The Great Book Seminar Saga Part II: The Picture Book

The Great Book Seminar Saga
Part II: The Picture Book

...in which Viktor lights a fire, and Lisa gets the heebie jeebies...

So you may be wondering how I pulled a picture book out of a story about war, death, and communist. There happens to be a brief but nostalgic flashback to the protagonist's childhood with his grandfather. SCORE! I essentially proposed to focus an entire semester (or at least the remaining 9 weeks of it) of work on perhaps half a page of text in which the protagonist visits his grandparents and goes crawfish hunting with his grandfather.

During class when I pasted all of this up on the wall for our weekly critique, Viktor gave me good feedback and then told me that I could conceivably begin the finals of the sketches and be done with the project IF I just wanted to do a simple fairytale-ish story... OR I could push them and make it into a SUPERB book. As he said to me, "I want to light a fire under your desk."

So I took all of it back to the drawing board... literally.

This is some of what I had from sketches round one:

Really rough opening page... the boy arriving at his grandparent's country home

Double page spread with text: Grandma and Grandpa and the boy on the porch watching the sun go down.

Double page spread with text: Grandpa and the boy heading out for some crawfish hunting.

Double page spread with text: arriving at the river.

I wrestled with the images for a week... how to push them? How to change things around and make it more dynamic?

One of the biggest problems with the originals (and a single night of work will do this) was the similarity in camera angle and setting. Not to mention Viktor wanted me to use reference to make it feel more real. "Too fairy tale-ish or story book fantasy land," was definitely a part of his comment. So I redid a bunch of the outdoor scenes with reference of Bulgarian villages... and I also started really thinking about my main character. Who is the little boy? What's he like?

Single page image: heading out for some crawfish hunting.

And speaking of crawfish... I had a vague idea of what a crawfish looked like. (My fourth grade class raised crawfish as our big science project... I think mine died a few weeks in...) In any case, I had a vague idea: lobster-ish, though smaller and grayer, and most definitely ugly. Anywho, I started googling crawfish for some reference for the scenes down by the river. Have you ever really looked at a picture of a crawfish? I mean, sat and stared at it? They are some seriously ugly little dudes. We're talking no-joke, giant-going-to-eat-your-face-off-underwater-bug ugly.

Shudder...

Despite my horror at the nasty wee beasties, the reference was good, and my sketches just got better. As did the camera angles. I also started playing with using smaller spot illustrations on the right side of the spread and small vignettes to surround the text on the left. They're still pretty rough, but they give me a good idea of where things are going.
Week six, I brought the new sketches back to class. Viktor's response: keep pushing it. So more sketches... not to mention he wanted to see examples of how the final illustrations would be rendered.
Back to the drawing board....

End Part II

Stay tuned for The Great Book Seminar Saga Part III: Final Renders or Style... huh?

...in which art school leads to nervous break downs and sketches of a mouse in a cowboy hat...

7 comments:

charlotteinatx said...

as ever, i'm impressed with your skill and perspective.

also, funny story, when we were little, my family went to this country estate/camp, where our favorite cabin to rent for a week had a little pond between it and the main lodge. And in that pond, hanging out on the big stone, was a crawfish (or as we call them , a "crawdaddy") that Walter and I adopted for the week. We named him Mork, and he was awesome.

Benjamin Kalish said...

I'm sure someone has said this already, but have you read Peter Sís's The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. It kind of is a book about war and communism, though I don't remember it having much death in it. It's pretty cool though.

jenn said...

I love the sketches! And you're absolutely right crawfish are ugly little dudes.

esup said...

Looking at these all together like this really shows your improvement over the last 9 weeks. You're doing so well. I'm really proud of you!

Lisa Anchin said...

Mark the crawfish??? A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Charlotte, awesomeness... just awesomeness. Tehe!

Aw shucks, thanks folks. Your stuff is looking pretty sweet too Mz. Erin. I don't care what Viktor said, your first apple lady was super cute!

charlotteinatx said...

close. mork. from ork. as in nanu-nanu. which i think make it even better. Because what other young'uns in the 90s loved Mork and Mindy?

Lisa Anchin said...

I totally knew what you meant and typed Mark. Silly fingers. Mork indeed... so so good. Robin Williams is hilarious.

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