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Air Cover: the making of Everything Goes in the Air

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!

how i draw airplanes

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.

“in the air” takes shape

December 9th, 2011

I’ve been cranking out illustrations for the second book in the Everything Goes series for the past many weeks, and will be doing so for the next many as well. Here are some edits from two spreads in the book. Two helicopters, and one showing part of a cutaway of an airliner. Stay tuned for more.
The book will be out next September.

it’s a bird! no, it’s a plane.

June 22nd, 2011

With the first book of Everything Goes wrapped up and set to be published in about three months, I’ve been drawing airplanes for the last several weeks, working on the sketches for the second book in the series. So here I give you some of those airplanes. I’m really enjoying this. Airplanes aren’t constantly in my quiver, so to speak, the way that cars are. So it’s taken some time to learn how I draw airplanes. I mean, I can draw airplanes. But there’s a certain accent that needs to be developed with these things that will make it fit with the first book. I describe the vehicles in this series as looking somewhat like toys.
I spend a lot of time drawing airplanes from pictures, learning where do the wings go, how are they proportioned, how does the landing gear attach, etc. And then after a few days of this I put the reference materials away and start drawing from memory. Except for the Wright Brothers’ plane and the Spirit of St. Louis here, these are from memory and imagination.