Saturday, November 2, 2013

MON PARIS... illustrating a travel article

On a somewhat regular basis over the past handful of years, I create small spot illustrations for the Westways group of magazines (which are the automobile AAA magazines) for their DriveSmart and TravelSmart columns. The Design Director I always work with is Eric Van Eyke... (see my earlier post about these assignments).

But recently, I was also contacted by the Westways Art Director, Lori Anderson about creating a full-page illustration for one of their feature travel articles on Paris, entitled MON PARIS. (I think it is for their January 2014 issue of Westways) I said yes to the project before even reading the manuscript, as I had been eager to work on an assignment for Westways other than for the small spot illustrations I usually do for the DriveSmart and TravelSmart columns.

The key to this travel article was visiting Paris and hanging out in one particular neighborhood and purposely not indulging in all the expected tourist venues, but rather enjoying the nuances of regular everyday life, like a Parisian. The writer describes people and things seen while sitting at the same neighborhood cafe each morning over cafe creme, croissants and reading the paper. It is this scene that I illustrated. 

Posted below is the sketch and final drawings I created. The final drawings were all scanned into Photoshop, and then positioned, modified, manipulated, and layered with color and textures, etc... to arrive at the completed illustration...

This is my initial sketch. It is simply a black crayon pencil sketch with just a bit of gouache color indicating the coffee. Of course, I go though an earlier much rougher version before this one, but the sketch shown here is the level of "tightness" in a sketch I like to show to an art director, because ultimately it saves time. If a sketch shown to an art director is too rough, they have questions about it which then prompts having the do a second tighter version anyway... so why not just give them that level right at the start. Particularly in the instance of working with an art director for a first time. The more you work with the same art director, the more and more you can get away with "sketch shorthand" because they begin to understand what your final art will look like, even from seeing just a very rough sketch.

This is what I then showed to the art director. It is my initial B&W sketch which I scanned into Photoshop and added digital color layers.... which as you can see I elected to use just monochromatic yellows/oranges in the background and limited full color in the foreground for the coffee cup and croissants. This sketch was quickly approved by the art director and editors, so I had the "green light" to proceed with creating the final art. 

This is a close-up view of the waiter character from the initial sketch.
Based on the preliminary sketch that was approved by the art director, this is the "final stage art" drawing of the foreground portion of the illustration, the cup of coffee, croissants, and the Le Monde newspaper. It was drawn with black crayon, and embellished with black gouache (with a brush).

Detail view of the croissant.

Based on the preliminary sketch that was approved by the art director, this is the "final stage art" drawing of the middle portion of the illustration. It is of all the characters seen sitting in the cafe, walking the sidewalks, and standing at the patisserie across the street. It was drawn with black crayon, black ink pen, and embellished with black gouache (with a brush). Some of the tones were created by smearing the ink line with a wetted finger immediately after having drawn the line.

Detail of the characters sitting in the cafe.

Based on the preliminary sketch that was approved by the art director, this is the "final stage art" drawing of two of the characters: the waiter and the woman seen at the top window watering her flowers. It was drawn with black crayon, black ink pen, and embellished with black gouache (with a brush). Some of the tones were created by smearing the ink line with a wetted finger immediately after having drawn the line. (The "mutton-chop" sideburns and pompadour hairstyle on the waiter was as described in the article!)

Detail of the waiter drawing.

Based on the preliminary sketch that was approved by the art director, this is the "final stage art" drawing of of the background portion of the illustration... the building facades, signs, etc...  It was drawn with black ink pen, and black crayon. As soon as I created this background drawing, I immediately knew I had made the line work much too dark... but did not worry, because I knew that once I scanned the drawing into Photoshop I could then manipulate the line to make it lighter.

