Archive for the ‘sketchbook’ Category



Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

It’s been a weird couple of months. Back in December I broke my ankle while riding my bike, and if you know me at all you know that this is a big deal. Bikes are therapy. Getting out of the house and studio and into the woods, getting a little exercise, and getting out of my head for a bit. When the doctor told me it was broken and I’d be off the bike for ten-to-twelve weeks I nearly lost it.

Well, fast forward nine weeks, and we’re at the tail end of the long national nightmare. And I’m making some lemonade here. First, the weather. It’s been pretty bad since mid-December. I haven’t really missed much. I’m not one that worries much about weather, as I will go out and happily ride bikes in the worst of it. But I stay off the trails when they’re slushy and muddy, and I think they’ve been slushy and muddy since Christmas. Second, I’ve had something of a mini-creative renaissance the last two months. Work, real work, has been slow, and I’ve had the time to dig in on this super-hero picture book I’ve been working on all year and play with technique stuff. I’ve been so busy the last decade that most of the work I’ve done has been on tight deadlines and I haven’t been able to, or had the wherewithal to experiment much. I draw, scan, digital-color, done. But with this book I’ve been wanting to get away from the computer.

To that end, I’ve been re-learning how to paint and color and make things with pencils and ink and paper, and it’s been kind of great. Scary, but that’s what makes me realize how much I’ve been using the computer and photoshop as a crutch.

As part of the same line of thinking, Sacha and a few colleagues convinced me to start a second Instagram account focused on my illustrations and creative work. My original account is more of a day-to-day visual diary: dog photos, vacation pictures, Friday-night cocktails, and a lot of pictures of bikes. People actually complained. But mostly, I think, people just didn’t follow. Say someone sees my work somewhere and goes to instagram to see if I have an account. They find it and see ten pictures of bicycles and Negronis and Sacha and the dog punctuated by one drawing from a sketchbook, and they move on.

So, fine, I started a new account. This one dedicated to drawings, illustrations, books, making things. And so far so good. Knowing I have a hole to fill makes me work. After breaking my ankle, I worked from home for four weeks, and spent an hour or so every morning drawing for fun. Just stuff that was in my head. I know, it seems like this wold be a normal activity for me. But it wasn’t. Instead, I bicycled. Or read the internet. Or… worked. Remember, I’ve been busy for the last decade. Time to just screw around and draw wasn’t at the top of my to-do list. (This might be the subject of another post one day, but for years I had no interest in drawing for fun. If I wasn’t in the studio on deadline, I wanted to be doing something else. Riding bikes, for example. Or playing guitar. Or watching tv. Anything. So I’ve been coasting, creatively, and that’s bad. But let’s move on.

One of the interesting things about the new account is that the work it feeds to me to look at is different. Rather than bikes and bike things, I was finding new illustrators and artists. Really lovely stuff. Inspirational stuff. And I started drawing. Drawing drawing drawing.

Somewhere along the line I started drawing a lot of fish.

And then somewhere else I started thinking how cool it would be to have these fish be a thing. A thing that can be held and looked at and turned around. An object. How would I go about this? Wood. I’ll make it out of wood! How hard could that be? It was right before christmas that I watched a YouTube video about carving wood and ordered a few tools. The videos I was finding were all “whittling” and most had little gnomes and country-folk as their subject matter. But nevermind, the techniques were the same. I watched. And on January 16 I started carving.

That was fun! Something clicked. I made another one.

I painted them and made little stands for them.

Next, I wanted to try a different kind of wood. Basswood is fine, but it’s like using crayons when you know there are oil paints out there. My friend Kirk found a nice block of butternut at a lumberyard and gifted it to me with the request that he get a fish. So I cut a block and went to work on my third.

Butternut is more satisfying, but more difficult as well. Here, you can get a better idea of the size. It’s a little larger. The teeth/mouth were the tough end-grain of the block (lemons/lemonade) and I painted this one with acrylic, following a coat of linseed oil to protect the wood. Kirk named this fish “Beulah.”

Without question, this is incredibly satisfying. It’s exactly what I wanted when I started down this rabbit hole two months ago. My head is full of ideas. Different fish, birds, skulls, things that move… I even picked up a collection of old doll legs and arms off eBay, cause I have some ideas

Where is this gonna take me? Who knows. Who cares. Maybe I’ll sell some. Maybe I’ll just give them away to friends. I know I plan to give each of my siblings a fish, and make some birds for our Christmas tree this year. I’m feeling ambitious…

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, September 6th, 2013

For the last five years, I’ve been pretty busy. I counted, and since 2008 I’ve illustrated around thirty books. So as you might imagine and hopefully understand, it’s been a while since I drew pictures just because it’s something I like doing. But this last week I’ve been kind of at it. There are some projects that are hovering over this process and they make themselves known as I’m scribbling, (robots, astronauts, lettering), but they’re not the sole reason for doing these nor are they the determined destination. Let’s say that for the last couple of years I’ve been sketching on the interstate, in a hurry to get somewhere. It’s nice now taking the windy little roads through towns and through the back woods, not sure where I’ll stop and what I might see.*
In related news, I finally put together an exposure unit for screen-printing, so maybe these will lead to that. Maybe I’ll try taking some life-drawing sessions and see what happens as well.

astro_i feel good_sm

sketchbook6hitech

sketchbook5astros

sketchbook7frank

sketchbook4lovelystunning

sketchbook3shame

sketchbook1

sketchbook2littleoldman

*(I mean, really, we all know what I’ll stop and see. Robots, astronauts, monsters, weird-looking dudes, cats, birds, and maybe jet packs. Right?)

