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Mapping Instructions

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

When I was much younger my  yearly visit to the family Dentist’s office would allow me to once again, stare intently at what I remember as,  a large wall sized print that depicted a stylized map of Nursery Rhyme Land. After years and years and many visits to the same office I could almost literally walk around in that drawn landscape, in a vain effort, of course, to not think about the inevitable drilling for cavities that was soon to come.

Over the years I’ve made some feeble attempts to locate a copy of that map (my Dentist has long ago, closed shop and retired) but so far no luck.

Now every time I start an elaborate scene (think the Faerie Market scenes in Stardust or the Books of Magic mini) I try to capture the elusive magic that enveloped that map.

The opening spread to my new book, Instructions has a ‘map’ of the events depicted in Neil’s poem. The reader wont know it their first time through, but the landscape that they are about to travel is all there in that one image:

Instructions-pg-2&3-blogEdited to add: It’s around 8.30 on Sunday night and guess what? I’ve just finished the last piece of art for Instructions. 40 paintings since the first of July. I should pat myself on my back if  that is, I could actually lift my arms…

So I thought it would be fun to scan in a few more such maps. Here’s one drawn by Walt Kelly as a back cover to his absolutely delightfull comic book series, Fairy Tale Parade. This series was produced in the mid 1940’s, after he left the Disney Studios but before he started Pogo.


Then there’s this one by the very eccentric British illustrator, Sydney Sime:


And here’s one that I found on the internet. It’s a endpaper for some nameless book but delightful none the less:


Sadly that’s all I have for now. If you’ve got a good scan of any others, please feel free to send them along and I’ll add it to this post.

And now, there’s never any reason to get lost in Fairyland is there?



Instructive Instructions

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

While Karen and I have been correcting last minute details on my art book, Drawing Down the Moon (see the post below this one) I’ve also been pretty busy at my drawing board.

Because our previous picture book, Blueberry Girl did so well  (5 weeks on the NY Times bestsellers list, a summer Independent Booksellers pick, etc.) our lovely editor, Elise Howard at Harper’s asked Neil and I for another. Right away! Neil suggested  Instructions, everyone agreed and so here I am deep into a intense deadline adapting the poem in 3-4 months time, instead of the 3 years it took for BG.

Originally I had thought to make our protagonist a young androgynous boy/girl.

Instructions Cvr Art  human blog

I worked up a cover and a title page design.

Instructions title pg. blogBut after worrying quite a bit about that visual choice taking away from the universality of Neil’s words I finally settled on the idea (thanks Joe!) of using instead, a sort of Puss-in-Boots character that could then be either male/female as well as any nationality or race.

Instructions Cvr Art cat blogEveryone signed off on that choice and off to the art races I went.

Instructions-title-pg-finalOne very fortunate consequence of being asked to limit my color choices was my decision to NOT try to be totally naturalistic in those choices. The pure red wolves above are an example. You’ll see LOTS more as we go along.

Instructions pg#4&5 blogI also started experimenting with watercolor pencils as a medium. You draw with them exactly as you would with colored pencils but then you can play a brush dipped in water over them to dissolve that color. It’s really a lot of fun to play with!

Here’s my rough pencils for an art spread that I would first try them out on…

Instructions pg#14&15 layout blogThen the actual finished color. It certainly adds a lot of texture that I just couldn’t get with my inks.

Instructions pg#14&15 blog

Note: There are four and twenty blackbirds in that tree. Go ahead, count them. And can anyone guess who that small dancing figure is in the crook of the tree limb is?

Of course there were a few false starts along the way…

Instructions pg#21 1st layout blogThe giant became a witch cooking a bit of unsavory flesh for her meal.

Instructions pg#21 finalAnd here’s a particularly nasty wood, with a few cavorting beasties, all in red too…

Instructions pg#13 blogRight now, I’m a little over half way through the art chores on the book but I’m pretty much on track to meeting my deadline.

Instructions will be out late next March so look for it then, okay?