This is a speckled texture I created, done by rubbing a toothbrush into slightly watery black gouache and then "flicking" the bristles of the brush with my thumb (held about 12" inches above the paper surface) such that a fine spray of dots hits across the paper. I also used a dark brown crayon to then draw horizontal streaks across the speckled texture. This texture was scanned into Photoshop and layered into my final illustration.
This is a view of all the above elements that I had scanned into Photoshop, which were compiled in layers to compose the final illustration scene. I altered the black lines of all the the middle ground and background objects/characters so that these lines were now more of a sepia/brown color instead of black. This was done so the "still-life" objects in the front (coffee/croissants/newspaper) rendered in black, would pop more in prominence. I also faded all the middle ground and background lines a little bit, to also make it all seem further back within the scene. On a new layer I added in the yellow color and "erased" some of the yellow (effectively creating white) to highlight the waiter and make the effect of the steam rising from the coffee. The "speckled" texture was added over the entire composition but then strategically "erased out" so that it remained in only some areas, like on the buildings and also streaked across the street a bit.

Next, I added a layer of darker orange to bring more graphic richness and definition... which I also used as the color of the coffee in the cup, to help relate the foreground with the rest of the scene. Employing such limited color in the middle ground and background assists in making a very
detailed/busy area of the image to become more unified, and brings some needed simplicity to the overall feel... and of course also acts as a way of bringing more attention to the foreground elements.

Here is the final illustration... with blues and greens and more yellow added into the foreground objects.

Detail view of the waiter and the woman sitting at the cafe with her little dog. Here you can better see how I orchestrated the use of the speckled texture sparingly. I love the subtle, simple descriptions of all the little characters seen in the background.

Detail view of the lovers kissing, and the old man carrying his baguettes. The street is Rue Vavin, and the cafe the writer was sitting at is named Cafe Vavin... and I think it is located in the 6th Arrondisement.

Detail view of the coffee.

I also created a small spot illustration of the Eiffel Tower, to accompany the large main illustration. It was created in the same step process as described above for the cafe scene illustration...

I am looking forward to seeing the final printed copy of Westways magazine, the January 2014 issue. Seeing the images in tandem with the words (within the designer's page design) for which they were created is what it's all about as an illustrator.

Visit my illustration web site, to view all my portfolio sections... make sure to see my NEW STUFF section and all my picture books for children!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

creation of my next WORKBOOK promotional ad

For many years throughout my career, each year one of my self promotional tactics as an illustrator is to place a directory ad page with the illustration source book, WORKBOOK. In recent years their book size format changed, from being one large 11" x 8.5" book released to art directors once a year in the spring, to now being two smaller books formatted at 9.25" x 7.25" with one released in the spring and one in the fall season.

Posted here is a peek at my upcoming single ad page art I created, which will be released in the WORKBOOK spring 2014 book.... I call it "the cyclists" featuring a "high wheel" bike from the 1870's and also a sleeker modern bike of today. It is just a simple juxtaposition of the two eras. 

If you visit my web site, you see that I still create illustrations in my light. whimsical style, particularly for my food illustrations and of course for my picture books, but lately I have also been creating many illustrations in my "new style" (see the NEW STUFF portfolio section) which is actually a present day spin on how my own illustration style looked at the very start of my career a million years ago! -darker and more realistic. I wanted to place an ad in WORKBOOK which advertised the new style images of mine rather than the whimsical ones.

I am currently gearing up for a new picture book project, a non-fiction story on the life of George Ferris, who invented the Ferris Wheel for the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. (He called his invention an "observation wheel" but the public nick-named the contraption the Ferris Wheel, and the name stuck.) And I plan on illustrating this book in my darker/more realistic illustration style. So recently I have been pouring through reference photos from the 1870's - 1890's in preparation for the book project, and was in love with some photos I saw of these "high wheel wheel" bicycles from the day, and decided to draw one, for use in my upcoming WORKBOOK ad.

Below are the various simple stages I went through to create "the cyclists" art image:

-completed ad page-   visit
above: here is the completed art image as it will appear in the 2014 WORKBOOK illustration directory. It is too small to see in this screen view, but there is white informational type bending above the upper bike's rear wheel, as well as along the rear frame of the bottom bike. The image was created by scanning into Photoshop my ink and charcoal drawings of the two bikes, then adding in texture and color digitally.

-"high wheel" ink drawing-   visit
above: this is the pen & ink drawing of the 1870's "high wheel" bike I created. The smudging you see was done by wetting my finger and smearing the ink line as I drew. The horizontal ground lines at the bottom were drawn with charcoal.

