Monday, April 29, 2013

Slow ahead. I can go slow ahead.

Time Frame: Just at the opening credits.
Amount of Book Complete:  I did the math.  Based on an average number of frames per page, including pages that aren't yet complete, one of these photos adds up to 0.02% of the book.

Before I started this one, I was thinking of locations other than India's house where she might find herself.  The beach came to mind.  I figured India wasn't the type of little girl to imagine herself as a mermaid or to build sand castles.  But what would she do?  Well, she would probably play "Jaws".  Most little girls have a deep and abiding admiration of Roy Scheider, right?

I knew this scene would be a great example of India's odd inner life.  I also knew it would be crazy fun to draw.  Here are several of the initial sketches:

As you can see, I was experimenting with composition and camera angles in the first layouts. Sometimes layout sketches aren't so easy.  Not like going down the pond and chasin' bluegills and tommycod.  But eventually, after chumming for the right sketch for what seemed like forever, I found the right one.

And this here's what it looked like finished:

Aside from the concept (because just about anything "Jaws" related is great.  Except, of course, for the sequels), I like that the typical roles of India and her doll are reversed in this scene.  I also like that her doll is wearing Quint's hat (it's oily with the bill sharply creased in the middle), I like her water wings even though she's on shore, and I like the fact that the guy in the background is sunburned.

So much fun.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Left my cake out in the rain. And I'll never want that recipe again.

Time Frame: Still in the concept phase (just starting the book)
Amount of Book Complete: 1% or less.

During the course of most long term projects (the ones I've worked on, anyway) there are almost always parts of those projects that don't make the cut.  Ideas, drawings, designs, etc.  There are all sorts of reasons.  Sometimes the story changes and a panel is no longer needed.  Sometimes it's a matter of space (like with the French Revolution photo).

With this one, though, it was because I REALLY didn't like this drawing.  And still don't.

The idea behind it was fine.  Ultimately, I think the other photo concepts are more imaginative and interesting, but that wasn't a deal breaker.  The drawing makes me cringe, though.  I was still experimenting somewhat with her character design and India's features are just crazy looking in this version.  Her face is too round, her mouth is too wide, and her eyes make her look twitchy and high strung.

I like the depth of the color, but that's about it.  I've never been sorry I left this one out.  In fact, don't even read this.  If you've already read it...well, shoot.  Maybe if I gave you something else to think about.  Like Funfetti cake.

Yes.  Think about Funfetti cake instead of this lousy drawing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Of Postmen and Pirates

Time Frame: Saturday's Childhood
Amount of book complete: Two "photo" illustrations and a few concept drawings and not much else.

Creating a set of drawn photos to go into a book isn't a brand new idea, but I don't think it's super common either.  Like I said, the original motivation behind the photo drawings was to let me explore and think about the character concepts, colors, style, etc.  But they served other purposes as well.  Along with adding detail (I love me some detail), I think they help to pull the reader into the story by making the characters more believable.

There was a book I loved when I was a kid called "The Jolly Postman." It was written by Janet and Allen Ahlberg.  The story was about a postman who delivers letters to various fairy tale characters.  It was a fun story with equally fun illustrations, but what really amazed me was that the letters were actually inside the book.  Various pages throughout the book had envelopes glued to them and you could pull the letters out and read them.  It was AWESOME.

I'm not sure how much this book (or any book from my childhood) influenced me later in life, but I think about that book all the time.  Actually including the letters in the book was a great way to involve people in the story and make it seem more believable.  Plus it was super fun.

What book from your childhood was unforgettable?  Why?  If you want to share your answers here, I'll put some of them up next time.

In a way, the photos in "Saturday" play a similar role to the letters in "The Jolly Postman" (I hope so, anyway).  My hope is that they make people more interested in the characters in the book by making readers think about the lives these characters live off the page.

