Thursday, July 7, 2011

Breakdown of an Illustrated Book Part 2

In this post I will diagram some of the challenges in creating settings for a picture book. Once I receive the manuscript, do the layout of the pages (another whole sidebar series I will try to cover later on) and create the characters then the backgrounds need to be designed. In a fictional, completely fantastic story the artist can create and design a world utterly from scratch. This means interpreting the story according to the dictates of the artist's imagination. But since we are all much more comfortable with being able to identify everyday objects used in even a fantastic setting means basing at least some of those designs on our own everyday reality. Even Dr. Seuss had in his drawings identifiable rooms with what looked like functional doors and windows; furniture that appeared to be dressers, chairs, and beds.

My own exploration of Chinese art and landscapes c.1995

But even a fictional story with an actual historical setting requires a lot of research. For something like the "Kung Fu Panda" series of movies, the characters are anthropomorphic animals playing out their drama in a very believable medieval Chinese setting. I noticed in both movies that an extreme amount of attention was paid to making sure the color schemes, textiles, furniture, interiors, decorations and landscapes were based on traditional historic Chinese models. For "Ross the Reader and the Great Balloon Race" the story took place in 1885 America. Highlights were to include scenes depicting Washington, D.C., Niagara Falls, Yellowstone National Park and San Francisco.

Endpapers for "Ross the Reader and the Great Balloon Race"
For the initial introduction of the race, the heroes have made their way to Washington, D.C. on the mall in front of the U.S. Capitol building where President Grover Cleveland announces the rules for the contest. The elements I needed to pack in this one illustration were:  the balloons, the President and his retinue on the grandstand, the capitol building, and the large crowd of spectators in period dress. Obviously, to me, there is no way to "cheat" the look of the capitol building, so there was no other choice but to research it's look as thoroughly as possible and "build" it up like a layer cake. Besides that, it is the one icon of our government and Washington, D.C. that almost every American can recognize.
U.S. Capitol building illustration from sketch to final
In the finished illustration below you can see I have established the look of the main villains to center right and the hero characters at far right. You might also be interested to know that this was one of the first pieces that I completed for the book. As in most works like this there were very few if any changes in the clothing that the heroes and villains wore. There were only a few exceptions in order for the viewers to be more readily able to identify them visually throughout the book.
Next time, an even more detailed set of illustrations and the exhaustive research required in portraying San Francisco at the end of the 19th century.

No comments:

Post a Comment