Tag Archives: Illustration

Three hundred pages of S. S. Taylor’s EXPEDITIONERS!

‘Tis Friday the 13th, which means that I finally get to announce the THIRD book (!!) that is on my desk and in my life: this spring and summer I am teaming up with none other than mystery novelist/teacher Sarah Stewart Taylor to illustrate the first in her fabulous chapter book series, THE EXPEDITIONERS! Whooooot!! Book one, THE TREASURE OF DROWNED MAN’S CANYON, is full of action, suspense, high adventure, and a dab of steampunk futurism, and is exactly what I would have loved to read when I was a kid. I am oh-so-happy that the weeks and months ahead will be filled with time spent in the world of this book. Orphaned children and government agents? Mysterious treasure, terrifying cave birds, and a newly discovered glowing slug? Boy howdy, do I love it!!

Here’s how our publisher describes THE EXPEDITIONERS online: “Explorer of the Realm Alexander West has disappeared and is presumed dead under mysterious circumstances while on an expedition … But not before smuggling half of a strange map to his three intrepid children — Kit, the brain, M. K., the tinkerer, and Zander the brave. Why are so many people trying to steal the half-map? What powerful secrets does it hold? (And where is the other half?) It’s up to Alexander’s children — call them The Expeditioners — to get to the bottom of these questions, and fast. Success could mean fame and wild riches. Failure could be … Well, let’s just say failure is not an option!”

Sarah and I first met at The Center for Cartoon Studies where she teaches writing classes to first and second-year students. While Sarah is a terrific teacher, and her graphic novel on Amelia Earheart is one of my favorites, I never dreamed that I’d soon be at work on her first book project written for children. THE TREASURE OF DROWNED MAN’S CANYON will be out this November from McSweeney’s McMullens, which means that it will be my first book with a major publisher to hit the shelves of a book store. There is still a vast amount of work to do between now and the final art for both the interior and the cover, but it begins with notes and sketches filling the margins of the 308-page manuscript as my studio wall rapidly fills up with roughs:

With the thirty-six black and white illustrations we’ll need for the book, I’m doing by best to try and both 1) capture each scene and 2) maintain an even pace. In the end it will be a bit of a balancing act, as there are 50+ chapters of 2-10 pages each, but thanks to a terrific 2-day brainstorm with Sarah in my New York apartment and many, many hours of work put in at my drawing table, I think we’ve hit on a good direction from which to take the roughs. The next step is to fully work through all thirty-six drawings to get a clearer sense of what’s working… and what’s not.

The loudest “THANK YOU!” ever shouted is soaring over hills towards the state of Vermont. Sarah, thank you so much for wanting to work on this series with me, it’s been a privilege and an honor to be on your team and build this visual world. I’m already such a huge fan and can hardly wait to read the rest of the books to come!

Last, but not at all least, a programming note is needed for this simultaneous explosion of good news: EXPEDITIONERS, CITIES, and SHARK all at once would not have been possible without my Amazing Agent, who has maintained order in my drawing universe for the last four months straight. Stephen, I think I owe YOU a burger feast. Or, in the very least, a bacon pancake shake. : )

 

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!

 

Tomb of the Diver

The Tomb of the Diver is an archaeological monument in Paestum, Italy. I have been there, I have seen it, and it is breath taking; a Greco-Roman vision of Dreaming and Eternity. While walking home tonight the famed diver came to mind, gracefully suspended above the water, contemplating the unknown. What waits beneath the surface of an idea? Deep places, dark monsters, and a lot of uncertainty. But it is time to stop stalling and jump in.

Inspired by the Tomb of the Diver