Saturday, July 9, 2016

...more sci-fi creature designs

As an illustrator, I am so busy with my children's picture book assignments... I had two more picture books released in 2015, and two more released in 2016, with four more picture books slated for release in the next couple years as well. To date I think I've had about 25 picture books published. They are challenging and satisfying... (visit stevensalerno.com to view some of my many picture books for kids)

But I still have time to doodle and create art images for my own, some of which are alien creature sketches. I enjoy imagining what a creature from another world might look like, and have created so many fanciful creature designs that I made a separate portfolio section on my illustration web site just to show them, even though they are not at all connected to any illustration assignments I do for my clients in magazines, advertising and publishing -that is until earlier this year...

visit stevensalerno.com to view his sci-fi creature sketches

visit stevensalerno.com to view his sci-fi creature sketches

visit stevensalerno.com to view his sci-fi creature sketches

Back in January I was contacted by a publisher who was creating a book for a major motion picture company's new sci-fi film -to be released this year. (The reason why I am not giving names as to the publisher, the movie studio, or the name of the sci-fi film, is because I signed a confidentiality agreement. So right now I cannot divulge that info.)

Their project would require creating illustrations as if they were sketches drawn by a character from the film... Somehow the art director at the publishing house saw my "sci-fi" creature sketches on my illustration web site, and subsequently showed them to the people at the movie studio, and based on my creature designs I was offered the project of illustrating their book, which is a companion book to their movie. 

The images posted here are NOT from the soon-to-be-released book... just examples of some of the many creatures I have created. Lesson? Build it and they will come!

Visit stevensalerno.com to see his illustration portfolios and many picture books for kids.




Friday, June 3, 2016

"Puppy Princess" -a new picture book title from Little Golden Books/Random House

…posted here is my cover illustration for the new picture book title, Puppy Princess -written by Sue Fliess & illustrated by Steven Salerno. (publication release date: July 2016, Little Golden Books/Random House


cover of Puppy Princess -Little Golden Books- illustrated by Steven Salerno
Puppy Princess was my 24th illustrated picture book to date, with three more picture books slated for release in 2017 and 2018. 
When editor Diane Muldrow at Random House offered me this project, I jumped at the chance to illustrate the charming Sue Fliess story for very young readers and to become a part of the “A Little Golden Book” legacy. The illustrations for the book were created with crayon, charcoal, gouache with added digital composing and coloring. Even though the text does not describe the breed of the puppy in the story, when I first received the manuscript the author had noted that the puppy was a King Charles Spaniel, so that is how I depicted the puppy. (And it seems that there are many, many King Charles Spaniels where I live in Manhattan, so every time I was out for a walk I could always see one as additional visual reference in conjunction with the photo reference I had complied during my preliminary sketch stage.)
FYI: Little Golden Books were first published by Simon & Schuster in 1942 (they opened with the simultaneous publication of 12 titles) and since then have published over 200 additional Little Golden Book titles, which have been owned and produced by Random House since 2001. Within those first 12 titles published back in 1942 was the popular book The Poky Little Puppy -which was so popular in fact, that it went on to sell over 15 million copies to date, making it one of the, if not not highest selling individual picture book in history. So needless to say, I am hoping that Puppy Princess will have some of that very same puppy success!
Visit stevensalerno.com to see my many other picture books for kids, as well as my illustration portfolios for advertising, editorial, packaging, etc...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Kid from Diamond Street -the sketch & illustration process

This post highlights the sketch and illustration process for the 2016 picture book, The Kid from Diamond Street, written by Audrey Vernick, which was released back in April 2016. Our author-illustrator collaboration on her previous baseball themed true life picture book, Brothers at Bat in 2012 was such a success that our savvy and talented editor Jennifer Greene (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) wanted to team up Audrey and I again, especially since "The Kid" was another true life baseball story. We are hoping The Kid from Diamond Street will be an even bigger home run hit than the 2012 Brothers at Bat!
final cover, The Kid from Diamond Street
Back in 2012 Brothers at Bat was released by publisher Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt -written by Audrey Vernick) At the time it was my 19th illustrated picture book... and proved to be a very popular picture book (I think thus far it has sold nearly 60,000 hardcover copies), and was named a Notable Picture Book of 2012 by the New York Times Book Review -as well as being a Junior Library Guild Selection for Spring 2012. It also won the prestigious California Young Reader Medal in Picture Books in 2015. See an earlier post on the making of the illustrations for Brothers at Bat.

