Archive for the ‘process’ Category



Saturday, February 1st, 2014

A certain book being written by a certain writer that is being illustrated by me is scheduled to be published in September, and things are running behind, and it’s all crazy and I’m under an incredibly tight and difficult deadline.
So here’s a couple of teasers from the cover art. More on this soon, I think.

frank_close

frank_robots

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Everything Goes by Sea

(This post was partially written yesterday, October 22, before my old and reliable laptop took a day off while on my current book tour. 24 hours later, the cursed device suddenly began working again, so I’m currently sitting in the staff break room of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh NC finishing this post and getting it up into the world…)

Today (yesterday) is October 22, which is the day that HarperCollins is publishing Everything Goes: By Sea, the third, last, and final picture book in the Everything Goes series. What this means is that you can go buy it now. So, that said, I’ll take a little break here and let you take care of that business.

Indiebound
Amazon

Okay, thanks for that.

The publication of this third book in the series represents the culmination of about six years of pretty solid work for me on this project. I first started knocking around the idea of Everything Goes back in 2007, at which point it was just a note in a sketchbook that said “transportation project.” I loved (love — I still do…) drawing vehicles of all kinds. I created a book for French publisher Éditions du Rouergue back in 2003 that I had a blast making, and my literary agent Steven Malk had been encouraging me to racket in vehicles again but with something more palatable to American publishers.

By summer of 2008 I had a folder thick with ideas. My good friend and longtime creative sorter-outer Jason and I spent a couple of days going through the piles of dozens of pages of script and hundreds of sketches, trying to find threads that held the various decent ideas together. After these marathon sessions at the Philadelphia Central Library, I could see what was going on and where it could go, and it was at that point that I started to get excited.

It was at a coffee shop with my now-wife Sacha that I realized that this was not one huge tome, but rather would be best split into three separate books, each covering a different mode of transport (land, air, sea).

And then it was in May of 2009 that I created a proposal that my agent took to publishing houses and led to Donna Bray at Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins offering to publish it. Donna also suggested that we include three I Can Read books and six board books in the enterprise, which made the whole thing feel huge.

The first book was begun in earnest around the beginning of 2010 and completed more than a year later, in February 2011. The second book was done in March 2012, and the third book was done April 22, 2013. The first book took longer since it set the template for the next two.
The very final piece I drew was this little boat for the endpapers of By Sea. In fact, it was the word “WOO” that completed the work.

sea-endpapers


I like process, and I always love seeing the preliminary work that goes into a book or film or almost anything. So I’m posting here a bunch of images of sketches and the work that went into the cover for Everything Goes By Sea.

BY SEA sketchbook1

BY SEA sketchbook2

These two images are from my little moleskine sketchbooks that I keep. As I began thinking about and planning the By Sea cover, I knew pretty quickly that I was going to have the “By Sea” subtitle on the sails of a sailboat, so that motif appears pretty quickly. Looking at these now, I’m a little surprised how much the partial cover-sketch at the top of the second image looks like the final cover.


EGSEA_cover_thumb

This is the first rough thumbnail of the entire cover. By the time the third book in this series comes along, a couple of things are already designed and in place. For example, the Everything Goes logo will be the same as before and will be in the same place, and the subtitle of the book (By Sea) and my name will be incorporated into the illustration in some way. Here are the previous two covers for comparison.

land-air-covers


SEA-COVER-sketch

EG by sea cover template

These two images are pretty similar and, in fact, are created from the same drawing. Or in this case possibly several drawings, since at this stage I’m sometimes drawing some of the boats separately, scanning and placing them into the sketch digitally. That’s how I put the logo on the cover as well. The second image is the one I send to HarperCollins, where the shading and title logo makes the piece look a little more finished and slick.


SEA COVER scan

After I get approval on the sketch, the next thing I make is this inked line-drawing of the cover. This is my favorite part of the process. I use black ink with a brush, but my ink is watered down quite a lot (a little more than I’d like, actually) which is why the big black areas actually look grey. Again, the drawing is made without the title logo, since the logo was created for the first book and I just use that again each time I need it.

everything goes logo

There is a pretty good little video of me doing this part of the process with the second book, In the Air, here.