This was the next photo in the group:

As you can see, this was the first version and it's unfinished.  At this point, I knew more or less what the character model was, but this is an early version (you can tell by her glasses).  Here's the final version:

Maybe you can tell from this second drawing, but I was starting to have a LOT of fun here.  That was one of the main goals right from the beginning.  Other goals included:

1.) Make a book that the 10 year old me AND the 30 year old me would want to read
2.) Make a book people would want to read more than once
3.) Create a fun story where every panel was well-drawn and interesting
4.) Brass Ring Goal: Make the book something that will hopefully inspire people to draw.

 Fingers crossed.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

You say you want a revolution...

Time frame: Still pert near the beginning
Amount of book complete: Not much

Once I had a better idea of India’s character model, I went back to the “photographs”.  The next in the set was a French Revolution themed illustration where India’s doll would once again find herself in an unfortunate scenario.  But it was mostly her fault.  She never should have made that comment about cake.

It wasn’t just India’s character model that changed.  Her personality changed a bit as well.  Initially, India was going to be pretty dark (almost like Wednesday Adams).  But I didn’t want the “dark” thing to be the dominant feature of India’s personality, so I pared it back a bit.

This drawing never actually made it into the book.  Admittedly, playing French Revolution gallows is pretty dark, but it was left out because I ran out of space, not because I felt it was pushing the “acceptable” limit.

As with the Howard Carter/Mummy photo, I drew this one the first time around with India’s original character model and then re-did it when she was redesigned.  Here's a very rough layout sketch of the first version, followed by the final:

 And here's a rough sketch of the second version followed by the final final version:

All sorts of things changed between the first and second versions (aside from India, of course).  The design of India's doll changed as well.  The original looked a bit like a Raggedy Ann doll.  I decided I wanted the doll to look more vacant so that her expression would always contrast with the scene.  India's doll would always look like she was going to the mall regardless of what was happening around her.

With this drawing, I was starting to feel more confident about the characters and the tone of the story, but also about the whole project itself.  Before I'd begun these, the story was just an idea.  These first drawings started to make it feel like it was actually going to happen, which encouraged me to keep going.


Monday, April 15, 2013

They Grow Up So Fast

Time Frame: Several Years Ago
Amount of Book Complete: Maybe 1%

So, like I said in the last post, I had decided to begin the concept process for India and the book by creating a series of illustrations (meant to look like photos).

The good news was that it was working.  By drawing the first several photos, I was beginning to figure out some important elements.  The bad news was that one of the things I figured out was that the original character design for India just wasn't going to work:

This was one of the first versions.  Some of the details that would become permanent were already there: India's big, curly hair, her glasses, her clothes, etc.  But the shape of her glasses, her shoes, and several of the colors changed.  Most importantly, I realized she needed to speak.  As the general outline of the story started to take shape I began to see that India's complexities (her creativity, her sense of humor) would need a voice.  This was the next version:

There were details of this concept that I liked, but ultimately I thought she looked too old.  Maybe it was the handkerchief tying her hair back or the clam-like, frowning mouth, but this version didn't feel right, either.  Eventually, I went with a kind of hybrid between the first and second versions:

This one is closer to how India looks today: A more rounded and expressive face, the pink, square-ish glasses, the gray hoodie and purple skirt, etc.  But even this version (which appears on one of the early pages in the book) is a bit off model.  The longer I worked on the book, the more India's character model started to solidify.  It's changed since those first pages:

That means I'll have to double back at some point and fix the early drawings of India.  The changes aren't super dramatic and shouldn't take too long.  It's just one more part of the very steep learning curve this book has been for me.

Have I mentioned this book is also the most fun I've ever had drawing?  It turns out that's pretty important.  The fact that this book has been so much fun means that even the most tedious, technical moments have been a pleasure.  I really can't wait to share it.

Speaking of, it's time to get back to work.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Precious Memories

Timeframe: Several years ago.
Amount of book complete: Somewhere around 0%.  Give or take half a percent.

