Monday, October 17, 2016

"Ghosts from Our Past" -illustration project for companion book associated with the new 2016 Ghostbusters™ movie

This past winter (in February 2016) I received a very interesting book project offer from Penguin/Random House editor Elizabeth Rendfleisch... and because I had already illustrated several picture books for Random House, I initially thought Elizabeth's offer was going to be to illustrate another picture book for kids. 

Sidebar: Over my long illustration career I've illustrated many books: cookbooks, novel covers, travel books, etc... and to date, I've also illustrated 24 popular picture books for kids, with 5 more picture book titles being released over the next three years.
(see a list of my published picture books)

However, it turned out that her project offer was for illustrating an adult fiction title, Ghosts from Our Past -the tongue-in-cheek guide to paranormal activity. This book would be published quickly, for release in July 2016 in direct association with the much anticipated summer blockbuster SONY Pictures movie, Ghostbusters. (Ghostbusters™ & © 2016 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.) 
cover of Ghosts from Our Past (2016 Three Rivers Press/ Penguin Random House)

Ghosts from Our Past was written as if penned by two main characters from the movie, paranormal activity researchers Erin Gilbert (played by Kristen Wiig) and Abby L. Yates (played by Melissa McCarthy). 
(ghost) drawing by Steven Salerno for book, Ghosts from Our Past

(hedgehog) drawing by Steven Salerno for book, Ghosts from Our Past

And so Elizabeth explained to me that the final illustrations for this book needed to be created in a manner as if they were actual sketches drawn by these fictional authors. This was a fun twist... plus, how could I turn down a project where I get to draw ghosts and monsters and it's associated with a famous film franchise? 

Of course I accepted the project! But the deadline was tight. (I'd have to complete all 30 of the required illustrations in about a month.)

I asked Elizabeth how she came to seek me out for this project, and she explained she had liked my "sci-fi character sketches" portfolio section on my illustration web site, and knew I'd be perfect for the Ghosts from Our Past project. (note: my sci-fi character sketches are a collection of my doodles where I invent alien creatures, all just for my own amusement.)
RAVEN drawing by Steven Salerno for book, Ghosts from Our Past

HORSE drawing by Steven Salerno for book, Ghosts from Our Past

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE drawing by Steven Salerno for book, Ghosts from Our Past

The essential requirements for the 30 illustrations needed for Ghosts from our Past was they needed to be rendered in black & white and must look like sketches. Now, with any illustration project I do, whether it be for advertising, or editorial, or publishing, my normal process is to first create the preliminary sketches, which are approved by the editor or design director, then I proceed with creating the final illustrations. However with this particular project my preliminary sketches (once approved) would be used as the final art for the book! In other words, the drawings purposely had to look a bit rough and unrefined, like a sketch. Skipping the normal "final art" rendering stage is what allowed me to meet their tight deadline!

I created the originals by simply drawing directly on paper -with pencil, crayon, or ink... then scanned all the drawings into Photoshop where with some of the drawings (on a separate layer) I created a digital gray wash, simulating a gray watercolor or diluted ink wash effect. 

MANTIS drawing by Steven Salerno for book, Ghosts from Our Past

RACCOON drawing by Steven Salerno for book, Ghosts from Our Past

Posted above are 7 (of the thirty illustrations) I created for the book. For purposes of this web post, I dropped the B&W drawings onto a buff colored background, just for better contrast against the bright white screen background.

This was a fun project for sure. And once I finished it I was immediately right back working on my other children's books projects... Ultimately, because I was offered this project due to the editor seeing my sci-fi character sketches portfolio, I may begin exploring other assignments related to my alien creature imaginings.

Visit to view all my portfolio sections, as well as many of my picture books for kids.

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