EG2 cover timelapse from Brian Biggs on Vimeo.

The inked line drawing is scanned into the computer and then it’s opened in Photoshop where all of the coloring and final work takes place.


SEA COVER color pre

This is the same line-art drawing once it’s scanned in and touched up.It now has the title added to it and I’ve cleaned up the lines a little. Often, cleaning up the lines means a significant amount of Photoshop surgery, but in this case it was pretty close to right the first time.


Everything Goes by Sea

And here, as at the top of the page, is the final finished color cover.

Also, here is a video of the digital coloring of the second cover so you can see how that is done.

coloring everything goes air from Brian Biggs on Vimeo.


I thought I might also include a couple of real-world uses for a book such as this. The first example was taken by a friend of mine in Calgary, Alberta who has a son named Bas. Bas is apparently enjoying Everything Goes By Sea.

The second and third photo is a display at the book store where I am currently writing this missive. Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh NC has a beautiful display of Everything Goes books, and if you have a book store or even a living room, I encourage you set up something similar.

bas

quail ridge 1

quail ridge 2

raceboats

Friday, May 10th, 2013

I’m working on the illustrations for the sixth EllRay Jakes book right now, and there’s a scene where a couple of characters perform a dance for the school talent show. I had my kids here last evening while I was looking up the dances that the writer describes in the book, and we had a really good time watching these videos and attempting the moves ourselves.
Frankly, I thought that the author had just made up dances called “The Dougie” and “Stanky Leg.” Alas, she did not.

And the sketch:

stankyleg

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts and return your tray-tables to the upright position, for the second book in the Everything Goes series takes off today. It’s scheduled for an arrival at a book store near you, and it’s currently making its cross-country flight from online retailers as well. And if you haven’t figured it out already, this one is called Everything Goes: In the Air, and it’s all about stuff that flies. Jet-planes, helicopters, blimps, balloons, little funny airplanes with propellors, and other flying contraptions.

As in the first book, we’re following Henry and his family (Mom’s along for the ride this time) as they go about their travels. This time the action takes place at an airport, where Henry and Mom and Dad are making their way through the ticket lines, security area, and to their gate to catch their plane. When I started sketching and writing this book it became painfully obvious that I was going to have to work to make the setting as interesting as the city is in book one. A few reviewers of On Land noticed that the book was as much about the city as it was about the cars and trucks and trains, and I had to go back and dive deep into my younger psyche, back when I thought that airports were fascinating and air travel was so cool.

I had help with this when I got a chance to visit Philadelphia International Airport at the invitation of Chuck Telles, who runs the American Airlines operation at PHL. I don’t get a chance to get out of the studio for research trips like this often, if at all, and it was pretty awesome to be able to get behind-the-scenes access to the airport. I was able to go down on the tarmac and walk around some of the jets, I got sit and watch people board and disembark in the international terminal, and I took about a million photographs. Here are three that, when you see the book, you’ll recognize how they were used.

In order to make things interesting, I focused on the passengers in the airport, giving every spread a jam-packed crowd of travelers dragging suitcases and duffle bags to their destination. The airport itself is also something I had a good time with, basing it on the airport designs of Eeno Saarinen, especially Dulles International Airport in Washington DC. Take a look and see what I mean.

Now, a much easier task than making the airport fun and funny was designing and illustrating the cover for Everything Goes: In the Air. From the beginning, I’ve known that the covers of all three books would feature as many of the respective vehicles as I could squeeze into a 12×10-inch space. The decisions I have to make a mostly around how to fit in the subtitle of the book, and where to put my name.

This turns out to be pretty simple as well. The main vehicle “character” in this book is a jet airliner, and airliners also happen to be the planes that we typically think of that might have typography running along the side. (The second obvious choice here would be a blimp, which you can see above I used on the inside title-page.) Also from the inception of this project I knew that I wanted something to be on one of those banners pulled by biplanes over parks and beaches in the summer time. Running this guy along the bottom made a lot of sense and was fun to draw.

