The spring and summer have flown by and the fall’s nearly over. Which means that it’s time for…
S. S. Taylor and I are proud to announce that The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’sCanyon is hitting stores this week! This is my first time illustrating a novel and I am OH-SO-EXCITED about this fantastic book. What a wonderful team to work with, and I can’t thank Sarah Stewart Taylor enough for bringing me on board!
I have one more announcement to make: after much consideration the time has come for me to transition away from Caterpillar Publishing and continue my blog at the domain http://www.katherineroy.com . The content here will stay up for now, but all news about my work and coming book projects will be posted over at my gorgeous new site. Please follow me there, join my email list, and add me to your RSS feed as I get it up and running!
Thank you so much for reading my blog, whether this is your first post or your 100th. Your enthusiasm and support means the world, and I can hardly wait to share with you what’s ahead. See you at the new site!
The EXPEDITIONERS proofs are fresh of the presses and my illustrations for BURIED BENEATH US are in! So what, might you ask, am I up to right now? I’M PACKING FOR MY OWN PERSON SHARK WEEK, YO!!
Tomorrow I am flying out to San Francisco, California to accompany TOPP‘s (Tagging of Pacific Predators) white shark tagging team while they do their work at the Farallon Islands. No, I will not be cage diving, and feeding and petting the wild life is not advised, but I plan to sketch and photograph as much as possible and to interview as many people in the Farallon community as I can. Not to mention, of course, see my first white shark!
While this research trip isn’t mandatory for my book to see print, I’m absolutely certain that this first-hand experience will enrich the content of the project. It’s clear that the final pages are where I have the most rewriting to do, and being out on the water with Farallon scientists will fill out my understanding of these beautiful creatures and their fragile ecosystem.
I’m incredibly grateful to the Farallon community for the welcome enthusiasm and support of my book project! More to come soon! Follow me now on Twitter or Instagram at @KRoyStudio.
For the last few weeks galley copies of THE EXPEDITIONERS have been out in the world in search of reviews. I imagine the books all huddled together, whispering and giggling through thick mailing envelopes, as they wait to be loved by a child or a blogger or read by someone from Kirkus. The books are just gorgeous (and they’re only galleys!) and Sarah and I couldn’t be more delighted. In anticipation of a wonderful review from Kirkus coming out today (THANK YOU, KIRKUS!) I thought I’d share a few design sketches for the final hardback book cover. It’s not often that illustrators get to draw tremendously cool double fold-out wrap-around covers—printing costs are too high for most publishers to splurge—but McSweeney’s is all about the book-as-art-object, and McSweeney’s McMullens for kids is no different!
As with any illustration project for me the cover began with concept sketches scribbled in a notebook. It needed to feature both the four main characters and a beautiful southwestern environment, so I started with a two different directions: one in a montage movie poster style and the other focused on a story moment at a waterfall:
After much deliberation with a trusted few we all agreed it would be best to combine the two ideas into one. One 30-second sketch later (see the lower right-hand corner of the black and white sketch above) I had the framework for the final drawing. Combined with editor Brian McMullen’s gorgeously designed logo font it suddenly felt like a real cover!
From there I did a simple sketch for the wrap-around outer cover: And then digitally drew on top of it to finalize the design:
This last image is very close to what the (front) cover will look like once the subtitle and credits are in place. The book is available for pre-order now from your favorite local bookstore or from Amazon.com. Nine weeks left to release! Whoo-eee!
A friend of mine just alerted me that my comic 25 Cents was posted on the Drawn blog a few days ago. Thank you John Martz! I’m delighted to share it! For more caterpillar comics check out the tab above or find get my mini-comics through my Etsy store. More work from me soon; my studio is filled with Incans and Mayans!
Before working on BURIED I really didn’t know much about the Inca. I knew they lived in Peru, in the high mountains of the Andes, and I’d of course seen lots of dreamy photos of Macchu Picchu and llamas with tassles. Oh, and of course there’s that Disney movie. Kronk was surely based on a historical figure, right?
But after months of research there’s one thing I now know for sure: above all else it seems the Inca were big fans of rocks. Big rocks, round rocks, square rocks, little sissy rocks… pretty much any kind of rock. They dragged rocks over great distances to build their homes, they hauled rocks up steep mountains to build castles and temples, they carved rocks to match the silhouettes of mountains of celestial significance, and they did all of it–all of it!!– without iron tools, draught animals, the wheel, mortar, or a written language. Their rock building techniques are still something of a mystery to modern day archaeologists.
