Sunday, October 30, 2011

Illustration Friday: "Scary"

Ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night . . .

Monday, October 24, 2011

Illustrating "The Ice Castle" Part 2: Production Schedule

When you're a freelancer, juggling multiple assignments can be tricky. For some reason jobs tend to come in a tangle and a rush, all clumped together. I'm sure it's some kind of cosmic law - the same one that dictates that when you drop a slice of buttered bread, it always has to fall face down.

One of the benefits of working on a long-term project like a book is that you're given a production schedule that sets out the project milestones clearly and precisely. And although the dates aren't set in stone (publishing is a lot like the army - sometimes you have to hurry up and wait) you still have a pretty good gauge of how to pace yourself and when you can accept other assignments.

It also doesn't hurt if you stick to the schedule and try not to wait until the last minute to do your work -- unless you don't mind 24 hour days and being glued to your chair somehow feels nautral to you. Sometimes you can't help that - you're thrown a last minute change or the editor or art director decides something extra is needed. There can (and most likely will) always be emergencies, so, as my old girl scout leader used to say, be prepared.

I've included a copy of the production schedule for "The Ice Castle" (above). So far things have gone smoothly and with one exception we've stuck pretty close to the schedule. As you can see, even though the pub date isn't until August 2012, a lot of the work is due way in advance so that all of the elements: editing, illustration, book design, marketing, and sales can all come together to make a great book.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Illustrating "The Ice Castle" -- Initial Sketches

I'm in the midst of illustrating The Ice Castle, a middle grade fantasy adventure written by Pendred Noyce. I thought it might be interesting to share the behind-the-scenes process of creating a book from the illustrator's point of view.

Of course, it all starts with the manuscript. Once I get those, crisp, new pages in my hands, I read the manuscript several times. The initial reading is done quickly so that I can get the overall feel of the book. The second time, I go through the text more carefully, marking up the typescript and making notes to myself about possible illustrations. During the third review, I refine my list and make visual and written notes about the look and feel of the characters, costumes, and the settings. Most of The Ice Castle takes place in the imaginary "Land of Winter", so creating a fantasy world that is grounded in reality is very important to the integrity of this story.

During my initial conversations with the art director, we agreed that the book should contain about thirty black and white interior illustrations, a frontispiece, one iconic image that will appear at the top of each chapter, and of course, a color cover illustration. Working with the author, we each came up with a list of possible illustrations. Once those three lists were combined and edited, I had my working illustration list, although I was free to add or subtract scenes if I thought another would serve the story more effectively.

I was given a lot of leeway and creative freedom by the art director. She did urge me to tell the author's story visually -- in other words, it should be clear what the story was about without reading the prose. The Ice Castle is full of action, mystery and rip-roaring adventure, so it really lends itself to a cinematic illustration style. I was able to exploit unusual angles, close and medium shots and interesting POVs to underscore and heighten the action and emotion of the scenes.

Once I completed the initial sketches, the illustrations were reviewed and most of them were accepted as submitted. Some changes were suggested for existing scenes, one scene was eliminated, and two more were added.

The next step will be to submit those edited sketches and, once they are approved, I'll be able to begin on the finished illustrations.

In my next entry, I'll talk about deadlines and timelines.