-detail-   visit
above: detail of the ink drawing. Near the beard you can see traces of my finger prints from when I smeared the ink lines as I drew. The photo reference I used was of a man with a beard, but I made up the uniform, bag, and flowing coat tails for dramatic effect.

-charcoal drawing of bike-   visit
above: My charcoal drawing of a modern day cyclist... To heighten the contrast with the 1870's bicycle, I purposely made this drawing with airy simple lines... loosely drawn and sketchy in appearance. I like that the frame of the bike was literally done with five strokes of the charcoal stick.

above: I scanned the ink drawing into Photoshop and positioned it at the bottom, and then also added in a scan of a textured paper to act as a background, and manipulated it's color into a kind of a dull mustard.

-composing bike images-   visit
above: Next I scanned the charcoal drawing of the modern day bicycle into Photoshop too, composing the two image as you see here, with the modern bicycle stacked on top.

-adding white color-   visit
above: I began the process of adding digital color in Photoshop by indicating the white layer first.

-adding digital color-   visit
above: In Photoshop I then digitally added in color on several different layers, using various "brush" tools and "erase" tools to get the effect I desired. I purposely used the same color blue for each cyclist's clothing... but with the modern day cyclist kept the color flat.

-manipulating background-   visit
above: In Photoshop I then manipulated areas of the background paper color to create a kind of hand-made looking digitized texture... you can see it in the upper left corner of the image above. I also designed the type positioning for the promotional ad by wrapping the info along the same curve as the wheel.

-completed art image-   visit
above: a view of the final art again, as it will appear as my promotional ad page in the 2014 WORKBOOK illustration directory.

Visit my illustration web site to see many samples of my illustrations for magazines, advertising, packaging, and children's picture books.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Characters for new children's picture book...

Thus far in my career I have illustrated twenty children's picture books... My first illustrated picture book was released back in 2000, Chicken Chuck -written by Bill Martin Jr., and my most recent picture book released just this past June by Disney's Hyperion Books is BOOM! -written by Mary Lyn Ray. (I've also illustrated three of my own titles, Coco the Carrot, Little Tumbo, and Harry Hungry!)

To see a list of all my published picture books, click here. To see a post on the making of my most recent picture book, BOOM!, click here.

visit and click KIDS' BOOKS

(above: the main character, Margot)

The usual process when working on a children's picture book is that a publisher obtains a story from an author, and then they (the editor, the art director, or design director) may feel my illustration style is a good match, so they contract me to illustrate the book. Once the contractual negotiations are settled, I get started with creating all the character sketches, and scene sketches for the entire story. Once I get approval on the final sketch stage from the publisher I proceed with creating all the final illustrations, cover art, etc... The entire time from when I first see the story, settle the contract, and complete all the sketches and final artwork is usually about six months... though I am working on other projects at the same time. Then the art director/designer may take another six months designing the book... In all it probably takes about 18 months from when an editor obtains a story to when the physical printed book actually becomes available in stores and on-line.
visit and click KIDS' BOOKS

(above: three of Margot's friends, Roger, Vincent, and Otto)
Not only am I always available to be contracted for picture book projects when editors are lining up author's stories with just the right illustrator... but I am also always writing my own stories and submitting them to the small circle of editors I have worked with at various publishing houses over the years. 

I recently had submitted one of my stories to a certain editor... a very minimally worded story, with just one sentence per spread. Rather than just submitting a text manuscript only to the editor (which I normally do) in this instance I sent a pdf of the entire story illustrated with my sketches. I did this because the images drive the story line, and for the text to make sense the editor had to see visuals too. And because my intention for the book is to have very minimally conceived images (just simple black line and one color) the sketches I provided were quite close to how the finished illustrated book might look.

visit and click KIDS' BOOKS

(above: Margot's friend, Melinda)
Long story short, the editor loved it.... but with a very big caveat. They were questioning the essence of the plot. They felt it was too thin and did not have enough depth. In other words, "we love it, but can you change it?" I felt the editor's concerns ultimately were valid, so I did change the plot. I rewrote the story, adding a significant plot twist. There is now a visual "surprise" to the plot which is important for the reader to not see coming... And to know if this "surprise" in the story will work effectively, I decided to not tell the editor ahead of time about any of the changes I was making to the story plot, so that when I re-submit the story again, they can experience the story in the same manner a young reader would. I felt this would be a terrific litmus test for the editor to experience.

