Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wild Child -first review from Publishers Weekly

cover art for WILD CHILD, written & illustrated by Steven Salerno
(Abrams Books for Young ReadersAugust 2015)

written & illustrated by Steven Salerno
Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1662-1
release date: Aug. 4, 2015/ available now online at Barnes & Noble, and Amazon

Publishers Weekly 
picture book review (May 25, 2015)

“The jungle can be a scary place,” begins Salerno, and his battle royale of an opening scene proves it, as an elephant and rhino point sharp tusks at each other, a gorilla swats at a vulture, snakes and leopards hiss, and a lion and crocodile leap into the fray. But the arrival of a “wild child” who is “Constantly grabbing, pinching, and pooping!” and “Forever pulling, kicking, and crying!” has these kings and queens of the jungle desperate to soothe the ill-tempered babe. Working in mixed-media, Salerno uses slashes of black crayon to outline his characters—it’s perhaps the perfect medium for conveying unadulterated rage, either human or animal. With fierce frowning eyebrows, a scribble of hair, and not a stitch of clothing, the wild child looks like a feral cousin to the star of Salerno’s Harry Hungry!; the animals’ attempts to sooth the child with bugs (the anteater) or roaring (the lion) only fuel its anger. Forceful writing and the improbable gracefulness Salerno bestows on this kicking, biting, punching machine make this a furiously fun read. 
Ages 4–8. (Abrams Books, Aug. 2015)

Visit to view my illustration portfolios, as well as my many picture books for children.

Friday, May 22, 2015

WILD CHILD next picture book!

In August 2015 Abrams Books will release my latest picture book, WILD CHILD -my 22 illustrated picture book for kids, the 4th as both author & illustrator. (My first book with Abrams Books, and working with the wonderful editor Tamar Brazis)

Posted here is the final cover... a sneak peak!

It's the story of a new kind of creature suddenly appearing in the jungle and terrifying all the other animals with its annoying, relentless, bad behavior. Out of desperation to restore peace back to their jungle each of the animals try to tame this wild new creature, but without results. It just becomes wilder! Then the Gorilla finally figures out a way to tame it, at least for a little while...

The picture book will be officially released in August, but will probably become available on-line at Barnes & Noble and Amazon even earlier...

Sometime soon I will post more samples from the book including sketches, how I created the illustrations, etc...

Visit to view my illustration portfolios and all my picture books for kids. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"The Fantastic Ferris Wheel"... my upcoming illustrated picture book about the first Ferris Wheel in 1893

This post features the process involved in creating the elaborate illustrations I completed during 2014 for my soon to be released next children's picture book, my 22nd picture book and counting... 

Detail view of front cover & inside jacket flap for the new picture book, The Fantastic Ferris Wheel written by Betsy Harvey Kraft and illustrated by Steven Salerno   It's the true life story of George Ferris, inventor of the first giant observation wheel, constructed in 1893 for the Columbian World's Fair in Chicago.

The non-fiction picture book is entitled, The Fantastic Ferris Wheel and will be published this October 2015 by Macmillan/Christy Ottaviano Books. Written by Betsy Harvey Kraft -it's the captivating real life story about American engineer George Washington Ferris and his iconic invention, the Ferris Wheel ...which was created for the 1893 Columbian World's Fair, held in Chicago.

I started the photo research and the sketch stage for this Ferris Wheel picture book way back in September 2013, which then took nearly four months to finalize. Once all the final sketches were approved by the publisher in December 2013, on January 2nd, 2014 I began the long process of creating all the final illustrations, completing them all by the end of May 2014. 

Including the research and sketch stage, and completing the cover art too, the total time it took me to complete all the art for this picture book was approximately a little over nine months.... (but it took a full year from when I first commenced with the sketch stage until when I actually handed in the final cover art because there was a delay in getting the cover art concept sketch approved.)

During the all-consuming process of creating the artwork for this book, I did also manage to remind myself, on a fairly regular basis, to take photos of my illustration process. But please excuse the quality of the photos, as they were done hurriedly and without bothering to set up proper lighting, but they will give you a decent enough peek at how I created the illustrations. Plus, I put together this blog posting rather hurriedly as well, so if any of my descriptions regarding the process are vague and you have a question or two, please contact me at


Steven Salerno -May 2015

Let me first start out by putting the cart in front of the horse, and show you the step-by-step process involved in creating just one of the finished illustrations from the picture book... then after this section will explain how I first obtained the project, and also show the preliminary stages involved before even reaching this "finished" stage shown here...

All my scene elements (characters, backgrounds, buildings, the Ferris Wheel... everything) are all painted/drawn separately, using pastel, gouache, colored pencils, crayon, inks, etc...Then all these components are scanned into Photoshop, then composed, adjusted and redrawn using various Photoshop tools and added digital color on a multitude of separate layers. Once everything is just the way I want it... I then test print all the illustrations on my studio large format printer as a color check....subsequently making further adjustments to all the illustrations many times until it is absolutely final. The image's multitude of layers are then flattened and the file is presented to the art director/designer at the publisher.

