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”

Teacher resources for Gastronauts

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

I’ve pulled together a bunch of free resources for teachers (and interested kids). You can find the full set on my website, but here’s some of my highlights:

Teaching Notes

Heaps of ideas for discussion and links to curriculum.
Download the teaching notes (pdf).

Read a free sample

Read the first 16 pages before you buy the book.
Also great for using to read the start of the book to a class.
Download the free sample (pdf).

‘Make Your Own see-through body’ activity

This is a super fun activity. You need scissors, glue, string and a piece of A3 coloured card – and a print out of the worksheet for each student. (And don’t forget to print the teacher cheat-sheet for you.)
You’ll end up with something that looks like this:

Continue reading “Teacher resources for Gastronauts”

Competition time!

COMPETITION TIME!

Sally Tinker (the world’s foremost inventor under twelve) and I (some dude) have made ourselves a YouTube channel!

It’s called ‘STinker Tube’ and it’s where you’ll find funny extra stuff to go with the STinker Inc graphic novels.

If you subscribe to our channel before June 15th, you’ll go in the draw to win the first ever copy of the next STinker Inc graphic novel, GASTRONAUTS!

You can watch our first video below – but don’t forget, you need to subscribe to the channel to go in the draw. To do that, head over to see the video at Youtube by clicking here , then click the subscribe button.

Good luck!

– James

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.

sally-tinker-1st-storyboard-p4-5

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.

20130312-sally-web

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.

 

img_8265-web

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.

20160214-joe-and-sally-character-ref-web

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

FAQ: How did you get into books?

The Last Viking book launch, June 24th, 2011. (L-R) Norman, James, Kris Williams, our editor Cate Sutherland, and Director of the Children's Literature Centre Lesley Reece
The Last Viking book launch, June 24th, 2011. (L-R) Norman, James, Kris Williams, our editor Cate Sutherland, and Director of the Children’s Literature Centre Lesley Reece

To the pre-published, the children’s book industry can seem like a secret club. How do you get to be one of those people on the inside, who have their stories and illustrations published professionally? It’s something I get asked a lot.

Continue reading “FAQ: How did you get into books?”

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).


brobot-final-pg-38-39-timelapse


brobot-final-pg-44-45-timelapse


brobot-final-pg-52-53-timelapse


brobot-final-pg-56-57-timelapse

 


brobot-final-pg-84-85-v2-timelapse


Brobot-3d-final-400pxBuy ‘Brobot’ now

When does a week have 56 days?

When it’s Children’s Book Week.

My author/illustrator friends and I call it Children’s Book season as the celebrations and events cannot be contained in a single week, and usually spread out across term 3 and term 4. My 2016 Children’s Book ‘Week’ went from August 4th to September 26th, a solid 8 weeks of talks and workshops across WA. It’s my busiest time of year but also my favourite, as I get to travel and meet lots of hilarious kids.

Here’s some photos showing my highlights of those 8 weeks.

Thanks to the following schools, libraries, bookshops and festivals for inviting me to visit:

Dardanup PS; St Mary’s, Bunbury; BHP Billiton Family Day; St Damien’s Catholic PS, Dawesville; Marmion PS; Goollelal PS; Southern River College; Beaufort Street Books; Trinity College; South Perth & Manning Libraries; CBCA WA; Tuart Forest PS, Dalyellup; Warnbro and Mary Davies Libraries; Willetton Library; Cambridge Library; Kalamunda PS; South Lake PS; City of Perth Library; Palmyra PS; City of South Perth; Derby Library; Derby District; Holy Rosary School; Looma School; Bayulu School; Kulkarriya School; Kimberley School of the Air; Magabala Books; Aubin Grove PS; Kapinara PS; Rockingham Writers’ Centre; Dampier PS; Children of Malaysia Engage in Literature (COMEL) Festival, Kuala Lumpur; Murray Library, Pinjarra; Fellowship of Australian Writers WA & Fremantle Library.