So, right now, I am on the verge of presenting this "new" (revised) story to the editor. But rather than submit a pdf with the text and sketches again... I made the highly unusual decision to go ahead and fully complete all the final illustrations. I have no contract from the publisher, no advance payment... I just felt that for the editor to best be convinced that this book should be published, seeing the actual final look of the picture book via the final illustrations will (hopefully) impress them to do so. 

I did about 45 black crayon final drawings of all the characters in their poses for all the various scenes in the story. I am now scanning all these drawings into Photoshop, finalizing all the scene compositions, and adding one color digitally, plus the story text too. Next I will print out all the page spreads (I have a 9-color, large format printer in my studio) and will collate them into book form, so the editor will receive a "dummy book" of my story, but rather than containing mere sketches, it will have all the final illustrations.

visit and click KIDS' BOOKS

(above: the dog Buddy)
Posted here are some of the final crayon drawings of all the characters in the story, well except for one character... seen out of their scene context, and without the final added digital color. It is because of this very simple black-line and one-color approach for this one particular story that I went ahead and created all these final drawings... I never would have even attempted creating all the final art if the story called for more fully rendered and fully colored final illustrations as it would require far more unpaid time than I would be willing to commit to! As it was the simple final drawings I created for this speculative book project of mine took me a month to complete. Sure, it's going way out on a limb to spend the time making all these final drawings when I do not even have a firm contract at all... but I feel it is worth the effort and will ultimately work in my favor.

Note: I have purposely left out any description of the story plot, to keep it all under wraps until the day it hopefully sees the light of day as my next published children's picture book, #21.

To view all my images for kids, visit and click on the kids' books section 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

-turning a random doodle into a finished illustration

I love to doodleSure I scribble the usual mindless spirals and abstract shapes... classic "while on the phone" doodles that meander on the page (or any scrap of paper) and are intermingled with message notes. But I also doodle character's faces of all types, or little silhouetted figures riding fantastic bicycles, etc... whatever randomly oozes from my brain to my pen point. Many times though these doodles end up as visions of odd alien creatures. So many now, in fact, that I added a portfolio section on my web site just to showcase these alien creations. Click here.)

Because I am well versed in drawing, and because I have been making images for about fifty-one years now (I started in earnest at age 4), I've had A LOT of practice to hone my doodling skills! They can be quite sophisticated at times. Some people think, upon seeing my doodles, that they are images which must have required a light pencil sketch underneath to get things started, or at least some photo reference...  But I assure you I pick up an ink pen and just begin drawing without a thought as to what will develop. No preliminary sketch, no photo reference. I merely draw from my imagination... which is the absolute best way for interesting things to happen.

In this post, I show you the original raw doodle, and then all the stages involved in turning it into a more rendered and polished final illustration:

original raw doodle

close-up of raw doodle
(1) above image(top)- 
While I was watching TV one night recently, with a pad of scrap paper in my lap, I first started doodling a couple random partial faces (see left side), then I drew a half-figure of a fairy-nymph creature (see center right, upside down). Then I began drawing the central figure of a woman: I drew her complete face with a short hairstyle, then proceeded to draw her entire figure wearing a kind of peacock-feather gown and high heels. At this point I was intrigued, but hated the face I had given her, plus her head proportion was too small. So, immediately to the side I redrew her face again, much better I felt, and because I had already given her a peacock gown, for this new face I gave her a hat with an exaggerated full feather. At this point I felt this doodle of the woman had potential to become a more completely realized full image, possibly an illustration I would add into one of my portfolios on my web site. So next I consciously drew a side table with a champagne glass and little Henry Moore type sculpture sitting on top. I decided to give this elegant woman a companion dog, and in the upper right corner you see I began drawing the head of a dog, but it looked like a badly envisioned sea-horse! -so I quickly abandoned it and then drew the little bulldog seen in lower right corner.