Below are several images showing the process of creating this cover.

First is the thumbnail sketch. Typically there are a dozen or so variations of this, dealing with the spatial issues and seeing what naturally falls into place, and what doesn’t. I typically have an idea in my brain about how I expect an image like this to come out, but it’s not until these early sketches get drawn that I know if it’s going to work or not. I don’t use picture reference at this stage. Instead I’m just looking to fill space and get the gist of it. Specifics can wait.

I usually take a couple of the better thumbnails and create some refined versions. In this case I decided I wanted to try coloring the sketches as well. These two sketches are what I sent to my editor at HarperCollins, Donna Bray, and sometimes color helps “sell” the idea.

The left-to-right rule of picture books comes into play here where the first image clearly works better than the second. We also all really liked the idea of having the city below, which sort of weights the image.

If there was any concern about this particular cover, it’s that I needed to somehow avoid the notion that these airplanes were all on the verge of crashing into one another. With the previous cover, of On Land, this was not an issue as we dealt with lanes and bridges. I referred a lot to images from encyclopedias and airplane posters that I have loved since I was a kid, and felt that I’d be able to pull it off.

Once the color sketches were created, I felt that it didn’t look dangerous. Rather, it just kind of looked funny.

The next step was to create a refined version of the sketch. Once this final sketch is approved, I use it to create the final inked line art, so it has to be pretty close to done at this point.

Are you interested in seeing this part of the process in more detail? I shot a timelapse movie while I was drawing the cover last year.

The inked version is then scanned and the color is created in Photoshop.

Here’s a movie of this process as well.

Originally, as you see in the above image and movie, the airplane was red and white, but my editor believed that the color was too close to the red in the Everything Goes logo. So we tried a few other versions. This one didn’t win.

In the end, we decided to go with a magenta color for the plane, and I changed some of the colors of the supporting aircraft as well. The final cover is… tadaa!

Lastly, here are a couple of trailers for the book. Please feel free — in fact I demand this of you — to repost these things all over your various social networks. Just follow the Vimeo links. If you prefer the YouTubes, you can use them as well.


Buy it on Indiebound!

Buy it on Amazon!

Monday, August 27th, 2012


Something I hear a lot from people who have seen Everything Goes: On Land is that my cars and vehicles seem to come from a different time period than the present. Most people who see this seem to think that they kind of evoke some kind of retro 1960s vibe. I kind of understand this sentiment and I wouldn’t really argue it or tell them that they’re wrong, even though they are, because I can see where the idea comes from. But more accurately, what I like to draw is stuff that looks goofy. Over the years, designers and engineers have made some stuff that looks sleek and modern (no matter what era that “modern” was for), and, well, sexy. I like to draw the stuff that isn’t that. I like to draw cars that look like their names might be something like “Murray” or “Sal” rather than “Steve” or “Justin.” They’re a little odd-looking. Maybe nerdy. Roly-poly, cute. Not sexy.
So Everything Goes: In the Air is about to come out (September 18) and I suspect I’ll get a lot of the same kind of commentary. My planes and helicopters are so 1958 or whatever. When really, in the book, there are planes and copters from the birth of powered-flight all the way to current stuff. And the same holds true. I like the looks of airplanes and helicopters and things that just kind of look, I don’t know, silly. A good example that I thought of while I was drawing the book last year is illustrated with fighter jets. Fighter jets are the epitome of cool, right? They look mean and slick and fast and like they should look. But there are a lot of fighter jets that look rather silly. Like the guys that they were dog-fighting were probably laughing at them. Of course, these were pretty awesome airplanes even though they looked goofy so the enemy pilots probably didn’t laugh very long. The F-86 Sabre and F-104 Starfighter are perfect examples of this look of fighter-plane that I love. Some people, I’m sure, would look at the F-86 and the F-104 and think that they’re pretty awesome-looking. I look at them and see a plane with the hole in the middle of it and another plane that looks like George Jetson designed it. Granted, the F-86 was designed in the late 1940s and the F-104 was designed in the early 1950s. So I’m sure at the time, they were both the coolest thing ever.
So, hmm, maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s all this old stuff. Fins and chrome bumpers and metal parts and pointy things. Whatever. I know what I like.

