Monday, June 6, 2011

Breakdown of an Illustrated Book Part I

Over the next month or so I will diagram and breakdown how I put together an illustrated book with sketches and descriptions of how the process evolves. For "Ross the Reader and the Great Balloon Race" the project began in March of 2010 when I was asked to illustrate this 3rd book for the Grand Prairie ISD by Belinda Jacks, then Director of Library Media Services for GPISD and her team (Carmen Galindo, Monica Dubiski, Kyla Schooling and Kathy Brundrett). After an initial meeting in which Belinda and her co-workers described the project I jotted some of the more notable impressions and concrete details of the story and settings:  a balloon race (obviously!) set in 1885 America and highlighting Washington D.C., Niagara Falls, Yellowstone National Park, San Francisco and of course Grand Prairie, Texas. So after reading the manuscript (which underwent some later text revisions without changing any of the concept, characters, scenarios or settings) here are some of the initial sketches I did almost immediately after that first meeting.

After that it was more a matter of re-designing/retooling the main characters who had already appeared in two previous books, illustrated by another artist, Ross Edgerley. It took a little bit of adjusting to his style but it was inevitable that I would add my own interpretation to the characters. Since I am a costume designer I had an overall concept of what clothes looked like in 1885. But for more specific detail I referred to several sources including Douglas Gorsline's "What People Wore" which has an extensive section on American costume of the Old West. Coloring was subject to interpretation as the drawings in Gorsline's book are in black and white but I knew what dyes were available then from descriptions and photos of existing costumes in many museum collections.

The villains were a particular joy to do as this trio of baddies had not appeared in the other books and so I had free reign other than chosing the names. The horse Parsnip was originally female (which somehow had escaped me in the first read) but after doing this sketch I insisted that the horse be male. They loved it. I have no idea why I added a bowler hat and monocle but besides wanting to make him a different color from the hero horse Scout, I wanted to give him a falsely snobbish identity as if to say he was better than any other horse by his prim accessories.

Next time:  building and recreating historically accurate settings and backgrounds.