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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!

the harbor of my dreams, I guess

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?

Tampa Bay Times illustration

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

eleven little boats

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.
























Seven Impossible Things

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 fiancĂ©e 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.

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.