Friday, July 13th, 2012

So I’m working on the third installment of Everything Goes, and I’m sketching the final segment where a ferry is pulling into a harbor at the end of the book. The way I work, see, is that I first draw thumbnail sketches more or less from my head. I think about what I have in my imagination for this page or drawing, and get that down. Then I’ll look at photos and stuff and get some details and ideas of what the thing I’m working on actually looks like. In this case, I imagined this little beach/harbor community with taffy and surf shops, a small boat harbor, some jetties and docks, and a road full of cars that runs between the shops and the harbor. So I drew that.

The towns I had in mind are towns I’ve visited in my life. Towns like Camden Maine, Cape May New Jersey, and Sausalito California. Imagine my surprise when as I’m looking at pictures on the internets of Sausalito and this picture comes up. I mean, that’s kinda weird, right?

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Tampa Bay Times

An illustration of mine ran in the Tampa Bay Times this last weekend, on Sunday July 8. I don’t do a lot of editorial work these days, so it’s cool to have a big one like this that works well in a newspaper format. The idea is that the future is full of unknowns right now — education, health care, economy, home prices, and so on. The idea dovetailed nicely with the busy chaos in Everything Goes. Below the finished piece are a few of sketches showing the work in progress. The one on the left is the initial rough just to get the structure of the illustration down. The color one in the center is the first sketch I sent to the client. They asked for a few changes and the next iteration on the right is shat I use to make the final art. Click on the sketch image to enlarge it.

sketches for the Tampa Bay Times piece

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Like the first Everything Goes book (as well as the second, which you likely haven’t seen yet), Everything Goes By Sea is going to have a mix of busy scenes full of vehicles (boats, in this case) mixed with spreads showing close-up single images explaining the inner-workings and various interesting parts of the vehicle. I’ve been working on one of these latter ones, where the concept of displacement and flotation is explained to Henry.
I’ve drawn about a thousand boats over the last few days. Here are a few of them. The original drawings are about 3 inches by 2 inches, and are pencil on tracing paper. You can click on them to see them much larger.
























Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Seven Impossible Things screenshot

Jules Danielson wrote last fall demanding asking that I allow her to write up Everything Goes on her terrific blog called Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (it’s an Alice in Wonderland reference). Since I believe Seven Impossible Things is about the best book blog out there, I said “duh of course.” (When I told Sacha, the fiancée about it, she said something like “Oh my God! Are you kidding me?! I love that blog!”)
It took me too long to send Jules the images and words about the book that she needed, as I’ve been a bit snowed under first from the holidays and then (as always) from working on the second Everything Goes book, which is, of course, late. But last week, appropriately over breakfast, I went through and collected a lot of sketches, thumbnails, and other images from the early stages of the book and sent them along. I’ve been hoping to put them on my own site somewhere, and may still do so, but I figured that Seven Impossible Things would be a really good place for them to live as well.
So pour another cup of coffee, chew your cornflakes, and go forth to the write-up.

Friday, November 18th, 2011

I recently illustrated the cover of a special insert that SLJ publishes with their magazine. The concept was book series that schools use, in their libraries for instance. The art director, Mark Tuchman, wanted a space theme and since I like drawing astronauts, I had no problem with that.

First up is the original thumbnail of the image. This was one of those rare gigs where one is enough. Often I send a few sketch ideas, but in this case I didn’t need to.

The sketch gets tightened up if SLJ likes it, which they did.

I like to place it in the layout to see how it works. It was especially important in this case since the cover has that odd drop-down title.

After the sketch is approved, I ink up the final art and scan it in.

Then color is added in Photoshop and it’s done.

Once I sent the art to Mark, he placed it in a layout and worked on the color for the additional parts of the cover. This is pretty close to how it looked printed.

And lastly, they liked the image so much that they ended up asking for an additional astronaut for the interior as well.