The process you see below is an extreme simplification of the steps involved. The illustration in progress as a Photoshop file, has about 30 separate layers, and involves probably more than a 100 stages...but for purposes of brevity I condensed everything into the 12 steps seen here.

(1) This is a pastel and colored pencil background that I scanned into photoshop.

(2) This is the pastel background, plus a layer of lavender pastel added on top, plus my crayon and ink drawings of various buildings also scanned onto another layer and positioned within the composed scene. Color is added in the foreground landscape.
(3) Here I have added in my ink drawing of the big Ferris Wheel in a half-construction state, and also positioned it within the composition.
(4) Here I have added in my ink drawing of the massive scaffolding alongside the wheel.
(5) Here I have added in my gouache textured cloud shapes and used various eraser tools in Photoshop to make them precisely the shape I wanted.

(5) Here I have added in my ink and crayon drawings of the crowd of people watching the construction of the wheel. 
(6) Here I have embellished areas of the background and the wheel with color, plus added shadowing to the clouds. 
(7) Here I have added a white undertone base to the figures in the foreground.
(8) Here I have begun adding color to the characters in their faces....

(9) Here I have added a color texture to the foreground characters, which I had created with gouache. 
(10) Here I have added more finalized color to the characters in the foreground.

(11 Many minor adjustments occurred at the stage which are too subtle to see in this small view...
(12) Here I have added touches of steam emanating from the workshop buildings near the base of the wheel.

In 2012 a previous picture book I had illustrated entitled, Brothers at Bat (written by Audrey Vernick) was a popular and critical success, making the New York Times Review of Books Notable Picture Book short list for that year, and winning other publishing awards. For me, this particular picture book was different than the previous other 20 picture books I had illustrated up to that point, because it was a non-fiction story. And so my illustrations for Brothers at Bat were not the usual stylized, whimsical approach I had taken with all my other picture books, but rather these illustrations were purposely more realistic, out of necessity to capture the look and feel of the era the story takes place in. (click here to see previous post about Brothers at Bat) 
ABOVE -drawing a character for the picture book, Brothers at Bat 
(2012), using black gouache (brush) combined with black crayon.
ABOVE -detail of illustration from the picture book, Brothers at Bat 
(2012), the crayon & gouache drawing with added digital color...

My illustrations for Brothers at Bat had apparently caught the discerning eye of publisher and editor Christy Ottaviano (of Christy Ottaviano Books/ Henry Holt & Company, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Group) which led her to believe that I would be a great match to illustrate the non-fiction story currently sitting in her lap, "The Fantastic Ferris Wheel" -this story, written by Betsy Harvey Kraft, is about young George Washington Ferris, the American engineer and inventor of the first giant observation wheel, constructed for the 1893 Columbian World's Fair in Chicago... which was a huge hit with the public and became known simply as "The Ferris Wheel."  

So, in the summer of 2013 Christy sent the manuscript over for to me to read, to decide whether I would take on the book project or not. Note: When I first got the story manuscript, the working title of the book was "Make Big Plans" -then it was altered to "George's Fantastic Wheel" ...then finally changed again to "The Fantastic Ferris Wheel")

To be honest, I knew I could certainly create terrific illustrations for this project, however I was a bit daunted at first to even consider taking on such a project because as I initially read the manuscript, I could instantly envision quite clearly what these illustrations needed to be... that they would have to be filled with visually correct and convincing depictions of the construction of this very real iron and steel, steam powered observation wheel and having to depict it from many different angles. Plus, it would entail having to depict scenes with hundreds of people in period fashion, including the elaborate decorative architectural buildings in "White City" -the name of the complex of elaborate buildings built specifically for the WorId's Fair of 1893. And all these various factors means a project requiring a huge time commitment to create such intense illustrations... far more than time than for any other picture book I had ever illustrated up to this point... 

Some illustrators are really into machines and buildings and how things work or are constructed. In fact, some illustrators base their entire careers on the niche of specializing in illustrating these kind of images...  I am not one of these kinds of illustrators! But this does not mean I'm incapable of creating drawings of such mechanical subject matter! However, I really had to think hard if this was the kind of project I wanted to tackle...

I knew that the publisher's offered advance fee for creating the illustrations simply would not line up sufficiently with my estimated time needed to complete the project. Which is usually the case with publishing projects anyway -but this gulf between the offered advance fee and my time would be far more pronounced with this Ferris Wheel project.

ABOVE & BELOW -manuscript from The Fantastic Ferris Wheel 
-you can see that immediately  begin making shorthand sketch 
doodles as I first read the story, and also begin planning where 
I might break the text for page turns. 

