I don’t recall where I found this lovely little mausoleum, but I sketched it as a possible spot for the Where’s My Mummy? title page.
Here’s the sketch and painting (still on the easel) for the endpaper art from Where’s My Mummy?
Back cover of Where’s My Mummy?—working out some sketch ideas, followed by the layout for the entire jacket. When an art director sends me a layout (sketch & text together in one piece of art) she’s telling me to go ahead and start painting.
One of the challenges for a picture book illustrator is to find ways to include the text in the illustrations. In older books, the practice was to run the words along the bottom of the page and leave the illustrations free of any text. Nowadays, that look is considered old-fashioned, and it’s up to the illustrator to provide blank areas within the pictures as a background for text, to make the whole thing more organic.
You’ll notice also that the text is always black, never a color. There’s a good reason for that: if you ever needed to publish the book in a different language, black-only text is simpler and less expensive to change. To understand why that is, you’ll need to understand 4-color printing.
Remember primary colors?—blue, red, yellow. They can be mixed to create any color in the spectrum, the rainbow. When you look at an illustration in a picture book, you’re looking at a painting that’s been digitally reduced to tiny dots—blue, red and yellow dots. These dots are printed on white paper, so if you let more paper show in between the dots, the color will look lighter. If you want to darken a color, you add tiny black dots. So there are the 4 colors of the printing process: blue, red, yellow (the primaries), and black.
So if you keep an area of the picture light, and print the words over it in black, you’ll only need to change the black plate if you need to translate the text. If you printed the words in color, you’d have to change all 4 plates—more expensive. Likewise, if you had white type drop out of a color background, you’d also need to change all 4 plates if you were to change the words.
I faced a dilemma when drawing the sketches for Where’s My Mummy? In order to make the pictures look spooky, there had to be a lot of dark areas. But where to put the text? Leaving big pale patches in a dark tree trunk wasn’t acceptable. Caroline Walker, the art director, came up with a brilliant idea: since my dark areas were all blueish gray, have blue type drop out of the black plate. She explains it here:
The new PSInside just hit the newsstands!
Only 2 weeks til Hallowe’en! How about we take a look at the thumbnail and tight sketches for the Where’s My Mummy? jacket art?
The first five are thumbnail—very rough and small—sketches. The last 2 are refined—what I call tight sketches. Caroline Lawrence, the art director, liked the version with Baby Mummy standing.
Back in the days when I was a graphic design instructor at Pittsburgh Technical Institute, I had a student who was dying to be a Disney animator—Pete Mekis. Pete lived and breathed Walt Disney. PTI was designed to turn out graduates ready for entry positions in graphic design, not necessarily for animation careers. Pete was dead-set on animation, though, so I told him he’d need 2 portfolios when he graduated: one for graphic design and one for animation.
One way I was able to help Pete was through a lucky circumstance. I had a friend from art school days, Will Finn. Will and I had attended Art Institute of Pittsburgh ‘way back when and like Pete, Will was into animation. After graduation Will headed out west where the animation studios are. Will always was a fantastic drawer and he got a job with Disney. If you saw Aladdin, you’ve seen Will’s work on the parrot Iago.
Anyway, after I got in touch with Will, he generously took Pete under his wing, doling out plenty of constructive criticism and advice. Will gave Pete a tour of Disney Studios when he flew out there. The crit & advice were given through typewritten letters. Each one contained enough material for a drawing teacher to work up several lesson plans (which you can bet I did!). Here’s a sample:
So here’s a fine example of why I love the art business. There’s a tradition of older experienced guys helping out the newcomers for no other reason than it’s a nice thing to do. Will continues to be generous with his wisdom over at Small Room.
And Pete wound up animating Dora the Explorer, among other projects. Life doesn’t always go exactly as planned, but if we’re lucky we find ourselves doing what we love.
…and the guy sitting the next table over finishes his dinner. When the waiter brings him a check, the guy says “I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay for this until you give me the recipe for everything I ate.”
The waiter says, “I’m sorry, sir, but we can’t give out recipes. A recipe belongs to the chef. If I gave you the recipe, you could start your own restaurant and I’d be out of a job.”
And the guy replies, “Well, I won’t pay you for this dinner then.”
Yes, okay, this story didn’t really happen—at least not in a restaurant. The true story: an illustrator buddy of mine finished up a project recently, submitted his bill, and the client told him they require that he sign a release form (giving them sole usage and exclusive rights, etc.)…before he can get paid!
According to copyright law, you own all rights to your images until they’re transferred to another party. In my opinion it’s unethical for a business to hold your payment hostage until you surrender sole ownership of your images after the job’s finished. Usage should be agreed upon before the job starts.
Here’s the good news: a brand-spankin’ new edition of the Graphic Artists’ Guild‘s Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines (PEGs, as we professional artist-types call it) just hit the newsstands! It is chock-full of information about how to negotiate usage of your art, what other artists are charging—it even has legal forms in the back, like sample contracts. You get all this for the footling price of $40.00. It’s money you’ll wish you’d spent years ago.
Audrey, a school librarian, asked me for coloring pages from Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians.
The best I can come up with are these sketches for the front and back cover art. I illustrated this story a few years ago, before it was my regular practice to scan all my sketches and send them to the art director as e-mail attachments. With this story I must have photocopied the sketches and mailed them—you know, in a paper envelope. Wow, does that sound old-fashioned!
One nice aspect of scanning all your sketches is that they’re always handy for you to include in blog posts.
One of my favorite books as a kid was P.D. Eastman’s Go Dog. Go! I still think it’s one of the best—a pared-down, simple idea with bold, direct illustrations to match. The story: dogs of a dizzying variety all travel by whatever means they have to get themselves to a big dog party. That’s it.
Turkey Day has virtually the same idea—this time, of course, with turkeys! So, naturally, I had to do a little homage, a little tip of the hat to P.D. Eastman. So here are some sketches for the cover art for Turkey Day.
John Manders Illustration
Caricatures, Comic Strips
School Assembly Visits