Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 4: final cover illustration

My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.

Today I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you how I illustrated the front cover.

Step 1: cover design

Here’s my final rough:

And final colour mock-up:

There were a lot more draft versions of the cover before this one. Check out this previous post to see them all.

Step 2: refined rough

This is me figuring out the correct shape for the SUB, and the correct proportions for Sally and Charli, before I do the final linework.

I haven’t drawn absolutely all the details as I want to get some spontaneity and some happy accidents in the final lines.

Step 3: final linework

This is all digital using Kyle T Webster’s HB Pencil Pro in Photoshop.

Step 4: flat background colour

I coloured the whole background, even the parts behind the SUB, so that I could repurpose the cover for other things like a bookmark design, social media banners, etc. There’s nothing worse than needing to draw extra content down the track, knowing that you could have sorted it out easily when making the original piece. I also did the linework for the full blood cells, even the ones partially obscured by the SUB; this helped me to get the correct shape, but also allowed me to reuse them later if I needed to.

Step 5: flat foreground colour

I kinda love this flat colour version. I almost wished we kept it like this. It’s a very Hergé Tintin style.

Step 6: background shading and highlights

Alas, we added shading. As much as I love Hergé’s flat colour style, I also love me some lighting and shadow. The piece is starting to give a strong sense of depth. I’ve also included drop shadows underneath the blood cells and the SUB, even though they wouldn’t be there in real life – but then again, there probably wouldn’t be any ambient light either, and there definitely wouldn’t be a tiny submarine!

Step 7: foreground shading and highlights

This stage was fun, especially the white outline for the domed windshield, and it’s frosty edges and reflections. It really sells the idea that they’re inside the dome.

Step 8: final cover

Time to add the pre-prepared S.Tinker Inc. logo and hand-drawn title type. The cover is ready to go!

I hope you liked this behind-the-scenes look at the making of Gastronauts. If you’d like to see more behind-the-scenes posts, click here.

 


Gastronauts

Buy local – find your closest bookshop

Or order online:
– Booktopia (Australia and NZ only)
Angus and Robertson (Australia only)
QBD (Australia only)
Boffins
Dymocks
Book Depository

 

Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 3: cover design

My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.

Today I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you how I designed the robots and vehicles in the story.

Quick recap: Sally Tinker is the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve. In Gastronauts, Sally’s baby brother Joe swallows her latest invention. So Sally and her friend Charli shrink themselves down in a tiny submarine and journey into Joe’s body.

Here’s how I designed the cover.

Step 1: really bad first sketches

Sometimes you get the cover idea pretty quickly and clearly from the start.

This was not one of those times.

I struggled with this a lot at first; I couldn’t figure out how to show the reader that Sally and Charli were inside a sub, inside Joe, and make Sally and Charli big enough so that they were recognisable, without being too big that the scale stopped being anatomically correct.

None of these ideas really work, but I’ve included them here to show you how a cover design process can go. There are usually lots of rejected, fairly ordinary ideas.

Step 2: some marginally-better-but-still-not-great sketches

My amazing editor Cate suggested using one of the internal illustrations as inspiration, and having Joe’s mouth on the cover like so:

I set about simplifying that idea down to fit into a portrait-orientation cover, while increasing the size of Sally and Charli’s SUB.

This was before I had figured out that the legs and claws would retract.

It’s unfortunate, because it looks like Joe is eating a metal crab. Which really creeps me out.

 

None of these ideas worked either. But what if we flipped the camera around so it was at the back of Joe’s throat pointing towards his mouth?

Step 3: getting closer but not by much

Here are my attempts to make the internal camera angle work.

This one was again drawn before I figured out that the legs and claws on the SUB could retract.

With saliva:

and without:

Then once I redrafted the story and figured out the SUB would have retractable legs and claws, I redesigned the cover like so:

Then upped the colour saturation like so:

I thought that would be the cover. But it still kinda didn’t work; the reader needed to be able to tell they were inside the human body immediately, and that didn’t happen with this cover design. Maybe if I’d included a full set of teeth it would have been easier, but baby Joe is, well, a baby, and only has a few teeth. So it was back to the drawing board for a completely different idea.

