Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer Reading (suggested by The Chicago Tribune)

I had worked on projects for art director David Syrek so long ago that when he called recently to work with him on a new assignment for the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine... it took a while for the memories to kick in, but even still, neither one of us could quite recall exactly what we had worked on together in the past.

However, once this new assignment (for an article in the literary section containing their summer book picks) was under way, what I was quick to remember was the professional and easy manner in which David operates as an AD. (I had recently sent him some samples of my "new style" illustrations which is what had made him think of me for this particular assignment. He had liked an image of mine depicting a man reading a newspaper, and he especially liked that I had used a monochromatic color scheme...) During our initial phone conversation about this current project, we quickly arrived at what the image in general should be, and he wanted me to create this new illustration also with a monochromatic palette, similar to the sample of mine he'd cited.

As with any daily newspaper assignments, there is little time... I doodled out a preliminary rough sketch depicting various people outside, all reading books, purposely giving it a turn-of-the-last-century feel, mostly due to how I drew the sailboat in the background. This rough sketch was created with pencil and pen. 

The above sketch became the starting point for the next stage "final" sketch, which is the version I showed to David for his comments. I added in the "buff" color for the background, and as you can see altered the poses and positions of the characters. This sketch was created with pencil and pen, with the background color being a scan of a colored paper then added into the sketch via Photoshop. The only comments David had were that he wanted the scene to be more "park like" rather than the countryside, for me to make the lake seem vast, and to add in someone riding a bicycle. No problem...

Below is the final completed art, created with fountain pen (which has non-permanent ink that I can smear with my finger as I draw the image) on paper. I made all the modifications David had suggested. I also brightened the background buff color a bit, added slight tone to the trees and characters, as well as added limited blue in the lake and white in the clouds and in the character's shirts, too. The idea was, despite the image being busy with so many characters, to keep it feeling as light and airy as possible, which was accomplished by letting the line work alone define all the forms, and keeping the color minimal -rather than fill in all the forms with multiple colors.

This last view (below) is of an alternate version of the final art that I also supplied to David, which uses a different background color. Instead of the background being a scan of a buff color paper, with this version I used a scan of a deeper toned paper that has actual bits of real leaves embedded right into the paper. I am not sure which of the two "final art" images that was used for their "Summer Reading" article, but I prefer the version with the bits of leaves as part of the background. I think the overall richer tones give the illustration more feeling and visual punch.

Shown below is a detail view of the foreground character of a bearded man sitting in a wooded chair. If you look closely at the line work defining the character, the chair, the lamp post, the tree, etc... you can see where I smear and smudge the line with my finger as I draw it with my pen. This effect kind of looks like a "burr" in a traditional drypoint etching. During the sketch stage I had asked if I should included a Kindle, or an iPad among all the paper books... I think the idea of also showing the new technology in the scene was nixed because if I had included them, it, at a glance, makes the image seem as if the article might be about new technology, rather than just being about the act of reading itself.

Visit my web site to see all my various illustration portfolio samples... and make sure to view my KIDS' BOOKS, FEATURED BOOK, and the NEW STUFF categories!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak 1928 - 2012

I was saddened to read this morning that famed author/illustrator Maurice Sendak had died.

As an art student many years ago at Parsons School of Design in New York City, I was among the fortunate few students who were able to have Maurice as an instructor in his children's picture book class, as he only taught there for a few years. He was one of my favorite instructors...

I remember him always encouraging the rebel within, to be honest with your expression, and avoid being safe. As a student in his class I marveled at his entertaining humor punctuated by the point blank criticisms yet delivered with warmth and total encouragement for us to be our best... I think in part because he knew some of us were going to attempt to follow in his footsteps and he wanted us to succeed in what is a very difficult industry. He was a brilliant writer/artist and the numerous things I learned from him helped me to develop my own career as a writer and illustrator of children's picture books. 

He was an original voice that will be missed, but thankfully children (and adults) will be able to discover his books for many generations to come. 

A handful of years ago when his picture book BRUNDIBAR was released, I met him again when he was doing a book signing at a Barnes & Noble here in the city... He remembered me from his class all those years ago. We chatted a bit about things and then he signed my copy of his book. What a thrill!

visit to view samples of his illustration work... and click on the kids' books section to see his picture books for children.