This particular book caught the eye of editor Christy Ottaviano (Christy Ottaviano Books, a division of Henry Holt Publishers) and she contacted me about a picture book project that she felt was a perfect match for me to create the illustrations for, entitled Make Big Plans.
This is the true story (written by Betsy Harvey Kraft) of American engineer George Washington Ferris who created the first giant "observation wheel" for the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago... which was such an instantaneous hit with the public that it became known simply as The Ferris Wheel. So, in order to create the illustrations for this book, I had to submerge myself in all things 1893...
To put just the research involved for such a project into perspective, the most recent picture book I illustrated, (BOOM! -released in 2013, and published by Disney's Hyperion Books) which is a story about a boy and his little dog that is afraid of thunder... To create the sketches for that book I only had to research TWO photographs for use as reference: a picture of a firetruck, and another photo of an orangutan. In comparison, for the Ferris Wheel book, I had to wade through over 2,000 vintage photos to select the 150 specific photos that I would use as reference in creating all the preliminary sketches!
I began the sketch process in September 2013 and finished in December 2013. I began the final art process on January 1st 2014 and will finish all the final art images near the end of May 2014. Posted here is one of the illustrations I have completed for the book thus far. It is a scene where the giant steel wheel is being constructed and people curiously gather to ponder the oddity of its design. Not only did I have to get the actual depiction of the wheel's construction process correct, I also had to observe the proper fashions and architecture of the day correctly as well.
Shown here is the initial (1) rough sketch, the (2) refined final sketch (which is shown to the editor) and also the (3) final completed illustration, created by making all the drawings (the wheel, the scaffolding, the people, the background, etc...), and painted textures, then combining all these elements into Photoshop, where I then compile everything into my composition, and add digital color too.
|Make Big Plans/ initial rough sketch visit stevensalerno.com|
My initial rough sketch of the art image for the page spread scene, which also indicates where the text will be positioned on the right side page and to follow the curve of the illustration.
|Make Big Plans/ refined final sketch visit stevensalerno.com|
The refined final sketch, which is shown to the editor. Here the text is roughly
dropped into place too, to make sure I am allotting sufficient space within the art for the text.
In most instances I do my sketches in B&W only, and will work out the color as I execute the final art... however during the sketch stage I do indeed begin to plan how I will approach the color.
|Make Big Plans/ final illustration visit stevensalerno.com|
The final completed illustration. But since I will not submit all the final art to the publisher for a few more months, I still might make slight changes to this illustration.
By far, the illustrations for Make Big Plans are easily the most intense for me to create compared to any of the other 20 books I've illustrated to date.This is by virtue of having to get all the period references correct, but mostly due to all the scenes involving physical mechanics, architectural elements... and with the most important visual task of making it all look bold and beautiful and well designed.
I am only at about the half way mark in completing the final art for Make Big Plans, and I physically feel like I have illustrated two books already!
The sad part... is knowing that George Ferris died just a couple years after the successful debut of his wildly popular invention, at the young age of 37. But indeed his vision lives on still to this day, as "Ferris Wheels" continue to be a part of our social landscape around the world.
Visit stevensalerno.com to see samples from my many other picture books for kids, as well as my work for advertising, product packaging, etc...