(2) I then scanned the raw doodle into Photoshop.

isolating main elements
(3) above image-
In Photoshop you can see that I "erased" all the superfluous side doodle images, leaving just the main character (plus her extra head!), the side table, and the little dog. You will notice that when I initially drew the side table as a prop for the woman, I only drew one leg on the table... this is because I knew that once I had scanned the raw doodle into Photoshop, I could then "grab" and repeat the one leg to make two more legs... which would give the two outer legs perfect symmetry! 

moving elements into position
(4) above image-
In this step I have moved the elements, to begin to compose the scene I have formulating in my mind of the woman standing in a room. Plus, you can see that I have erased her original head and inserted the 2nd head I'd created with the large feather hat. (The faint vertical lines you see on the left side are actually lines of type bleeding through from the opposite side of the paper... because I always doodle on used pieces of paper.)

final line art stage

(5) above image-
Here, I have repeated the one leg of the table, to create a second and a third leg, obviously by flipping, manipulating, adding some shadow tones, etc... Plus I have "cleaned up" any little lines from the raw doodle which clutter or do not properly define the form. Compare the shoes in step 4 with the shoes in step 5 and you will see how I "cleaned" the line forms. I added bows to her shoes as well as an additional section of her gown at the bottom, by drawing them with a simple brush tool in Photoshop. Now that the line art stage is essentially done, I can move on to creating the room environment!

added background tone
(6) above image-
In this stage I merely added in a background tone... by scanning a piece of aged paper with a grayish-buff color. This is done by placing it in on a sub-layer under the line-art layer but changing the setting of the line-art layer from "normal" to "multiply" -which allows the line art to then look like it was originally drawn directly on the aged paper.

white skin tone
(7) above image-
I created the effect of a light skin tone simply by erasing out corresponding areas on the aged-paper layer, as well as for the champagne glass and the dog too. A stage like this takes about 20 seconds (note: at this point there is also a third layer in my hierarchy of Photoshop layers while creating this image. There is an all white layer at the very bottom, which is why you see "white" when I erased out portions of the aged-paper layer! Get it?

beginning to add color
(8) above image-
On a new layer (sandwiched above the aged-paper layer but beneath the line-art layer) I begin to add washes of color digitally using a variety of different brush tools. I "painted" her dress, hair, gloves, feathers, stockings, and the side table.

...more color

detail of completed color on woman
(9) above image (top)-
More color: varying the tones and density... you can see subtle coloring in her face and on the dog, and highlights forming in the dress. Plus I drew a leash from her hand to the dog using a brush tool. Because of the woman's pose, which I had not pre-planned during the initial doodle stage... I am now wondering what she is doing. It seems she is looking in the distance, but at what?

adding in background architecture elements
(10) above image-
In the background I have made suggestions of window frames, merely by creating the shapes while in the aged-paper layer and darkening the value. Then I selected the interior pane shapes and mildly erased out the aged-paper tone revealing the white layer underneath... so it begins to give the effect of window glass. Easy!

adding in shadowy tones and and a floor carpet texture
(11) above image:
With this next stage I have brought in a texture that I had painted with gouache on a rough paper... it was positioned on a new layer beneath the line-art layer and the color-layer. I then just erased most of it away, leaving some vague shadowy effects at the top and to the left side, but also creating a hard edge cut of the texture along the bottom too, to make the carpet allusion. Now this young woman is concretely standing in a room!

adding in drawing of a building outsdie the window
(12) above image-
I borrowed a portion of a line drawing I had previously created for another illustration... of a stately country estate, and simply faded the bottom edge of it a bit as well as reducing the entire value of it, so that the saturation of the line was much lighter than the line work defining the woman, giving it the impression of being off in the distance. 

adding color to the country estate in the background
(13) above image-
A new color layer... adding only limited palette, light color to the country estate in the background. Perhaps the woman is waiting for someone, and she is giving a sideways glance out the window?

adding mirror and deepening tones of floor
(14) above image-
I created a mirror on the back wall (ellipse tool) and deepened the floor tone. Done! So, my initial doodle becomes a rather handsome period-piece illustration... something out of Downton Abbey!
I added it to my portfolio on my illustration web site... and who knows, maybe I will get a book cover assignment to illustrate some classic literature because an art director sees this post. 

To see a larger view of this completed illustration, click here. (If it does not link properly, you can visit my web site and then select the showcase section at the bottom of the homepage, and click on "Miss Ralston Went Unaccompanied." -which is the title I gave this drawing.