Step 4: final rough design

Here’s the final sketch; the SUB inside the bloodstream.

This cover design had two benefits:

1) they’re very obviously inside a body

2) it meant we could have a strong focus colour; red.

Here’s the colour mock-up, showing all that glorious red. It’s such an eye-catching colour for a book cover. I’m glad we went through all the rough versions we did, because it meant we got to something better.

Here’s the final cover for comparison:

I hope you liked this behind-the-scenes look at the making of Gastronauts. If you’d like to see more behind-the-scenes posts, click here.

 


Gastronauts

Buy local – find your closest bookshop

Or order online:
– Booktopia (Australia and NZ only)
Angus and Robertson (Australia only)
QBD (Australia only)
Boffins
Dymocks
Book Depository

 

Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 2: submarine & robot design

My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.

Today I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you how I designed the robots and submarine in the story.

Quick recap: Sally Tinker is the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve. In Gastronauts, Sally’s baby brother Joe swallows an invention called the smartCHIP, along with a bunch of tiny robots called smartbots, and also a tiny shrunken submarine containing Sally and her friend Charli.

Here’s how I designed Sally’s SUB and the smartbots. But:

**SPOILER ALERT***

I’ll discuss plot points for the book, so if you haven’t read the book yet, go do that first, then come back.

All good?

Have you gone and read the book?

Ok, here’s how I designed the SUB and the smartbots.

Continue reading “Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 2: submarine & robot design”

Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 1: illustration process

My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.

Today I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you how I made the illustrations.

Here’s one of my favourite spreads from the book. It’s where Sally leads her friend Charli into the SUB (Sally’s Underwater Boat) for the first time.

I thought it would be easiest to show the insides of the SUB by just drawing a massive cut-away diagram. Here’s how I drew it.

Continue reading “Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 1: illustration process”

Total Quack Up is out from today

Earlier this year I got to illustrate a story written by Paul Jennings.

Yep, you heard right.

Paul.

Jennings.

Back in May, authors Adrian Beck and Sally Rippin were putting together an anthology of funny short stories written by some of Australia’s best kids’ authors. They were calling it Total Quack Up. All the writers were donating their time, Penguin was publishing it, and all profits were going to Dymocks Children’s Charities. The only thing they didn’t have yet was an illustrator.

I caught up for coffee with Adrian in Melbourne. He explained the project, but he didn’t say who any of the authors were. He said everyone was donating their time, and whoever illustrated it would need to do it quick – they’d only have a month to do 30-40 illustrations including a cover.

I said PLEASE LET ME DO IT PLEASE YES IT SOUNDS AWESOME.

He said, ‘are you sure?’

I said YEP COUNT ME IN ALL GOOD LET’S DO IT PLEASE AWESOME THANKS YES.

So Adrian and Sally and Penguin said okay, and I’m glad they did, because Mr Paul Jennings was one of the authors contributing to the anthology.

So …

… I got to illustrate a Paul Jennings story! OMG!!

I loved reading Paul Jennings’ stories as a kid; I would get chills from the spooky stories, and laugh myself silly at the funny stories. And of course I was glued to the TV whenever Round The Twist came on. So it was a fantastic surprise to find out that Paul was one of the authors in the anthology and that I’d get to illustrate one of his stories.

 


This is all a very long-winded way of telling you that I’ve illustrated an anthology called Total Quack Up!

It features stories from Paul Jennings, Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton.

It also includes a story written by Ella Wallace (aged 11 and three-quarters), whose story won out over 172 other entries in the Total Quack Up kids writing competition. It is an incredibly funny story and easily my favourite in the whole anthology. Ella is a young writer to watch.

Continue reading “Total Quack Up is out from today”

Gastronauts is officially released today (and a Dead Bunny is back)

My new book Gastronauts is officially released today!