Wednesday, 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.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Thought I’d end the week with some sketches for pages 32-33 of the Everything Goes book I’m working on. I drew what seems like one million motorcycles yesterday and today. My hand hurts, and I’m taking the rest of the day off. Have a lovely weekend.

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

To answer your inevitable question pre-emptively, why yes, I do think that this might be about all you see here for the next several months!

yum truck

No not really. It’s just kind of a thing right now.
Drawn with pencil on tracing paper, colored in Photoshop.

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

I’m now deep deep into the initial phase of a very large book project that will take me the next 3+ years to complete. Without giving away too much, I get to draw cars and trucks and ships and airplanes and buses and tugboats and RVs and helicopters and bicycles and… you get the idea. These were drawn with ballpoint pen at a local coffee shop on Thursday last week. Stay tuned for more.

cars
more cars
big car

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

sketches

Buried deep in a few big book projects, so here are a couple of sketches, not from anything. These are each about an inch wide and tall, drawn in ballpoint.

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I told Jon Keegan on Facebook the other day that I wouldn’t be drawing while in jury duty on Friday. He was right, I was wrong.

jury duty

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

For a couple of years now I’ve been considering making and selling posters and other prints. You may have seen my Etsy store where I have prints made on my nice digital printer. But I’ve been wanting to make some screenprints. I’ve vacillated back and forth between setting up my own small shop here and outsourcing the printing work to someone who actually knows how to do it. When I moved into this studio last Sprint, I read and absorbed as much as I could, spent hours and hours on gigposters.com looking at posters, and nearly dropped some large cash on an exposure unit, some screens, emulsion and the other junk one needs. (I actually bought a power-washer when I saw it on sale at Lowe’s.)
However, when The Events of This Summer took place and I was removed from my studio for a month in Arkansas, the interruption led me to look at other options. The other options dropped themselves in my lap in the form of a continuing education catalog from the university where I once taught, The University of the Arts. They were offering a class called The Screen Printed Poster taught by Greg Pizzoli. Once I read the description of the class and Mr. Pizzoli’s bio I knew this was what I was gonna do.
Class began last week, Sept 29. Our first assignment is to make a poster using two colors where the colors overlap in a meaningful way to create a third color. The other restrictions are that it must use type in some way, and the separations need to be made using cut paper rather than going through the computer or anything fancy such as that. I was planning to beg out of that last rule, as I have about 800 designs that I want to print, and none simple enough to just cut out of paper. However, on second thought I decided to keep it simple and see what I could do with this. Maybe I’ll learn something.
I ordered a screen from Victory Factory (23×31, aluminum frame, 195 mesh, $25.25), some paper from French’s (Construction Recycled White, 110lb, 12.5×19, $46) and started drawing. I quickly decided that this was going to be a halloween poster. I love making halloween drawings (if you have spent any time at all looking at my illustrations you already know this) and I used to give an assignment at UArts to illustration majors to create a two-color halloween poster. So I decided to try it myself.
I spent the next morning with Sacha at the coffee shop working on sketches.

screenprinting class week 1: sketches

screenprinting class week 1: sketches

I found myself leaning toward a crazy little vampire kid yelling BOO! and a monster with its skeleton showing. I thought I’d try the two ideas out in Photoshop using two colors, multiplying the layers. I did these two sketches to see how the colors would look.


After consulting with the instructor I went with the vampire kid. I don’t have any ideas for words or type with the monster yet, and he’ll work better as one half of a series with a robot later anyway.

Week 2:
Last night was the second class. I got to work and cut out my stencils to create the color separations. The construction paper pieces were taped to acetate, and I registered the two separations by just placing one over the other and matching them up as closely as possible. The areas of concern are the teeth, mainly. It won’t be perfect but I like the off-register look anyway.

This is laying out the main three shapes to make sure they fit on the paper.
screenprinting class week 2: the stencil

Here are the two separations. The green is on the left and the violet on the right.
screenprinting class week 2: the separations

Greg suggested printing the green layer first, as it would be more opaque than the violet. After the emulsion was dry on my screen, I burned the green separation, washed it out and let it dry.
The green on the photo here is just the unexposed emulsion.
screenprinting class week 2: the burned screen

Here is my screen drying happily with the other screens after washing out.
screenprinting class week 2: drying

At this point it was 10:30pm and I was in a hurry to get the late bus back home. Next week I print. Stay tuned.