Visit to see all my portfolios -for advertising, editorial, picture books... and be sure to see the NEW STUFF section.

Monday, June 10, 2013

BOOM! -is released this week by Disney

cover of BOOM! -illustrated by Steven Salerno   visit

My most recent illustrated children's picture book, BOOM! (written by Mary Lyn Ray/published by Disney's Hyperion Books) will be released tomorrow.

It's a comfort story, of a brave little dog (Rosie) who isn't afraid of anything in her daily life, that is except for thunder and lightning! Last weekend the New York Times Book Review reviewed the book, along with three other picture book titles also having a 'rain' or 'storm' theme. This is my first book for Disney.

Here is the link to the book review.

And here is the link to my previous post on the making of the illustrations for BOOM!

Visit to view many of my other picture books for children, including
Brothers At Bat -which was a New York Times Book Review Notable Picture Book for 2012

Thursday, May 23, 2013


ARNIE by golf artist Steven Anthony Salerno   visit

Aside from my long career creating illustrations in my known style for magazines, advertising, children's picture books, packaging, etc... I also spend a lot of my time creating golf art -an expression of my life long interest in the great game of golf. Posted here is one of my most recent drawings... yet another image of one of my favorite players of all time, Arnold Palmer.

Visit my golf art gallery site, to read about my relatively new venture into golf art, and see many more samples of my limited edition golf art prints available for purchase.

I created this image entitled ARNIE, first by drawing the figure of Palmer using just a somewhat blunt black oil crayon... just a straight forward traditional rendering... then I scanned my drawing into Photoshop where I digitally manipulated the black color of the crayon line so that it was now a saturated blue. Then I added a hyper-flesh tone to his face, hands and arms with a digital brush. The last steps were to embed the drawing onto the background, which is comprised of distressed paint on a wood panel, including the stenciled lettering of the name PALMER. The resulting "look" is of a traditionally conceived drawing, but the manipulations and layering in Photoshop gives it a modern pop feel overall, representing that Mr. Palmer is a link between older traditions and values with the contemporary game of today. 

Visit to view all my available golf art prints.

Visit to view my illustration portfolio samples.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

BOOM! ...a new picture book

This year the picture book BOOM! will be released by Disney (Hyperion Books), my 19th illustrated book! (as I write this however, I am not sure if the book is slated for a spring 2013 or a fall 2013 release date...)

Visit to see my many other children's picture books, as well as other samples of my illustration art for advertising, packaging, magazines, etc..

cover of the new picture book BOOM!  visit
BOOM! is written by Mary Lyn Ray and is the story about a feisty little dog named Rosie who is not afraid of anything in her cozy life... well, not afraid of anything except for thunder! Like most dogs, Rosie understandably becomes unglued in the presence of loud claps of thunder and flashes of lightning!

When this story manuscript was initially offered to me by Disney (Hyperion Books) editor Kelsey Skea (it turns out she and I are both originally from Vermont), I told her that I'd get back to her in a few days as I needed some time to contemplate taking on the project. But in reality, I pretty much instantly knew I was interested in illustrating this particular story... it was well written, and essentially I am a sucker for drawing dogs! 

The title of the manuscript at the start was "The Dog Who Was Afraid of Thunder" -and the little dog character did not even have a name yet. I expressed that the title unnecessarily gave away the entire theme of the story without even having to look at the first page... but it turned out that the title was just a temporary title anyway. So, by the time I had completed the entire process of creating the sketches and final artwork, eventually the author and the editor landed on the official final title of BOOM! -which I thought was perfect.

For anyone unfamiliar with the picture book publishing process, once the publisher contracts a story from the writer, then hires the illustrator they feel will be a perfect match stylistically with the text, it then takes about 6 months (for me) to get the final sketches and final artwork completed and approved. Once I submit the final artwork to the publisher's designer (for BOOM! it was Tyler Nevins), it then takes time for the designer to finalize the book's design in preparation for the printer... and then even more time is needed to get preliminary color proofs printed and adjusted before the book can then be produced for the first edition print run. 