I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out … though I do wonder if I crossed the grossness threshold with this one.

Here’s the synopsis:

Sally Tinker – the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve – has developed her greatest invention yet. But when Sally’s baby brother Joe swallows it with disastrous (and gaseous) consequences, Sally and her friend Charli must shrink themselves, venture into the very bowels of Joe, and shut down the invention before it’s too late. What could possibly go wrong?

Magpies magazine calls it ‘hilariously funny … it will  be devoured by emerging readers. Perfect for school and public libraries.’ Cheers, Magpies!

You can read a free sample here, and check out some of my favourite images below.

Continue reading “Gastronauts is officially released today (and a Dead Bunny is back)”

The evolution of Sally Tinker

My latest book, Brobot, was released in 2016. It’s a graphic novel for younger readers. I first started working on it in 2012. Over those four years I drew many different versions of the main characters – Sally, Joe and Brobot – and I’ll be sharing some of those over the next few months on this blog.

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ABOVE: One of the earliest sketches of Sally Tinker. From 2012. This is from the very first draft picture book (well before we realised it needed to be a comic). She’s very cute here, and is in much the same style as Josh from The Last Viking. She has a tiny hint of the attitude she shows in the final book.

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ABOVE: Another early sketch of Sally, from 2013, back when I was still trying to figure out her hairstyle and costume. Note that here she still has dots for eyes like Josh did in The Last Viking, rather than the cartoony circular eyes she has in the final book.

 

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ABOVE: Another version of Sally, from 2015. Closer to her final version but not quite there. She now has circles for eyes, and her grumpy demeanour. The oversized rubber gloves didn’t make it to the final version.

ABOVE: Maquettes are super helpful when you want to figure out how a character looks in 3D. I was having particular trouble with Sally’s hairstyle and profile, and a maquette helped me figure that out. This is from January 2016, just as I started the final artwork.

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ABOVE: The final version of Sally Tinker, Feb 2016. When you draw the character from different angles like this, it’s called a ‘turnaround’. It’s a reference you keep by your desk when you illustrate a story so that you can keep your character consistent (ie this is also called keeping your character “on model”). I drew this after I had completed the final illustrations for the book. Pro tip: you should really make your turnaround sheets BEFORE you do the final illustrations, not after 😉


Brobot-3d-final-400pxBuy ‘Brobot’ now

Brobot: from roughs to final artwork

Hello! I’ve pulled together some gifs to show you how I made some of the illustrations in Brobot. You can see how I got from the first rough drawing to the final artwork for each illustration. Check them out below.

(NB: if you’re receiving this post by email and the gifs don’t appear, just click on the post title above to view the original post on my website).


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Brobot-3d-final-400pxBuy ‘Brobot’ now

How I use texture in illustrations (plus 4 free texture sites)

Today I’m going to show you how I used photographic textures in the illustrations of My Dead Bunny.

Photographic textures are great for whenever you need a realistic-looking texture, or when it’s going to be too hard ot time-consuming to draw a texture by hand.

I’ve used photographic textures in all my books so far, but only sparingly.  The creepy, cinematic style of Dead Bunny called for the use of lots and lots of textures, and it was heaps of fun to let loose.

Example 1: title page

Here’s a little excerpt from the title page illustration. It uses the three three texture samples you see below it.

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Continue reading “How I use texture in illustrations (plus 4 free texture sites)”

Colour schemes for My Dead Bunny

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My Dead Bunny is my latest book. It’s a tongue-in-cheek picture book about a zombie pet rabbit. My illustrations took a lot of inspiration from movies.

I’ve already written about how one scene was almost an homage to The Shining, how the family home was inspired by a farmhouse from The Walking Dead and how a lot of the images use camera angles and clichés from film.

Today I’m writing about why the illustrations use a black and white (plus green) colour scheme.

Continue reading “Colour schemes for My Dead Bunny”