Building The Penny

Building a book is like building anything else with your hands. You draw up some plans, refine the best designs, perhaps make a model, and then set to work. There are millions of tiny choices you make— a color here, a word change here, a different line there – but at last, and sort of suddenly too, you find yourself looking at the skeleton of a book. After nearly a year of work, my very first hard-back picture book is out and selling well, thanks to local author/self-publisher Andy Cutts!

Starting last summer, first-time author Andy Cutts and I teamed up to build The Penny, a 40 page picture book about the sailboat that Andy’s grandfather built circa 1958. The plan was for Andy to self-publish and distribute the 2-color book once I completed the illustrations and book design in the spring of 2011. After many discussions and meetings, my drawing tasks began with some character designs of Andy’s family.

Grampete, the main character, was tough to get right. I wanted to capture his love for sailing and family, but also embody the tenacity of hardworking New England engineer. I threw out dozens of drawings before finding this design. Here’s the rough model sheet of Grampete for the final version in the book:

Family photos and a trip to the cottage on Lake Winnepesaukee helped me find the mood. The other family members and neighbors came fairly easily. But the Penny herself was most difficult of all– boats are tough to begin with, and the Penny was a sleek, light-weight batten seam construction 20′ sail boat. It was important to get her as close as possible to the original design, but there were no plans for her left, and the real Penny no longer existed!

Now I already liked Google. Google Image Search, Google Maps, Google Earth. But the 3-D modeling program called Google SketchUp? A total god-send! It’s free, fairly easy to use, and thanks to the tutorial videos and lots of tinkering I was finally able to “build” a real model of the boat that I could rotate in space and draw directly from. The model isn’t a thing of beauty, and definitely isn’t seaworthy. But it worked nonetheless! Here is a screen shot of my model boat’s skeleton:

From there I was able to confidently draw the Penny over and over again, and the book dummy (or rough draft) began to take shape. Just to show a little more of my process, here is the rough draft, the sketch draft, and the final draft for spread 22/23, which features Grampete waving to the Mount Washington from the bow of the Penny. Few of the other final spreads so closely resemble the original roughs, but this gives an idea of how the project developed:

More images and more about The Penny coming soon. Stay tuned for the official book release in New Hampshire on July 2nd!

 

5 thoughts on “Building The Penny”

  1. That cover, especially, is splendid! A lovely drawing that’s full of tension from the heeling craft and taut rigging, balanced by the calm repose of Grampete and the anticipation of the youngsters. Simple, clear type, too. Did you design the cover? Whoever did simply knocked it out of the park. I’m keen to see the book. Will you let us know how to order it when it’s available?

  2. Thanks so much Al! I did design the cover– it was wonderful to have complete control over the entire book and package design. If you want a copy let me know– I can get you one directly, or you can visit the Norwich Bookstore or the Dartmouth Bookstore and pick one up in the children’s section. Hurray!

  3. Love the book! This heartfelt story of family tradition is very touching, and the illustrations really bring it to life. The drawings accurately portray the sailboat construction and also capture the emotions of the characters. Clever use of Google sketch-up. Fantastic job! Keep up the great work.

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