Despite knowing this strained "fee vs time" scenario, I accepted the project... My first foray into non-fiction picture books (Brothers at Bat) has been such a hit, that I wanted to bring my talents to another non-fiction title. Plus, I had such a very good vibe from publisher Christy Ottaviano that I sensed I absolutely should not pass up the opportunity to work with her. She exuded a confidence that the book was going to turn out very special in my hands, and her enthusiasm spilled over onto me. I said yes to the project and was more than determined to do a great job. 

Meanwhile though, on the inside, I am indeed still praying that the royalties earned down the road (if the book sells well) will retro-actively compensate me for my efforts to the point that I will feel sufficiently paid for my efforts when all is said and done). Publishers are gamblers, betting that their literary products will indeed sell well and be profitable for all parties involved. So the illustrator gets pulled into this same gamble mindset to a degree, therefore hedging that royalties received at the back end will compensate for whatever the advance fee may have lacked. So my fingers are crossed, but I predict The Fantastic Ferris Wheel will be well received by industry critics, institutions, and the public.

Like I said, essentially I got offered this project because of my previous non-fiction picture book Brothers at Bat, a baseball book with period illustrations depicting baseball players from the 1930's and '40's. So when publisher Christy Ottaviano first contacted me about the Ferris Wheel book project, I immediately sent her a bunch of my samples of existing "period" illustrations I already had done... just to put her mind at ease that I would definitely be able to handle creating images which evoked 1890's America. 

Here is one of the samples of my illustrations I sent her... a flapper era woman of the 1920's that I had previously created. And it also functioned as an example for Christy as to how I would also approach the technique of doing the illustrations for the Ferris Wheel book: my line art and painting textures scanned into Photoshop, where I then compose the various elements and also add digital coloring. (click here to see an earlier post showing my process steps behind making this flapper era woman image)

ABOVE -example of one of my "period" illustrations, which was 
shown to the editor of the Ferris Wheel book, to explain my 
step 1) reading the manuscript while making side notes on instinctive gut ideas regarding visual approaches to the illustrations, the text breaks, page turns, etc...

step 2) making rough small scale storyboard sketches (about 3"x5") for the entire story, including blocking-in very rough placement of the text in relationship to the art... while also simultaneously doing photo research to support the images you have planned in the storyboard sketch stage.

step 3) creating more refined, larger scale sketches based on the rough storyboard panels, including better determining the accurate relationship of the art image relative to the text placement.

step 4) scanning the large scale sketches into Photoshop, dropping them into the correct layout format size that the printed book will be. Changing, modifying, refining the elements within the sketch to arrive at the final scene composition... including a layer containing the final intended text placement. These revised "large sketches" become the "official final sketches" which are then used in my formal sketch presentation to the publisher.

step 5) once the "final sketches" are presented to the publisher and approved, the next stage is creating the final illustrations based on the final sketches. I draw and paint separately all the various visual elements for each illustration, even all the background washes and textures, and then scan all these elements into Photoshop. Once in Photoshop, I compile and compose each of the final illustrations in a multitude of layers using all the scanned elements and then also add additional digital color to complete the final look of the illustrations. 

ABOVE 5 images
(top) -small storyboard sketch panel (3"x5") of the base for the 
wheel being constructed and supplies arriving by train. You can see 
that as I am working out the image, I am simultaneously also working 
out the text placement right from the very start.
(#2) -a larger more finished sketch (12" x 19") which was based 
on the initial storyboard panel.
(#3) -the final sketch, which was presented to the publisher. Here 
you can see the the final rough text placement has been determined.
(#4) -the completed final illustration spread.
(bottom) -detail of the completed final illustration spread.


The photo research stage (in this case a LOT of it) is not only to support the images I am already creating during the storyboard stage, but specifically to get into the "1893" frame of mind.... to get a visual feeling for this era in American history, not long after the end of the Civil War. It was the dawn of a new century when major new inventions were popping up like crazy, such as the automobile and electricity which were both in their infancy. It was an era when iron & steel machines billowing steam and coal smoke helped build the bridges, railroads, and buildings all across the country, along with horses and men doing back-breaking manual labor. I scoured through about 3,000 relevant period vintage photos to narrow it down to about 150 photos that I used as general reference, of which just a few photos were actually used as a direct reference for some of the final illustrations I created. 

Below are a few of the period research photos which I used as reference:
ABOVE -the Horticulture building at the 1893 World's Fair 
in Chicago

ABOVE -the Arts & Science building at the 1893 World's Fair 
in Chicago

ABOVE -the Observation Wheel (Ferris Wheel) at the 
1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Note: each car held 60 people, 
and there were 36 cars on the wheel!

