Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Drawing in Church 6/19 & 6/5

I've had some actual deadlines recently, which have been unfairly getting in the way of finishing my recent church sketchbook drawings. Here is a rare double dose of pew doodles. Pentecost Sunday was last week, always a good subject for the sketchbook. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Living Lungs

Scientific American called me for a illustration about new treatments for Cystic Fibrosis, a horrible illness that can cripple the lungs with mucus and gunk. These latest findings show evidence of cleaning up the lungs and making breathing easier.

Our last assignment, about the structure of the internet, was a fun problem, because it had to be metaphorical and accurate. As the magazine is geared towards the analytical, they feel a certain responsibility to making an illustration that is both true and beautiful, an exciting challenge. I was doodling during the graduation ceremony for Washington University, where I teach illustration, and came up with a couple good nuggets.

So, the sketches I showed focused on the feeling of being set free, finding new breath. I added a lot of gremlins and evil demons inside the gunk, but the art director felt those might be a bit distracting this time around.  Ultimately, the one with the actual lungs was the best fit for the article. But they were concerned that the gunk seemed like liquid and not mucus, so I had to do another sketch (with thanks to Basil Wolverton) that had more goop in it.

A few details of the final art.... perhaps I'll go back and add some demonic piranhas anyway.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Done with Dickens

I'm trilled to say I've just completed my fourth illustrated book for children, "A Boy Called Dickens," which will be published by Schwartz & Wade books in January 2012. The first draft of the story was roughed out in October, but I've been working on the final art since February. 

The story follows the childhood of Charles Dickens, a true account of hardship and misery that informed his life's work writing stories about London's working class poor. 

The book was written by Deborah Hopkinson, the author who collaborated with me on "Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek," my first foray in the world of picture books back in 2008. She is a huge fan of history and especially the stories of Charles Dickens. She's written a warm and charming book about his formative years highlighting a particularly foul time in Charles' life. 

Though my publisher has asked me not to show all the images from the book, I've selected a few of my favorites to give you a sneak peek, including the cover and endpapers. Here is an image of the full jacket, including the back, flaps and spine without all the additional type on it.

When you think of a story about Dickens, you imagine a foggy soot covered London, which is exactly where we start. Much of the classic tropes about London life in the 19th century come directly from Dicken's childhood experiences. 

For this book, I worked a bit differently than I have in the past. I used ink only in selective places, to highlight characters or objects, and the background and atmosphere of the images were created with graphite sticks and pencil. This was tricky to figure out how to keep the wash from obliterating the graphite entirely. I experimented and figured out I could lightly fix the pencil and still get the washes to go on top of it successfully. You'll see that most of these images have open/flat passages in them, which were designed for the story text to be placed there, which is not in these images. 

He worked long days in a Blacking Factory (shoe polish), was cold and hungry at night while his parents we're incarcerated in debtors prison. The character of Bob Fagin, from Oliver Twist, was the name of good friend he knew at the Blacking Factory. 

Deborah imagines him going home and making up stories about the characters he met during his long days. These characters and stories swirl around Charles throughout the book, like ghosts and spirits that haunt him, as he makes his way home. 

At the age of 10, he longed to study and read like the boys in school, but his mother made him work to support the family. He visited the family in prison on Sundays and worked the other days to pay off his father's debts.

The endpapers are a visual nod to the different worlds he inhabited as a poor working child and one of the most influential writers of all time.

Time to brush up on your Charles Dickens before next year. In 2012, the publishing world will commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth, so prepare yourself for Dickens-palooza. Have you got a favorite Dicken's book or a favorite character? I'd love to hear about it.