Since 2012 I have illustrated seven more picture books:
2013- Boom! 
(Disney/Hyperion Books, written by Mary Lyn Ray)

2015- The Fantastic Ferris Wheel 
(Christy Ottaviano Books, written by Betsy Harvey Kraft) 
see an earlier post on the making of the illustrations for this picture book

2015- Wild Child 
(Abrams Books for Young Readers, written by Steven Salerno)

2016- The Kid from Diamond Street 
(Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, written by Audrey Vernick)

2016- Puppy Princess 
(Little Golden Books/Random House, written by Sue Fliess)

2017- Goldenlocks and the Three Pirates 
(Farrar Straus & Giroux, written by April Jones Prince)

2018- Tim's Goodbye 
(Farrar Straus & Giroux, written by Steven Salerno)

See a reverse chronological list of my picture books released to date.


The Kid from Diamond Street was the third historical non-fiction true story picture book I have illustrated and they are such appealing picture book projects that currently I'm working on the sketches for yet another true story picture book for Penguin/Random House slated for a fall 2017 release.

It is the true story of Philadelphia girl Edith Houghton, who back in 1922 at the tender age of ten became a professional baseball player for the Philadelphia Bobbies in the all-female professional baseball league! Then in 1925, at age thirteen, Edith was a star player on the all-female American baseball team that toured Japan, competing against their all-male baseball teams.Illustrating the story was a terrific opportunity to create images in the look and feel of the roaring '20's time period... creating scenes with the style automobiles, trains, and ocean liners of that era, including the "flapper" style dresses, and of course the baggy baseball uniforms of the day. Not to mention depicting "old fashioned" typewriters, cameras, etc... 


a rough preliminary sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
My initial tactic in conceiving the illustrations for any picture book is to jump right in while reading the story manuscript that the editor sends over -by doodling miniature sketches directly into the margins of the manuscript while I read it... I do this because as I read the story's events and actions immediate images flood my mind regarding possible compositional approaches to the illustrations and the shorthand sketches help capture these initial ideas.

Shown below are eight views of these miniature doodle sketches that I draw into the manuscript as I read. They are literally just a couple inches in size…

manuscript margin doodle, The Kid from Diamond Street

manuscript margin doodle, The Kid from Diamond Street

manuscript margin doodle, The Kid from Diamond Street

manuscript margin doodle, The Kid from Diamond Street

manuscript margin doodle, The Kid from Diamond Street

manuscript margin doodle, The Kid from Diamond Street

manuscript margin doodle, The Kid from Diamond Street

manuscript margin doodle, The Kid from Diamond Street
The whole point of creating these miniature sketch doodles (above), which are nothing more than a kind of quick visual shorthand, is to rely on my initial gut instinct about how to approach illustrating the story. I create many, many of these little tiny sketches, getting closer and closer to figuring out how I will indeed approach composing the illustrations... Because they are so tiny I can get to the essence of the intended illustration -without wasting time rendering any details at all. These tiny doodle sketches are for my eyes only, being much too rough and premature for showing to the editor or art director anyway. They are the very important imaging genesis which leads to the start of the formal sketch stage.

After formulating a general idea (with the tiny doodle sketches) as to what all the illustrations will consist of in terms of which actions are to be depicted from the text, how the illustration will be composed to accommodate the text, page turns, etc... the next stage is to then begin creating somewhat larger (about 5"x7" or sometimes 8"x10") more detailed rough sketches using the earlier tiny doodles as the visual springboard...

Below are two sketches, the first one being very rough, and the second a much more evolved, refined version where I am developing the more mature and hopefully final composition for the planned illustration. (The sketches are ink, pencil, and crayon on paper) 
early rough sketch -draft 1, The Kid from Diamond Street

refined sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
In this scene the American women's baseball team in 1925 is traveling via steam ship across the Pacific Ocean to Japan, and one of Edith's teammates has joined the ballroom orchestra and is standing on a chair playing violin. While Edith, feeling sea sick, is sitting on the edge of the stage turning green.
refined sketch -draft  2, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above is the further developed sketch with tones added, and expanded to become a double page spread. This is a spread scene, and you can see that I have composed an area in the top right side where the story text will be positioned.

refined sketch with dummy text, The Kid from Diamond Street

Above is the same sketch with the dummy text blocked in, to make sure that I have indeed allowed enough space for it. You can see that the darkened curtain area on the left side above the character's heads will also accommodate reversed-white text, too.
final sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street


Above is the modified final sketch and just below the sketch is a detail view of the final illustration vignette. Here I had decided to eliminate the full spread scene of the ballroom dancers on the right page side, to be able to add in a vignette of Edith teaching one of the cruise passengers to dance the latest 1925 dance craze, the "Charleston." This little descriptive dance lesson gem within the story was too evocative and fun to pass up illustrating. This is the version sketch I considered final and ultimately was shown to the editor and art director and designer at the publishing house along with all the other final sketches.