This is a simplified account of course. There is a lot of communication between myself, the editor, and the designer all throughout the time I am working on the sketches and final art. Most people think the writer is also in the loop during the sketch/final art process, but generally they are not ever involved at all, in the same regard that the illustrator has no input on the text. The magic is in the editor having the special talent to find the right illustrator for the right story, and the end result seems as if writer and the artist worked together closely from start to finish, but in reality they are two very separate entities that get fused together in the final printed book. In all, my guess it is about 18 - 20 months for a picture book see the light of day and be available to purchase in stores and online. (Of course, this process time frame does not include whatever time it took the author to write the story!)

Posted here are some sketches and final illustrations from the book...  
^ initial concept doodles directly on story manuscript     visit
^ initial concept doodles directly on story manuscript     visit
The above two images are the actual printouts of the story manuscript I received initially from the editor. As I read the story I also immediately begin the process of doodling my gut feelings as to how I will depict the actions and scenes, etc... The drawings are very tiny (maybe 1" x 1.75"), very crude, just to get the bare essence of the what the final illustration might be.

^ study of main character, Rosie. (crayon)      visit
^ multiple studies of main character, Rosie. (crayon)      visit
^ a color study of main character, Rosie. (gouache)      visit
The three images above are initial sketches of the main dog character, Rosie, to determine her final look. In the text she was described as small and brave -but there were literally no physical descriptions as to what the dog looked like at all. Which was great for me because I could be the one making the decision as to what she looked like. As you can see I settled on making Rosie kind of a hybrid blend of bulldog and pug. My reasoning was that if I made her a breed of dog which automatically kind of looks "brave" due to the inherent visual look of the breed, then it would be a bit more comical when she falls apart upon hearing loud thunder. In other words, if I had made Rosie a thin, nervous type breed of dog to begin with, there would not have been as much comic impact when she gets unnerved by the thunderous noise.

^ detail of storyboard sketches for entire story (ink)      visit
^ single storyboard sketch (ink)      visit
The two images above are from the rough storyboard I create of the entire story, to decide exactly how I will stage each page scene, to see how all the images flow together, as well as to begin positioning where the text will be placed relative to the illustrations. These rough storyboard sketches are purposely very small, about 3" x 5", so that I can make complete changes to an entire scene quite quickly. The bottom sketch (dog running alongside bike) is a view of one panel from this rough storyboard.

^ preliminary sketch (crayon)      visit
^ revised final sketch (crayon, digital)      visit
Based on the finalized small rough storyboard sketch, I then create the full size first stage sketch (top image). Next I create the full size revised final sketch (bottom image), which is the version presented to the editor and art director for their review. These full size sketches accurately indicate the gutter position and the exact dimensions of the final page trim size of the book. 

When all these "revised final sketches" are presented to the editor and art director it allows them to clearly see exactly how I intend for the book to be illustrated, as well as indicating my suggestion where the text should fall relative to the art images. I never create color final sketches, as I want to feel free to work out the colors as I am creating the final artwork... however, as I am doing all the preliminary sketch work I am pre-planning the colors for the final art images in my mind. I think with BOOM! the only discussion about color I had with the editor during the sketch stage was that the color of the dog Rosie was definitely going to be white. Since the text never indicated a specific color for Rosie, I therefore had my choice... and chose white specifically because I knew it would be much easier for white to work really well with whatever other colors were around it.

^ work in progress of final art (gouache)      visit
Once the editor has approved of all my revised final sketches, I can then proceed with starting all the final art images... With BOOM!, rather than creating each illustration as a fully comprehensive painting, instead I create each illustration by drawing and painting independent components from the scene and then compiling them in Photoshop and adding some digital color. The image above is the final gouache line painting of the dog Rosie in progress (based on the revised final sketch just above it). The dog, the boy on the bike, the background, and even the little houses seen along the horizon line were are created as separate art, scanned into Photoshop, then composed all together to create the final illutration "scene." 

^ detail of final art (gouache, crayon, digital)      visit

^ full final art scene (gouache, crayon, digital)      visit
The above two images are of the final illustration. As you can see, the final art follows the revised final sketch very closely. By creating all artwork of the elements within the scene separately, and then composing them in layers in Photoshop, it gives me flexibility to re-position things, re-size things, try various different color choices, etc...  but because each element was actually still drawn/painted by hand, the overall final look seems as if I painted the entire scene all at once, in the traditional way.

