Another spread from Two Bad Pilgrims. This is the big splashy first glimpse of the Mayflower.
Here is the thumbnail sketch:
Everything’s there that needs to be, but I was concerned that the direction of the drawing didn’t show the Billingtons being rowed toward the Mayflower in the background.
In the tight sketch, I turned the foreground boat around so we’re looking at its stern as it rows away from us. I had to scan this in two pieces—sorry.
When I drew the tight sketch, I worked half-size, so it was fairly easy to freehand the lines of the ship. When I inked the scene, I worked at 125%, which is pretty big. I don’t have enough control with a brush to competently ink in those lines at the larger size. I wound up ruling them with a rapidograph, and used a homemade french curve—I traced the ship’s line onto a piece of watercolor board and cut along the line with a razor blade. It gave me a nice smooth template to rule the lines with.
Here’s the inked and colorized image:
Colorization by Vince Dorse. Click on the picture to embiggen.
Update—Vince has some more on the colorization process over here.
It’s November—time to start thinking about Thanksgiving and pilgrims! Here’s another scene from Two Bad Pilgrims. This one shows the pilgrims beginning construction of Plymouth Plantation. The first thing they built was the common house/fort. This is my thumbnail sketch, 2 inches tall.
One of the great things about being an illustrator is that you’re always learning something. F’rinstance, to draw this scene of 17th century building construction, I had to find out how those buildings were framed; how a block and tackle works; how an ox yoke is harnessed. I made several trips to the library and spent some time on the internet.
Art director Jim Hoover and editor Kendra Levin had a team of crack historians fact-checking my sketches. Turns out the pilgrims didn’t bring any oxen with them on the Mayflower, so I replaced the ox with a group of men when I inked in the drawing. Too bad; I kind of liked the ox. The timbers are shaped to form mortise and tenon joints. That’s an adz lying in the foreground.
—and colorized final art.
Colorization by Mr Vince Dorse.
Here’s the big scene from Two Bad Pilgrims, where Francis and Johnny nearly scuttle the Mayflower when they fool around with their father’s fowling piece. First the thumbnail sketch:
Then the tight sketch:
There was some squeamishness about showing two boys firing a gun in a kids’ book, so we tried a different approach. Sometimes you encounter this kind of snag in the creative process. Kendra Levin, the editor and Jim Hoover, the art director worked with me to find a solution. How about if instead of the gun, we show the boys playing with squibs?
What the heck is a squib? Here’s where my dad, and the Company of Military Historians really came to the rescue. My dad posted the question in the forum page of the Company’s website. Turns out a squib is a thin tube of paper or a hollow quill filled with black gunpowder—homemade fireworks. When you light one it zips around the room.
But, this isn’t really what happened aboard the Mayflower. More important, it’s not as interesting to look at. We ultimately struck a compromise and decided to show the boys with the gun, but not actually firing it.
Here’s the inked in version. Squibs, a barrel of gunpowder, straw ticking on the bunk, old wooden planking—all the ingredients for setting a ship afire.
It seems nuts to have gunpowder just laying around like that, but according to Mourt that’s the way it was. I know that British warships in Nelson’s time stored all gunpowder in a special room, the magazine. It was lit by a lamp on the other side of a glass window. Anyone in the magazine had to wear slippers, because the nail of a shoe grating across powder on the floor would cause a spark, blowing up the ship.
Here’s the color sketch.
And Vince Dorse’s colorization.
I’ve got another book coming out in August, Two Bad Pilgrims.
It’s the true story of the Billington brothers, who came to the New World on the Mayflower. They were a couple of brats who nearly blew up the ship while fooling around with a fowling piece belowdecks.
The art director and editor asked that this project be given a graphic novel look. When I was a kid, my goal was to become a comic book or strip artist. So this was fun, but what a load of work! Nineteen times more work than a conventional picture book.
I was never going to finish all this—thumbnail sketches, comp sketches, character designs, inking and coloring— on time without some help, so my buddy Vince Dorse jumped in to digitally colorize my black and white ink drawings.
Here are character designs for the 2 boys, Franky and Johnny.
The thumbnail sketch for spread 18/19 (later bumped to 20/21). The thumbnail sketch is about 2 inches tall.
The comprehensive sketch for page 20. I work about half-size.
The inked-in version of page 20. This is a night scene at the top. I really enjoyed dropping in those big areas of solid black!
Now it’s time to color it in. I painted this little color sketch for Vince.
And here’s his beautiful colorization.
John Manders Illustration
Caricatures, Comic Strips
School Assembly Visits