Posted below are views of some of the preliminary sketches and their corresponding final sketches, which were then presented to the publisher. The preliminary sketches are pencil, crayon and ink. The final sketches are also created with pencil, crayon and ink, but are then scanned into Photoshop and have additional washes of tones added digitally. 
preliminary sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
final sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street

The above two sketches are the scene where we first meet baby Edith in the arms of her mother, surrounded by her nine other siblings, plus on the right side are three separate vignettes of Edith at age 3, 6, and 9…

preliminary sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
final sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
The above two sketches are the scene where Edith first tries out for the Philadelphia Bobbies all-female professional baseball team in 1922... Eventually though, in the final illustration, the many tiny faint vignettes of the various players were deleted, leaving just the three larger vignettes of Edith fielding and hitting…
preliminary sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
final sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street

The above two sketches are the scene where Edith is playing in a home game (she is at bat) and her parents are in the stands watching her. There is also a newspaper man in the stands clacking away on his typewriter on his lap (which as you can see he was not in the preliminary sketch version). 
preliminary sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
final sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street


detail of final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
The above two b&w sketches and the accompanying two views of the final color illustration are the scene where Edith is about to take her big travel adventure to Japan. She is ready with her bags, and behind her we see the intended path of her great journey: 12 days by train from Philadelphia to the west coast, then 13 days more by steam ship across the Pacific to Yokohama, Japan. 25 days halfway across the globe was a huge adventure for anyone at the time, especially for a thirteen year old girl! In the detail view of the final illustration you can see the texture of the painted gouache background which I compose into the final illustration via Photoshop layers.
detail of preliminary sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
preliminary sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
final sketch with dummy text, The Kid from Diamond Street
final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
detail final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
detail final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
The above three b&w sketches and the accompanying three views of the final color illustration are the scene where Edith and the American all-female baseball team have arrived in Japan, and are taking rickshaws through the streets to their hotel. Japan in 1925 had some people wearing traditional clothing and hairstyles and others in western suits and flapper style dresses of the day.... a clash of east meets west. The American team really did ride rickshaws from the cruise ship to their hotel, and in my research I found a blurry news photo from the day. That's why I also have a man with a film camera in the street watching the American team ride past him. So in order to create a plausible period illustration of the event I had to research the style of rickshaw of that time as well as the style of uniform the rickshaw pullers wore then, too. Not to mention the 1925 style automobile and the design of the license plate on the auto, the Japanese shop signs, etc...

preliminary sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
final sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street
final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street

detail of final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
The above two b&w sketches and the accompanying two views of the final color illustration are the scene where Edith is at bat in the very first game in Japan, with the all-female American team competed against all-male Japanese teams. The American women won more games than they lost. Edith was the star short-stop and she was only 13 years old! In the detail view of the final illustration you can see the texture of the painted gouache background which I compose into the final illustration via Photoshop layers.

Below is a view of the basic stages in compositing the final illustration. Actually when I scan all the final drawn and painted elements into layers in Photoshop to create the illustration there are about thirty separate layers of various imaging elements, and probably a hundred stages in making the final illustration, but for purposes of brevity I have shortened it down to just 10 general stages for you to see the overall process... Not counting the sketch process, the time in making this completed final illustration is about a week, maybe a bit more. It's the scene where Edith watches baseball games from her bedroom window -played in the lot across the street from her home on Diamond Street on warm summer nights.


charcoal drawing of Edith and street, The Kid from Diamond Street
The charcoal drawing above is on an Arches hot press paper... I worked with charcoal rather than ink for the rougher texture, plus I can erase the charcoal fairly easily.
addition of background texture, The Kid from Diamond Street
The added texture above I painted with gouache on paper, purposely creating a rough dry-brush look... You cannot see it in these screen shots, but hints of this background texture are seen within the entire completed illustration.
addition of ball field dirt, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above I have added in another painted gouache texture that is like a sand pebble texture -which will serve as the infield dirt...
addition of grass color, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above I have painted in a suggestion of the infield grass digitally with a Photoshop brush tool.

addition of room dark blue, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above I have added in yet another painted gouache texture, a deep blue, which defines the 
dark area of the room interior and shades. The shade in the upper left will serve to hold the story text reversed in white type.
addition of color to Edith, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above I have now refined the character of Edith with color, which was accomplished with both digital color and also painted gouache texture too.

addition of players, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above I added in the charcoal drawings of the baseball players on the ball field across the street from Edith's window, as well as the street poles and lamps.

addition of color to players and cars, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above digital color was added to the players, the autos, and the line stripes on the ball field.

addition of street lights, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above the glowing street lamp light was create with airbrush effect digitally.

addition of room curtains, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above the flowing curtains in the summer breeze were drawn in digitally with Photoshop.

detail of final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above is a detail view of the final illustration. You can see the painted gouache background textures which really give depth and richness to the illustration.