^ preliminary sketch (crayon)      visit

^ preliminary sketch detail (crayon)      visit

^ final art on top of sketch (on lightbox)      visit

^ final art detail (gouache, crayon, digital)      visit
The four images seen above are all from the scene where the police and fire department respond to a cat caught up in a tree... which is actually not based on text in the story at all. The text states that Rosie is not bothered what-so-ever by "postmen, garbage men, policemen, or firemen." So, I had to figure out a logical (yet charming) way for all these various characters to be at the same place at the same time. So I created a visual side bar of the "cat caught up in the tree" just to get the police and firemen to show up in the scene, which already included the garbage man and the postman. The top two images are the preliminary sketch (you can see that I am cutting and pasting in various elements of the scene until I get the sketch just right!) 

Once the final sketch is determined, I can then proceed with the final art... the third image above is a detail view the the final sketch on my light box, with the watercolor paper taped on top of it and I am beginning to draw the scene of the firemen and policeman standing near the mailbox. Once I complete it, this final art element will be scanned into Photoshop and composed together with the other elements from the scene. (as described in the "dog and bicycle" scene shown at the top.)

The bottom image is a detail view of the final completed illustration showing the cluster of characters standing near the mailbox. It is gouache, crayon and digital.

^ detail of storyboard sketch (ink)      visit
^ storyboard and preliminary sketch (crayon)      visit
^ preliminary sketch (crayon)      visit

^ revised final sketch (crayon, digital)      visit

^ detail of revised final sketch (crayon, digital)      visit

^ detail of final art scene (gouache, crayon, digital)      visit

^ detail of final art scene (gouache, crayon, digital)      visit

^ full final art scene (gouache, crayon, digital)      visit
The eight images above follow a sequence from the rough storyboard sketch, to the preliminary sketch, the revised final sketch... to the final completed illustration. You will notice that in the instance of this particular scene, the only significant difference between the preliminary sketch and the final revised sketch was the slight expression change in the dog's face. As described earlier above, my process is to draw and paint the various elements from a scene separately, scan them into Photoshop, then compose them all together to make the final illustration. In this case, the green grass background was painted separately, the tub and water was painted separately, the bubbles and soap were painted separately, the hose, brush and bottle were painted separately and the dog and boy were painted separately. All these various elements were scanned and layered in Photoshop, digital color enhancements were added, then the file was flattened to create the final illustration for the publisher. So in essence the true "final art" is the printed book page. For this spread, the story text appears in the upper left side where the light patch of green was created specifically to hold the type.

^ preliminary sketch detail (crayon)      visit

^ work in progress of final art (gouache, crayon)      visit

^ work in progress of final art (gouache, crayon)      visit

^ final art (gouache, crayon, digital)      visit
The artwork in the book consists of full page scenes, double spread scenes, as well as various vignette images... the four images shown above are of one of these small vignettes, in this instance of Rosie peacefully asleep in the bed, not in the least afraid of the dark. At the top is one of the early rough sketches, the next two images are of the final art in progress, and the final image is the completed final illustration. This small vignette was also repeated on the cover's inside jacket flap.

^ work in progress of final art (gouache, crayon)      visit

^ detail of final art (gouache, crayon, digital)      visit

^ work in progress of final art (gouache, crayon)      visit

^ detail of final art (gouache, crayon, digital)      visit
^ work in progress of final art (gouache, crayon)      visit
The above five images show final illustrations in progress, and below a couple of them are also the corresponding final completed illustration. 

As I stated at the start of this post, I am not sure if BOOM! is being released by Disney (Hyperion Books) this spring, or later in the fall of 2013. But be on the look for sometime it this year. (These sneak peek images of the book certainly do not give away the plot or the ending!) 

So, if you have a young child who is afraid of thunder (or even if you are still hanging on to some childhood fear of thunderstorms), Rosie's tale will help alleviate the anxiety about the loud noises and flashes of light. Or, even if you simply just love dogs, you'll enjoy this book. I certainly had fun creating the art... and it shows in all the final pictures. 

Visit to see my many other children's picture books, as well as other samples of my illustration art for advertising, packaging, magazines, etc...