ABOVE -the Observation Wheel (Ferris Wheel) at the 1893 
World's Fair in Chicago

ABOVE -a view from inside a car on the Ferris Wheel at the 1893 
World's Fair in Chicago. These "views from the wheel" were a terrific 
reference for me.

ABOVE -May 1st (Opening Day) at the 1893 World's Fair 
in Chicago... so much for the event planner's crowd control abilities in that era!

My initial rough "storyboard" panels are quite small, only 3"x5" format sketches (executed with pencil, crayon, ink, and gouache) thus enabling me to quickly compose all my art images, including coordination of the rough text placement too, to see how they all will flow next to each other, through the page turns, etc... 

This small storyboard stage is like a brief, raw, dress rehearsal where things are quickly tried, rejected, revamped from a different angle, etc... Once I have the entire storyboard resolved for the whole story from beginning to end, then I can start on the next stage of full-sized sketches based on these storyboard panels, which in this case were 12"x19". 

In this particular book project's case, the final picture book would require exactly 18 double-page spreads of art, within which the text must also reside too, so a huge part of conceiving of and composing the art images is also simultaneously designing the space for the text placement within or around the art images. So, I created 18 small scale storyboard panels like these four shown here, representing my intentions for illustrating the entire book. This way I can lay them all out on my desk and at a glance "see" the flow of the whole book. And because these sketch panels are so small, I can therefore make complete image changes or modifications relatively quickly. 

The whole function of the storyboard stage is to conceive of the visual approach for the entire book relatively quickly without getting fussy or bogged down in any detail or quality of the execution... just putting down the core visual thrust of each illustration. These rough storyboard sketches are for my eyes only... so this notion frees me up to make many missteps, mistakes, etc... and it is because of going through this "error filled" process of making inevitable wrong choices within the earliest sketch stage that allows me to then eventually arrive at all the correct choices.

(top) -small storyboard sketch panel (3"x5") This double-page 
spread scene is of young George Ferris presenting his plans for 
the Ferris Wheel to the Fair organizers.
(bottom) -this is the corresponding large sketch (12"x19"), 
based on the storyboard panel...

ABOVE 3 images
(top) -small storyboard sketch panel (3"x5") This double-page 
spread scene is of the Ferris Wheel still under construction. 
Note that I roughly blocked in with RED where the lines of 
text will be placed within the spread. 
(middle) -this is the corresponding large sketch (12"x19"), based 
on the storyboard panel...
(bottom)  -the completed final illustration... this is one of just 
a few final illustrations that I closely relied on a specific reference 
photo, in order to accurately depict the scaffolding and construction 
stage of the wheel.

(top) -small storyboard sketch panel (3"x5") This double-page 
spread scene is of patrons on Opening Day of the World's Fair. 
Note I roughly blocked in RED where the lines of text will be placed 
within the spread. 
(bottom) -this is the corresponding large sketch (12"x19"), 
based on the storyboard panel...


(top) -small storyboard sketch panel (3"x5") This double-page 
spread scene is of patrons riding the giant wheel enjoying the 
panoramic views of Chicago, Lake Michigan, and beyond. 
Note that I roughly blocked in RED where the lines of text will 
be placed within the spread. 
(bottom) -this is the corresponding large sketch (12"x19"), 
based on the storyboard panel... 

(top) -small storyboard sketch panel (3"x5"). This double-page 
spread scene is of people looking out from one of the observation 
cars and seeing a storm brewing over the lake. 
(bottom) -this is the corresponding large sketch (12"x19"), 
based on the storyboard panel... 
Once all the small scale storyboard sketches are completed, I then advance to the next stage of doing the corresponding, more refined larger sketches. (also created with pencil, crayon, ink, and gouache) These larger sketches begin to better depict what the final art will actually look like, both in the more mature realization of the characters and other elements within the composition, but I must also more accurately determine where the corresponding story text will be specifically placed on each page relative to these art images.
ABOVE (workers on Wheel during construction) -on my drawing 
table: in the upper left you can see a few of my small scale rough 
"storyboard" sketches. And in the bottom center you see a 
corresponding more refined "larger sketch" which is based 
on the storyboard panel. At the top center are a couple reference 
photos. These "large sketches" are created with pencil, crayon, 
ink, and gouache.
ABOVE -closer view of same image 

Once I have completed the "larger sketch" (see above) I then scan it into Photoshop and resize the resulting digital image to make sure the composition dimensions match the spread layout size that the printed book will be. Of course I also will adjust the placement of the image drawn elements within the sketch once it is in Photoshop: to resize things, etc... and delete items and scan in replacement sketch items to ultimately compile and compose the official "final sketch." Most of the final sketches are all executed as B&W, though in some instances I will also add in a basic wash of a digital color, to better enhance the visual drama of the sketch for my actual formal presentation to the editor and art director.
ABOVE -the large sketch (based on the earlier corresponding 
storyboard panel) is scanned into Photoshop where it is 
modified and enhanced to become the official "final sketch" 
which is the version presented to the editor and art director, 
and from which the final illustration art ultimately will be very 
closely based upon.
ABOVE -in this detail of the final sketch you can see that I 
also have a layer in the final sketch file which contains the text 
roughly dropped into place too. This is so that the editor and art 
director can see that the art is sufficiently allowing space for 
the text within the area I have determined it should be placed 
on the page.

