing sketches and getting approvals. By January 31st all the sketches were approved and the deadlines lined up like this: Feb 8, 15, 22, 28, and March 1st. This photo represents how many cups of coffee I consumed on a daily basis, the kitchen counter in the background represents the state of my house cleaning. Fortunately there's no photographable evidence of how many frozen pizzas my kids ate for dinner.

To any budding illustrator readers out there sometimes this is what the blessings of diligence look like. Creating an illustration is not the same as filling out a spread sheet so the hardest part was keeping the creative well flowing every time I sat down to work (the excesses of caffeine and lots of 80s music helped.) Often I felt like the sketch above, a carhop twirling and zigging between customers. Instead of carrying a plain old hotdog to each one, I was carrying meticulously crafted wedding cakes.

Even though it was a blur of work, I'm intensely grateful for each project as they all represent a new step in my career. Each one is turned in now and I'll post finals and details as they are all approved. For the moment I'm looking forward to a bit of a night off.