In Part 1, I recounted the first stage of my process for illustrating Volcano Dreams by Janet Fox, which is published by Web of Life Children's Books. Both prior to and after that trip, of course, came the thumbnail sketches. Janet had put a lot of thought into pagination (dividing the text into spreads), so I had few decisions to make in that regard. But the thumb-nailing process was by the far the most intense and time-consuming.
My thumbnails are often visual gibberish, though they make sense to me...
My greatest challenges, I knew, would be to:
- accurately convey geological concepts,
- show vast time scales with a leap into the distant past then the passage through time to the present,
- accurately show the features and scenery of the USA's first, most famous, and most visited National Park (hence the research trip),
- and convey the immense destructive power of the Yellowstone supervolcano, which WILL violently erupt in the future, without scaring the peanut butter & jelly out of young kids. (And without overtly implying the horrific death of the Park's fauna via searing pyroclastic eruption.)
So, there was a lot to think about in those initial stages and indeed until quite far into the project. I also wanted to treat the book as a trip through Yellowstone on a route a typical family might take. (Because apparently I like to make challenging things even harder for myself.)
We considered (then rejected) showing the iconic Roosevelt Arch at the Park's north entrance on the title page. (Ultimately, we deleted this spread entirely, did a single title page on page 1 with a map of the park, and placed the copyright on page 32.)
I fairly quickly determined that I would show the leap back in time with a subtle change in illustration style and shift in color palette. I also toyed with the idea of showing megafauna that would have lived here prior to the last eruption, 640,000 years ago.
The future is looking decidedly bleak for this poor mastodon and saber-toothed cat! Challenge #4 failed!!
As you can see from the above sketch, we also toyed with the idea of including text about the animals and Yellowstone's features on each spread (rather than in the back-matter where it ended up).
Meanwhile, I was getting to know the animal characters in the book.
I like to stay very organized when I'm working on a project (at least on my pin-board and in my mind; my studio is a complete disaster zone when I'm working). Here are the spreads to be completed (left), thumbnails in progress (middle), and the days left until the deadline. Sorting out what would be in the illustrations ate most of the time.
And at least one spread wasn't finalized until quite late in the project. Sometimes, you just need to let ideas ferment until they're nice and tasty.
In my next post, I'll talk about refining the art for a single piece and working toward a final illustration.
VOLCANO DREAMS will be released on September 25th, 2018.