ABOVE - a detail view of the completed final illustration 
which was based on the final sketch.

ABOVE - a view of the full completed final illustration (approx. 19" x 12") 
depicting a scene of numerous workers on the wheel during its 
construction in spring of 1893. 

Once I had completed all 18 of the full-size final sketches, I then made high-resolution full sized prints of them on my large format Epson printer in my studio to use in my formal presentation in person to editor Christy Ottaviano at her offices in the Flatiron Building at 23rd Street & Fifth Avenue here in NYC, just a short walk from my studio on East 9th Street in Manhattan. 

An interesting note here is that in the story about George Ferris and the giant observation wheel he designed for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair... one of the main organizers of the Fair was the person who had encouraged all the young engineers to "make big plans..." to try and conceive of an exciting, iconic structure (like the Eiffel Tower in Paris) which would be innovative and represent the Fair and capture the public's imagination. This Fair organizer was real life prominent architect of the day Daniel Burnham (see my illustration below), who designed the Flatiron Building in NYC in 1902. One of my illustrations in the book is a dramatic portrait of Daniel Burnham... and now here I was 111 years later making my formal sketch presentation in the very same famous office building Mr. Burnham had designed! (For those who don't know, the landmark Flatiron Building is located on Fifth Avenue and 23rd street in Manhattan where Broadway crosses over Fifth Avenue. My studio is just a 15 walk from the Flatiron.)

ABOVE -detail view of my final crayon portrait drawing of architect 
Daniel Burnham in progress (see the completed final illustration 
in next sample shown below) Once this drawing was completed, 
it was scanned into Photoshop, where I then combined it with 
other drawn elements which comprise the scene, plus added 
textures, and also painted  the color digitally.
ABOVE -detail view of my completed final illustration of architect 
Daniel Burnham, one of the organizers of the 1893 World's Fair in 
Chicago... and who played a role in sparking engineer George Ferris 
to come up with his idea for the giant observation wheel design. The 
illustration was created with crayon, ink, gouache, and digital color 
embellishments. When I created this particular portrait, I used a 
reference photo of Daniel Burnham for the face of course, but for 
the body and arms I referred to a photo of US President William 
Howard Taft... and the hands were drawn from posing my 
own hands in a mirror.
ABOVE -detail view of my completed final illustration of architect 
Daniel Burnham... this illustration refers to the point in the story 
where Burnham was encouraging all engineers involved with 
staging the 1893 Chicago World's Fair to try and come up with 
an idea for a new structure that would be different, that would 
capture the public's imagination... like the Eiffel Tower in Paris 
had done when it was erected just eight years prior. And it was 
young George Ferris who came up with the idea of a moving 
giant observation wheel... which indeed did capture the public's
attention. Note: You can see that the waist and pants area 
of the Daniel Burnham figure is faded... this is because that 
area is designated for the story text to be printed.
Once all the final sketches were approved by editor/publisher Christy Ottaviano, which at this point was just a handful of days before Christmas in 2013, I then took a week off, with the intention of starting on the final illustrations on January 2nd, 2014. My self-imposed schedule was to complete one final illustration a week, for 18 consecutive weeks and hopefully be done with all the inside final art by the beginning of May 2014. I think I was close. If I remember correctly I finished in mid-May 2014. 

Since all the actual original art I had created for the book consisted of many, many separate drawings, backgrounds and textures (which were all scanned into Photoshop to then digitally compile and compose all the final illustrations) -therefore my official "final art" was in the form of digital files. And rather than showing up at the publisher's offices with digital files to make my official presentation of all the final illustrations on a computer screen (to editor Christy Ottaviano and Patrick Collins the book's designer) instead I printed out all 18 final art spreads at their full size. I felt that having them see and handle these beautifully printed illustrations makes for a much more dramatic and exciting presentation and feels closer to looking at a printed book. The presentation was very successful. (And I ended up leaving all the illustration color prints with Patrick, who was going to pass them along to their printers, who would use my prints for color matching reference during their proof printing process.)

From the time I first began doing photo research is September of 2013, the entire Ferris Wheel project took me over nine months to complete, and was so intense I took on only a small number of other minor illustration projects during that same period. So if I had to place an exact time amount it took to complete the art for this book: about 8 full months of time devoted exclusively to it.


