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”

The Gastronauts book tour was a gas

I’ve just been on a book tour, celebrating the release of my new junior graphic novel called Gastronauts. From Sept 26 to Oct 14, I had 23 events across three states.

I started in my hometown of Perth, then visited Sydney and Melbourne. We had four book launches, heaps of cartooning and comics workshops, and I got to deface decorate the windows at a few bookstores too. It was a brilliant trip, but I’m very happy to be back home with my family, and gearing up to work on some new projects.

Fun fact: Gastronauts is probably the first book in the world to be launched via a giant nappy. It will probably also be the last, as I don’t recommend it. Too messy. Watch what happens in the video below.

Here’s my favourite photos from the trip.

Thanks to everyone – bookstore owners, librarians, teachers, kids and parents – who came to events. And big thanks to my publishers Fremantle Press who helped organise the tour.


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

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”

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”

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)”

Here comes the Gastronauts book tour

My new book Gastronauts is out in bookstores!

Even though the official release date is Oct 1st, there was a sneaky early release, so you can find it across the country and online. If your local bookshop doesn’t have a copy, you can always ask them to order it in.

To celebrate, I’m traveling around WA, NSW and VIC from Sep 26-Oct 14 to do four book launches, a bunch of comic-drawing workshops and a couple of festivals too.

Scroll down for the list of events and dates. For full details, please visit my events page.

See you on the road 🙂

– James


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

 

Gastronauts book launches (WA)

Hi everyone,

it’s almost time to officially launch the latest book in my ‘S.Tinker Inc.’ graphic novel series – it’s called ‘Gastronauts‘!

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?

If you’re in my hometown of Perth, there are two book launches: one north of the river and one south. Please come along and spread the word!

Sept 26:  Gastronauts book launch, Fremantle

gastronauts launch bannerCome help me celebrate the release of Gastronauts. The Paper Bird book club kids will preside over proceedings and officially launch the book!

WHEN: Wednesday Sept 26
TIME: 3pm-5pm
WHERE: Paper Bird Children’s Books and Art, 42 Henry St, Fremantle WA
AGES: the book is aimed at 7-10yo (but the whole family is welcome)
COST: FREE
BOOKINGS: essential; click here.

 

Oct 3:  Gastronauts book launch, Perth

This is in fact a group book launch called the ‘Great Big Dark and Spooky Book Read’!

It’s presented by my publisher Fremantle Press, the State Library of Western Australia and AWESOME Arts.

Follow the torchlight to your seat around the ‘campfire’ for a thrilling story time experience with amazing local writers. The Great Big Dark and Spooky Book Read features Gastronauts author and illustrator James Foley (that’s me!), Bush and Beyond  author Cheryl Kickett-Tucker, Off the Track author Cristy Burne, The Hole Story author Kelly Canby, In the Lamplight author Dianne Wolfer, and Ian Mutch, author of More and More and More. From the shadows cast by war to the inside of the human body, from cozy boltholes to the vastness of space, don’t let your fear of the dark discourage you. These fun and exciting stories will light up imaginations of children aged 5 and up!

Each ticket includes your choice of one of the books being launched on the day.

(I don’t mind which book you pick, they’re all good books! But if poo and fart jokes and comics are your thing, then *cough cough* I’d suggest Gastronauts, not biased or anything, of course, ahem).

WHEN: Wednesday Oct 3rd
TIME: 11:15am-12:30pm
WHERE: State Library Theatre, State Library of WA
AGES: 5yo+
COST: $25.20 (includes entry for a family of four, and one copy of a book of your choice); $5.20 for additional tickets
BOOKINGS: essential, click here.


If you can’t make it to a launch, don’t worry: you can already find Gastronauts in lots of bookshops around Australia and online (see links below).

GASTRONAUTS BOOK TOUR – WA, NSW, VIC

Check out my events page for details of my BOOK TOUR!
I’m doing over a dozen events in WA, NSW and VIC between Sep 26-Oct 14.


Buy ‘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