NOVA even put out a short documentary in 1997 called The Secrets of Lost Empires (Disc 3) that explores efforts to replicate Inca building methods by leading researchers in the field. According to the film, how did the ancient Inca carved 15 ton boulders? With a great deal of patience, human labor… and more rocks.
Inca 1: How are we going to carve this giant rock? All we’ve got is wood, bone, and rock.
Inca 2: Hey! I know! Let’s use this other rock!
The Inca were clearly doing something right; the walls that survived the Spanish conquistadors have withstood dozens of earthquakes in the last 500 years (while the colonial buildings on top of them have repeatedly collapsed. Ha! Take that, Spanish conquistadors!) Archaeologists have an idea of Cusco’s original layout, but, like the present-day city of Alexandria, there’s very little to show for its original splendor.
Now part of my job as the illustrator for BURIED is to do a spread that depicts ancient Cusco. And for someone who needs to draw a recreation of the original city, a simple archaeological map of scattered foundation lines isn’t all that much to go on. I thought that perhaps I might track down an ink sketch or two from an artistic conquistador’s journal, but the only source image of the city on record is this painting by a Spanish monk, completed after the earthquake of 1650 about 100 years after Pizarro conquered the Inca. In other words, this doesn’t look much like Cusco as the Inca knew it.
The only other illustration leads available to me were the existing foundations of the Temple of the Sun at the Coriancha. Plated in with hundreds of sheets of gold and home to Inca kings and priests, the Coriancha sat at the heart of Cusco and was of course Pizarro’s first place of pillage. Today the foundations of the Coriancha still stand and bear the weight of the Church of Santo Domingo, and (luckily for me!) is the site of ongoing restoration inside the walls of the Church. Between tourist photos online and an archaeologist’s recreated drawing, I could begin to conceive of what this small part Cusco might have originally looked like.
First I used the photos and the drawing above to make a quick clay model to draw from for my roughs (it’s terribly useful to turn a model in space, and it’s also a welcome break from sketching!) The drawings themselves were easy, but I was quickly frustrated by how un “city-like” the Coriancha appeared. The small handful of steeply sloped buildings felt terribly underwhelming compared to the vast expanse of Copan or Tenochtitlan. (In the case of Copan, the city was abadoned to the jungle, and in the case of Tenochtitlan there was indeed an artistic conquistador on the scene. No such luck with Cusco.)
In the end I chose to shift the angle of the drawing, focusing on the view of the Coriancha from below. A little wisp of smoke and some sun breaking through the clouds in the final drawing will help increase the drama of the scene, and I’m much happier with the city spanning the full width of the page spread. And look at all of that beautiful Inca rock that I get to draw for the book!
Last month was full of drawing, friends, family, and good food, and since we just got back from a quick trip to the Cape I thought I’d share a handful of visual inspirations from July. These images represent in some way the things currently knocking around in my brain:
I look forward to whatever it is that August holds. In the meantime back to my work on CITIES!
Lately as I work on the sketches for BURIED I’m struck by the sheer volume of sun-worship and sacrifice across cultures. Growing up going to Sunday school gave me a disconcerting familiarity to Judeo-Christian sacrifice—of course lambs and first born sons should be slaughtered on altars to appease [the sun] god!—but somehow it’s never really sunk in that this tradition is true for every other religion. Building by building, city by city, the Maya, Inca, Aztec and Mississippi peoples all oriented their architecture towards celestial events as places of sacrifice. The sun rises behind this temple, venus rises in front of that one, and in the case of the Mayan Kukulcan Temple in Chichen Itza, a hand clap directed towards the stairs will echo back as the call of the quetzal bird, the embodiment of Kukulcan himself:
For as long as there has been religion priests have used these kinds of special effects and hocus pocus to validate their tribute demands from their people. This application of astronomy and architecture doesn’t prove or disprove anything about the existence of god, of course, but what amazes me is just how similar the ideas are across all cultures around the world. Wrong or right, religion of any kind does make us feel part of a bigger picture, and if we link ourselves to things beyond our control then we have relief from and less responsibility for our own destiny. I know nothing has really changed—the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. lines up with the sunrise, too (implying a great deal about the religion of capitalism, no?)—but it seems like maybe once upon a time someone out there would have had different ideas.
Or maybe they just had that guy killed?
On a completely different note, a little update on SHARK: I’ve finally purchased plane tickets to fly out and do some first-hand research this fall! Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of several scientists and Farallon experts in the Bay Area, I will be spending several days on the water in early October to witness great white shark tagging and get a water tour around the islands. My foul-weather gear is ready, and Dramamine is at the top of my packing list; fingers-crossed that the sharks put in an appearance while I’m there!