Below are a number of sketch details and sketch components which all went into comprising the various final sketches…

sketch element, The Kid from Diamond Street
sketch element, The Kid from Diamond Street

sketch element, The Kid from Diamond Street

sketch element, The Kid from Diamond Street

sketch element, The Kid from Diamond Street

scene sketch, The Kid from Diamond Street

sketch element, The Kid from Diamond Street
sketch element, The Kid from Diamond Street
The above eight sketches are various details and elements which comprised the final sketches. The bottom sketch vignette is from the final scene of the story where Edith finally makes it back to her home in Philadelphia on Diamond Street and is hugged by her parents.
The second from the top is a detail of the Japanese news photographer who insisted on taking a group photo of the American team's baseball cleat shoes... because the Japanese public was fascinated that the "girls" were wearing such athletic men's shoes and not wearing fashionable heeled women's shoes!

Below are various views of sketches and final drawings in progress on my drawing table or on my light box... The way I create my final illustrations is to make the final drawing elements with charcoal pencil & ink on paper and then scan those final completed drawings into Photoshop. I also paint various background color fields and textures with gouache on paper and also scan those elements into Photoshop as well... 


sketch on light box, The Kid from Diamond Street

working on final drawing using charcoal pencil, The Kid from Diamond Street

working on final drawing using charcoal pencil, The Kid from Diamond Street

working on final drawing using charcoal pencil, The Kid from Diamond Street

working on cover sketch element, The Kid from Diamond Street

Above are various views of sketches and final drawings in progress on my drawing table or on my light box... The way I create my final illustrations is to make the final drawing elements with charcoal pencil & ink on paper and then scan those final completed drawings into Photoshop. I also paint various background fields and textures with gouache on paper and also scan those elements into Photoshop as well... 


detail of final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above is detail of a final illustration where we see Edith as baby with her parents. The family I rendered in sepia tones so that the full color baby Edith would stand out within the image.

detail of final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above is detail of a final illustration of a Japanese news photographer obsessed with getting a shot of the American all-female team wearing their baseball cleats! Of course, I had to research the film camera style used in 1925...
detail of final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
 Above is detail of a final illustration of the American all-female team aboard the Thomas Jefferson steam liner cruise ship that brought them to Japan in 13 day across the Pacific.
This was a huge undertaking depicting the crowds on the docks, the passengers and the ship... all in the fashions of the era.

final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above is the full illustration of the ship scene -double page spread in the book...with the text reversed in white, positioned in the lower right side in the ship's dark blue hull.
detail of final illustration, The Kid from Diamond Street
Above is detail of a final illustration of one of the baseball game scenes. 

With a period story like The Kid from Diamond Street, the sketch and final illustration process takes much longer... because there is extensive research at the front end to make sure I'm getting the objects and fashions of the era generally correct. This particular project took a few weeks of gathering reference, then about two months of actual sketch work and sketch revisions... followed by about four months of creating the final illustrations.


cover rough sketchesThe Kid from Diamond Street

revised cover sketchThe Kid from Diamond Street

revised cover sketchThe Kid from Diamond Street

final cover sketchThe Kid from Diamond Street

refining cover sketchThe Kid from Diamond Street

detail of refining cover sketchThe Kid from Diamond Street

final cover with typeThe Kid from Diamond Street

detail of final cover with typeThe Kid from Diamond Street
actual final cover art full viewThe Kid from Diamond Street

The above nine images are of some initial doodle sketches, rough sketches, refined sketches, and the final cover illustration... The initial doodle sketches conceptualize the basic possible look for the cover. In reality there are many other cover sketch ideas that get sketched then abandoned. The one shown here is the version selected by the editor and her team that actually made it as the final cover concept. The designer of this book, Sharismar Rodriguez, did such a wonderfully tasteful cover title design, and design of the entire book. Her cover title treatment feels contemporary yet also manages to fit the feel of the 1920's story at the same time.

The total sketch stage, in the instance of this particular book, took me about two and a half months. Creating all the final illustrations took about four months. I hope this post gives you an informative glimpse into my illustration process...

Little Edith Houghton of Philadelphia played professional baseball for all-female teams from age 10 up until about age 19. She was in the military... and later in her life became the first female baseball scout in Major League Baseball!

The Kid from Diamond Street was released in April 2016 by Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Buy it in bookstores and on-line. Written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno.

Visit my illustration web site, stevensalerno.com to see many more picture books I have illustrated for kids, as well as samples of my illustrations for advertising, magazines, newspapers, and packaging...