At this point, I figured I would start by creating a series of illustrations of the main character playing in imaginative and dark ways.  I wanted them to look like photographs (in terms of proportion, not style) probably taken by India's parents.  These early drawings were a way for me to figure out the character modeling, colors and style.  They were also a way for me to think about the story (I tend to think when I draw).

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I'd decided to use watercolor, colored pencil and ink for the book, in spite of the fact that it was glacially slow and the color wasn't as rich as I wanted.

This (I think) was the the first "photo":

A couple of notes:

1.) Notice how India doesn't have a mouth?  In the really early stages of the story/character development, India wasn't going to speak.  I remember getting a book called "The Snowman" as a kid and reading it dozens of times.  The idea that you could tell a story without dialogue or speech blew me away.  Originally, this was going to be the approach for "Saturday."

2.) Early in the story, India's doll was going to be featured more.  The early idea was that India had this very girly doll (a "Glitter Girl Glamor Doll"), but she didn't relate to it at all the way other girls her age did, so the doll usually ended up playing some kind of unfortunate roll in India's imaginary scenes.  While that element of India's character is still technically there, it ended up being mostly left out of the story.

3.) There are two different kinds of pith helmet in this illustration.

Although i thought this first attempt was ok, I didn't think I had pushed the concepts and visuals far enough.  So I tried again:

In this version the roles are reversed with India as the mummy and her doll as Howard Carter.  I also started experimenting with the idea that India would make her own elaborate props out of cardboard, hence the Tut-like sarcophagus lid with her glasses drawn on it.

I drew several of these photos with India's original design.  The more I thought about the story, though, the more I realized she would probably have to talk at some point.  Which meant she would need a mouth.  So I re-designed India and doubled back, re-drawing all the original photos:

The mouth, it turns out, doesn't just make word noises.  It also plays a big role in facial expressions.  This is information goes without saying for most people (heh heh: goes without saying...), but I had to discover it.  Because I'm a smart.

More soon.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Early Pages and Ideas

Even though a big chunk of the book is complete at this point, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the process from the beginning.  I'm a big fan of seeing how things are created and I'm always excited when other people share some of their process, so it seems fair for me to share mine.

You'll have to keep in mind, though, that many of these ideas and drawings are undercooked.

The first idea for "Saturday" came probably around ten years ago (I'm terrible with dates so some of this history will be murky).  It really just started as a collection of thoughts, some of which became early concept sketches.  Although the story was always about India and always had something to do with creativity and imagination, the story itself was much different in the beginning.

This is the first page I did for "Saturday":

Like I said, this was years ago.  Before I even started working with the tablet.  This is ink, water color and colored pencil on board.  I always loved the texture that's created when the tooth of the paper absorbs the color and lends its personality to the drawing.  I still do.  But this first page made me realize a few things:

1.) This is going to be a massive project.
2.) Water color and colored pencil aren't giving me the depth of color I want.
3.) If I use these mediums, the sun will burn out before I finish this thing.

Along with the character and the general idea behind the book, there was one other idea that was always in place: I wanted every panel and every page of this book to be well-crafted.  This meant it would take time, and it was another hint that these mediums wouldn't work.  See the shading on the clouds?  I did that using a Micron pen and drawing each hatch mark individually (a technique I stole from R. Crumb).  It was painstaking.  So even though I loved the way it looked, I knew I couldn't keep it up on a project this size.

At the time, I was still painting regularly in oils, so I did a little experimenting with that:

This was mostly just a concept where I was experimenting with possible colors, moods, and the general tone of the book.  I figured oil would give me the depth of color and texture I wanted and I was right.  Unfortunately, it was even slower than watercolor (mostly because of the drying time).  I could use oils, but not fast the way some illustrators can.  Also, I didn't know how to make the sharp lines and outlines I wanted with a brush.

Eventually, I figured watercolor was the best option for the sake of speed and the look I wanted, so I went back to that.

To be continued...

Saturday, April 6, 2013