The picture book The Fantastic Ferris Wheel consists of 18 double-page spread final illustrations. They were created at 12" tall x 19" wide. Below, I show many of the sketches, the corresponding final illustrations or final illustration details, plus pictures of my drawing table with the various drawings during their various stages of progress... But please excuse the quality of some of the "drawing tabletop" photos, as they were done hurriedly and without bothering to set up proper lighting, but they will give you a decent enough view. 
ABOVE -final sketch of the opening illustration to the book... 
with George Ferris as a young boy pondering the grist mill on his 
grandfather's ranch... notice the other "wheel" inventions within 
the scene which also entered into the boy's fertile imagination... 
the windmill, the early automobile, and the big-wheeled bicycle.

(top) -my original ink and gouache drawing of young George sitting 
in the grass, drawn on Arches 260lb hot press paper. It is scanned 
into Photoshop where I then create the final illustration scene.
(middle) -this is a detail from the final completed illustration 
wherein I have combined the drawing of the boy along with the 
other elements of the scene: the grist mill, windmill, bicycle, etc... 
including various painted background textures, water textures, etc... 
all to create the final illustration.
(bottom) -this is a detail from the final completed illustration 
of the big-wheeled bicycle... a style bicycle that the young George 
inevitably saw as a boy.
ABOVE -the final sketch stage which depicts George Ferris as a 
young engineer, his mind filled with mechanics, and wheels, and 
ambition... the objects on the right side are inventions displayed at 
the 1893 World's Fair Exhibition Hall.
ABOVE -this is my corresponding final drawing I created of 
the character in crayon and ink, plus many of the other 
peripheral objects which will be within the scene too: wheels, 
phonograph, light bulb... I can draw them in a random manner 
on my paper, because once scanned into Photoshop, I will then 
arrange and compose the items as per the final sketch seen at 
the top. Also note that I have drawn various texture patterns 
with the crayon which will also be scanned and used as added 
textural elements within the final illustration
ABOVE -this is a detail from the final completed illustration
The "white line" images you see of the buildings and of the train 
were drawings I created digitally (on a WACOM drawing tablet) 
directly in the computer as opposed to having drawn them on 
paper and scanning them into Photoshop. The background light 
blue and dark textures were painted with gouache and also 
scanned and brought into the image...
ABOVE -detail view of portrait illustration of George Ferris. 

ABOVE -view of my table top with a large sketch in progress... 
which depicts a line of people entering the fairgrounds on 
Opening Day, with some of the distinctive architectural 
buildings seen in the background. The sketch was created 
with pencil, crayon, and gouache, then scanned into Photoshop.
ABOVE -this is the same large sketch depicting people 
on line at Opening Day, but a wider angle so you can 
see almost my entire table top. On the left side 
are a few of my small "storyboard" panels... at the top 
and middle are a couple reference photos from the 1893 
Chicago World's Fair site, and at the bottom is the 
large sketch depicting a line of people entering the 
fairgrounds on Opening Day...

(top) -detail of large sketch, showing the people entering the 
Fair grounds on Opening Day. For an image like this, I do use 
reference of clothing fashions of the day, but creating the 
characters themselves I just draw from my own imagination 
because drawing figures and faces comes very easily to me.
(bottom) -this is a quick doodle I did between the rough 
storyboard stage and the final sketch stage... just to get a 
better visual idea of the look of the overall silhouette the image 
ABOVE -this is the final sketch, which is the version I ultimately 
presented to the publisher.  I create the "final sketch" by scanning 
my large sketch into Photoshop and then add tonal washes and a 
bit of color digitally to enhance the image and bring it closer to what 
I have envisioned for the final illustration. Note that I have also 
blocked in where the text will be placed within the spread. 

ABOVE 3 images
(top 2) images shown me inking the final characters in the final illustration.
(bottom) image is the final completed illustration. 

Process: I take my large final sketch and place it on my light table and place my heavyweight paper on top of the sketch. I then lightly redraw the scene in pencil onto the heavyweight paper using the sketch underneath as my guide, then as you can see, I use an ink pen to draw the final illustration... which once the drawing is competed I then scan it into Photoshop to complete the illustration by adding in painted textures and creating digital color. Essentially the line art (people, buildings, lamp posts, flag poles) each have their own layer, then the textures I created and also had scanned into Photoshop (water, sky, foreground) each have their own layers too. Then there are also many additional layers consisting of all the digital color I embellished the characters with... probably about 12 individual layers for various color effects.
ABOVE -detail of the final illustration
ABOVE -extreme close-up view of the final illustration. All these 
peripheral characters within the book, their poses and their faces, 
I simply create from my imagination. I don't need any reference to 
create the characters -but I did indeed use general reference of men's 
and women's clothing and accessory items from the late 1890's to 
dress my characters! I have always been able to draw the human 
figure with ease, which comes not only from having studied anatomy 
and having spent many hours drawing from models... but just as 
importantly I have image recall, and I can close my eyes and envision 
how I need to draw the shape or angle of any part of the anatomy 
or facial expression relatively correctly, to make my drawing of the 
human form look "right."

