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”

FAQ: What advice do you have for aspiring writers and illustrators?

Many people think they could write or illustrate a children’s book.

Few could.

Some try, and

a small number are actually published.

Partly this is due to skill level. It takes many years to get your work up to the professional standard suitable for publication. Most people do not persevere and see it through.

In my opinion, the most inspiring advice for aspiring writers and illustrators comes from Ira Glass, the US radio broadcaster. Here’s a little snippet:

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good … a lot of people never get past this phase.

Does that sound like you? It perfectly sums up the early part of my creative journey, when I was struggling to get my work up to standard and to get my first book contract.

Ira goes on to explain how to close that gap between your skill and your ambitions. The full quote is insightful, simple and brilliant. Rather than just copy and paste the whole quote verbatim, I found a short film-version put together by filmmaker Daniel Sax (see below). It’s brilliant too.

If you’re struggling with staying motivated on your own creative journey, please please please watch this video. Then turn off the internet and go make your art!

FAQ: How do I get my book published?

This is my most Frequently Asked Question by far.

So you’ve written and/or illustrated your amazing children’s book. Now you want to get it published. You have two options available: traditional publishing and self-publishing … plus a third option that you should avoid.

Continue reading “FAQ: How do I get my book published?”

FAQ: How do I find an illustrator for my book?

Here’s another in my Frequently Asked Question series.

So you’ve written a picture book manuscript; now you want to find an illustrator.

Before we get to that, we need to clear up some misconceptions about how writers work with illustrators, and consider how they’re paid and contracted.

Continue reading “FAQ: How do I find an illustrator for my book?”

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?”

9 ways to encourage young artists

When I meet parents at events they often say,

‘my child loves to draw/write/create. How can I encourage their interest?’

Best-selling Australian author Matthew Reilly says, ‘never underestimate the power of your encouragement.’ He writes it in the thank you section at the back of every one of his books; he knows that it got him to where he is today. Encouragement is an incredibly powerful thing; young artists grow when they know that people believe in them and support their interest. (The same goes for adult artists, too!).

My advice comes from my work as an artist (who was once a young artist), my studies in primary teaching and psych (though I’m not a child psychology expert by any means), and my experience of working with kids in workshops. Here’s 9 things you can do to encourage the young writer and/or illustrator in your life … or even your own inner artist.

Continue reading “9 ways to encourage young artists”

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.

IMG_7295

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