Last week I wrote about how opening scenes work, and showed some early roughs of the opening scene for Last Viking.
I tried various options that didn’t quite work, which helped me become clearer about what I wanted the opening scene to achieve. It needed to do several things:
Introduce Josh and Wolverine, and show the closeness of their relationship (who)
Show that Josh is a creative, imaginative and resourceful kid (who)
Introduce Josh’s problem (fear) and have the reader empathise with his feelings (what)
probably show Josh in his room- night-time would be easiest to show fear, but daytime would be easiest to show Josh and Wolverine playing (where, when)
So with those things in mind, I kept sketching. I did a little set of thumbnails where the double page spread would have two panels. One would be big and dark, showing Josh’s room at night time. Josh and Wolverine are visible only as silhouettes, seen in a cubby made from a blanket. The bulk of the text would relate to this panel and go in a column at far left. The thinner panel on the right would show Josh and Wolverine poking their heads out from the cubby the next morning, with the line, “But other than those things, Josh is as brave as a lion” written close by.
Here’s a bigger version with some tone added. There is still a silhouette of a dinosaur on the far wall. Josh’s skateboard is on the floor next to Wolverine’s cushion.
The opening scene of a picture book is so important:
it introduces the main character/s (who)
it introduces the main problem or conflict (what)
it introduces a world (when, where)
it sets the emotional tone (via the writer’s voice and the illustrator’s pictures)
and if it works, it can hook readers in instantly.
But if an opening scene doesn’t work, people won’t want to read the book. As Norm has said to me on many a facetious occasion – ‘no pressure, Picasso’. It took me a while to get an opening scene I was happy with, so I’ve put together some posts outlining the process.
The opening text for The Last Viking doesn’t spell out an obvious scene, so I found it quite a challenge to illustrate. The text goes like this:
Young Josh is very brave.
He’s not afraid of anyone or anything – except maybe the dark and the sound of ghosts whistling in the trees at night.
Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires.
But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.
The text introduces the character (Josh) and the main conflict (Josh suffers from fear). So, we have our who and our what. But it doesn’t specifically say where or when the scene takes place. This would be up to me as the illustrator to decide.
Norm had seen some illustrations of mine, where I’d drawn a young boy dressed as a knight and various other characters. So his initial idea for the opening illustration of Last Viking was to have Josh dressed as each of the characters mentioned- a ghost, a pirate, a dinosaur, and so on. However, I couldn’t imagine Josh dressing up as characters that he was afraid of, and I didn’t think it would set the right emotional tone. That is, if Josh is afraid, the picture needs to be scary.
Here’s the very first sketch, and a stretched-out landscape version.
Four tanks of fuel,
5 meat pies,
6 choc milks,
2000km of driving,
and 10 million bugs stuck to the front of the car.
These were small prices to pay when I had the opportunity to run 4 youth workshops in the WA Wheatbelt.
In early April I visited schools and youth centres in Bruce Rock, Moora, Wagin and Toodyay. I taught around 100 young people the basics of cartooning, and each student worked on their own one-page comic story.
Students in some of the areas we visited will continue on with comics in school next term, producing longer stories about issues affecting them in their towns. Topics will include ‘bullying’ and ‘a sense of belonging’.
I grew up in a house that my great-grandparents built in 1936. Four generations of my family have lived in the house (only two at a time though); my parents and sister still live there. Its a Californian bungalow design, common in older suburbs around Perth like East Fremantle and Mt Hawthorn.
I remember snippets of visiting my great-grandparents when they were still living in the house. I was only 3 or 4. Great-grandma would take a tray of just-baked cupcakes out of the Metters stove. We would sit in the front room and eat, while family members with big white moustaches that I didn’t know the names of looked down from frames on the mantlepiece. Great-grandma was always smiling, at least I think she was- or maybe that’s a made up memory based on the only photos I know of her. I don’t remember great-grandpa very much. In his photos he looks kind.
Pop’s house in The Last Viking is essentially my family home. Obviously my parents don’t live in a house with Viking ornamentation all over it, but the basic similarities are there.
the book has gone to print now. All the work is done- for now. There’ll be promotional things to do later on, and a launch in a few months- but for now we can relax a little and await the finished product. Soon, Norm and I will be holding advance copies of The Last Viking and giggling like it’s Christmas.
Originally I’d intended only three posts in this series showing the development of the cover- but, there’s some final changes to show.
Book designer extraordinaire Tracey Gibbs finished her work on The Last Viking last week. She added the text to all the pages, cleaned up images, and adjusted the cover.
Here’s what the cover looked like in the last post:
…and here’s what it looks like now.
I love it, I think it looks much better. You can see the title text is slightly smaller and a different colour now. Our names are bigger. Tracey has also increased the brightness and saturation of the colours. (We may have a ‘spot varnish’ on the printed cover- where certain parts will have a glossy coating added).
I started off doing all the shading in light brown, just as I did for all the internal pages. This helps me see from the start where the light sources will be. (For those digitally minded, the light brown layers are actually a dark brown colour, but set to 40% opacity. As I’m using Corel Painter, I’ve set the layer mode to Gel rather than the standard Photoshop choice of Multiply- Gel seems to let the colours interact the way they would do if they were watercolour paint. I’ve found it produces richer colours).
Here’s the brown tones (what I’ve called the ‘sepia layer’) half done.
And the sepia layer completed. If I can see a sense of depth in the picture at this stage, then I know that it’s all going to look okay once the colours are completed.
Next up was the background colours. The sky and cloud tones are very important as they contribute greatly to the effect of light.
The supremely talented book designer Tracey Gibbs has been laying out the pages and I’m really pleased with the proofs so far.
here’s some more info on the book on the official page, including some sample illustrations. There’s also a facebook page and a blog, where Norm and I have been documenting the process of making the book since June 2010. Come by and visit some time.