The Ferris Wheel of 1893 was the tallest structure at the Fair (264 feet tall). It was the height equivalent of about a 26 story building. (At the time, the tallest building in the world was only 302 feet tall, about 30 stories tall, which also happened to be located in Chicago too) So, unless a person had stood on the roof of that 302 foot tall building in Chicago, when they rode the Ferris Wheel in the summer of 1893 they were brought up to a height higher than they had ever been before! In other words, probably 99.9% of all the Ferris Wheel riders had never before experienced being at such dizzying heights! Some riders actually broke down in fear during the ride.

ABOVE - is an example of one of my completed illustrations... 
depicting a point in the storyline where George Ferris is explaining 
to some other engineers what his vision for the massive 
observation wheel will be: 264 feet tall, as tall as a 26 story 
building, 36 observation cars -each car holding 60 people 
(2,160 riders in total). 

ABOVE - is the drawing of the support towers. You can see that I 
drew them as an independent element, then added them into the 
composition along with the wheel and car elements. Note: the 
"smudging effect" you see in the line work is created by simply 
smudging the ink line with my moistened fingertip. 

Creating the illustrations for this book and thus having to use reference photos of the Ferris Wheel that were taken in 1893... meant that ALL of the research photos I located were taken from a vantage point looking UPWARD at the wheel, because there was no building around at a higher vantage point where a photographer could shoot from. And this was fine if I wanted to create only illustrations of the wheel from an upward angle too, in which case the reference photos I had would serve me well. (example: the illustration shown above which depicts the wheel seen at an upward angle was created by referring to a specific reference photo from 1893.)

However, in many instances in the book, my illustrations required an angled view of the wheel from higher up, as if the viewer were in the sky looking at an angle DOWNWARD at the wheel. This meant that I had to understand how the wheel was generally constructed, so that I could essentially recreate it from any angle I wished, particularly from a vantage point from above of which there were no reference photos available! So when I created an illustration of the wheel, I drew the components of the wheel separately, scanned them into Photoshop, and then "constructed" the wheel in layers. For example I would draw the two supporting towers separately... draw the wheel hub and spokes separately, draw the observation cars separately... etc, then carefully "put the wheel together" in Photoshop. 

ABOVE 8 images 
(#1) -my tabletop with a printout of my large sketch in the upper 
left corner showing the workers on the wheel during its construction 
in 1893 with my final drawing of a portion of the wheel in the bottom 
(#2 & 3) -I am shown drawing the steel girders of the wheel 
using a black crayon pencil.... 
(#4) -the worker characters seen standing on the wheel during 
construction were all drawn separately to. Shown here are two 
figures, drawn with crayon.
(#5 & 6) -the image of the worker in the red shirt leaning on 
a big cog and holding a smaller cog in his hand was drawn with 
ink and crayon.
(#7) -this is a photo of the ink drawing in progress... I am inking 
over a very light pencil drawing.
(#8) -this is the photo inspiration I had used to create my worker 
character wearing the red shirt. This photo was actually of a worker 
building the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC... which was completed in 
about 1883, ten years before the building of the Ferris Wheel in Chicago. 

ABOVE 3 images  
(top) -my large sketch, showing the Ferris Wheel and the 
vista beyond. This large sketch is the final sketch version that 
was shown to the editor and art director when I presented all 
the final sketches to them. 
(middle) -this is a photo of my final sketch on my lightbox 
with my heavy weight drawing paper on top of it, so I can 
lightly redraw in pencil the wheel portion of the sketch, and 
then create the final drawing using crayon and ink.
(bottom) -this is a detail section of the final illustration. 
I scan all my various drawn elements of the scene: wheel, 
cars, people, background buildings, etc... plus painted textures 
for the sky, clouds, etc.. and then compose everything in layers 
to create the final illustration.

ABOVE -a preliminary sketch study of one of the observation cars 
on the Ferris Wheel. This rough sketch was just of me to get the 
proportions correct. (there were 36 cars, each holding 60 passengers. 
Essentially the observation cars were similar in size to a railroad 
passenger car, but modified without seats, and with large "viewing windows." 
You can see color notations written out. All the reference photos I 
had from 1893 were of course in black & white, so the color 
information came from written accounts, and also from a few 
reproductions of artist's paintings from 1893 depicting the World's Fair.

BELOW -one of the completed drawings of one of the 

observation cars... it is then scanned into Photoshop and 
positioned relative to it place within the Ferris Wheel 

ABOVE -detail view of one of the rough preliminary 
sketches, depicting a view from inside a car on the 
Ferris Wheel, looking out over the cityscape and lake 
in the distance.

ABOVE -detail of inking an illustration which depicts some 
of the patrons visiting the Fair on Opening Day in May 1893. 
You can see the very light pencil drawing which I am using as 
a guide to make the final ink rendering. Once the drawing is 
completed it gets scanned into Photoshop along with painted 
background textures, and other drawn elements of the 
illustration wherein all the elements get compiled and 
composed, and digital color added. 

ABOVE 2 images 
(top) -detail of a final ink & crayon drawing in progress, which 
depicts George Ferris presenting his early "observation wheel" 
plans to the Fair committee.
(bottom) -detail of the drawing. Once the drawing is completed it 
gets scanned into Photoshop along with painted background textures, 
and other drawn elements of the illustration wherein all the elements 
get compiled and composed, and digital color added.

ABOVE 3 images 
(top) -this is the final large sketch which was presented to the editor... 
it is created with ink and crayon, with added digital color. You can see 
the story text dropped into place to make sure I am allowing sufficient 
space for the designer.
(middle) -this is the final ink drawing based on the sketch above it, 
which shows a semi-bird's eye view of the fair grounds from above
where the Ferris Wheel was situated along the lake. I had photo 
reference, but as usual the references never were the correct angle 
at all, so  so essentially I had to imagine the buildings in my head and 
then draw them in the perspective I wanted depicted.
(bottom) -detail of the above drawing with me adding some 
additional details in pen... This drawing was then scanned 
into Photoshop, along with a separate drawing of the Ferris Wheel, 
as well as background textures created with gouache and pastel. 
All these elements are then composed in layers, with added digital 
color to create the final illustration 
(see below).

ABOVE -the completed illustration showing the Ferris Wheel at night, 
with all the lights reflected in the lake.
ABOVE -detail view of the completed illustration. You can see 
the textured background that I layered the ink drawing of the 
buildings on top of... It is impressive to see the full 12" x 20" 
image printed on watercolor paper! It's striking. These photos 
don't do it justice!

ABOVE 4 images 
(top) -this is the final large sketch which was presented to the editor... 
it is created with ink and crayon, with added digital color. It depicts a 
scene later in the book when a huge summer storm suddenly rolls in 
from the lake and hits the fairgrounds with devastating damage... and 
everyone is concerned about the riders on the Ferris Wheel... which 
was built so solidly that the severe winds not only didn't damage the 
giant wheel at all, in fact it performed without a hitch even during the storm!
(2 middle images) -a detail view of a portion of the final sketch on 
my light box underneath a sheet of quality paper, upon which I am 
then executing the final crayon drawing of the man wearing a top 
hat... The other images is also a crayon drawing of a man with 
his hat flying off in the wind. These final drawings, along with many 
others that comprise the full scene, will be scanned into Photoshop, 
as well as background textures, where they will all be layered into 
the final composition with added digital color to create the completed 
final illustration.
(bottom) -this is a detail view of a portion of the final completed 

The Ferris Wheel picture book illustrations are filled with hundreds of 1893 period characters: men constructing the wheel, people attending the fair grounds, patrons riding the Ferris Wheel... even celebrities of the day such as Helen Keller, Houdini, and President Teddy Roosevelt. Some of the characters appear very tiny within the illustrations, such as the handful of characters shown here below... They were created with blue ink, and from the pen point in the photo you can see just how small they were drawn. In fact, once they were scanned into Photoshop, they were further reduced in scale and appeared even smaller in the final illustration. With these little characters, I did not bother first with any light pencil under-sketch as a guide... I just created them directly in ink. If I screwed up one figure, I just did another and another to get it right.

(below) pen and ink drawings of various small characters.

Whew! I think by now, you understand the full flavor of the picture book, without me having to show any more images... plus I do not want to give away the entire collection of illustrations here in this preview blog post! 

And you can see that even though the images are filled with buildings, and mechanical wheels, I created the illustrations with the living human characters as the emotional center of the images, the heart of the images. The mechanical elements, buildings, and the starring role Ferris Wheel never come off as visually stiff or dry...  no small artistic feat on my part!

The story concludes talking about with the present day mega-tall observations wheels, that were all inspired by the very first Ferris Wheel in 1893 by George Ferris, such as the London Eye and the Singapore Flyer. The final illustration spread in the picture book depicts the London Eye seen against the back drop of Big Ben and the London skyline... and there is a flip-up vertical gatefold to the spread, so the illustration soars at double height, making for a dramatic visual conclusion to the book! I am not going to show the final illustration here, nor even the full sketch of this particular spread, but posted below are few teaser views of me working on sections of the London Eye in blue ink, and the sepia ink drawing the the Big Ben Tower.

Look for The Fantastic Ferris Wheel in October of 2015! 
(published by Christy Ottaviano Books/ Henry Holt & Company, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Group) 

Visit to see my various illustration portfolios and published children's books.