The Wonderful Egg and an interview with Flying Eye Books

The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar(image here.)

by Dahlov Ipcar (Flying Eye Books, 2014; originally published 1958.)

The great folks at Flying Eye sent me this book a while back, and I’ve been staring at it for weeks. Months. It’s enchanting. And simple. And complex. And a huge restoration effort, which was a bit mind-blowing to understand. That’s why I consulted the experts.

But if you don’t know Dahlov Ipcar and her bright body of work, check this out first:

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Because her original plates were lost long ago, Flying Eye figured out a way to bring this story to many new readers. It’s remarkable. Here’s my conversation with Sam Arthur, Flying Eye’s Managing Director. And of course, some really beautiful art. (Click any of the images to enlarge.)

The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar

Can you describe the original way the art was created? I understand it to be color separated plates, but is that the best way to describe it? Sort of like a silkscreen process?

The original separations would have been created on drafting film or trace paper. In this way the process is very similar to preparing artwork for a silkscreen process. The main difference being that offset lithography allows for subtler more detailed textures than most screen printing processes as the ‘screen’ (meaning dots that make up the image – also known as half tone) is made up with smaller dots. I think Dahlov made her original artwork using mixed media, collage, pastel brush and wash.The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar

So the original art was unavailable, I assume? Can you describe the steps in the process to remaster the work?

The original artwork had been lost over the years, so our challenge was to recreate the new book using artwork from finished books that were from the original print runs (printed in the early 60s). All of the information we required was in these books. Most publishers would have simply scanned the images and printed them using standard CMYK reproduction (a composite image made up of dots using cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Our intentions were different, we wanted to produce the book in the same way as the original, which used 4 different special spot colours (or Pantone colours as they are now called).

In order to reproduce the book using the original printing technique, we had to recreate the original separations from the flattened, printed artwork. That was the tricky bit, we had to scan the artwork at very high resolution and then using photoshop un-pick the colours and put them into separate layers. The difficult thing is where the colours overlap each other, sometimes it’s difficult to see and it helps to have the original book to hand. So in the end the process uses photoshop selection tools, but also hand retouching. It’s a skilled job. The Wonderful Egg by Dahlov IpcarThe Wonderful Egg by Dahlov Ipcar

How many people worked on this? How long did it take and how long was it in the works?

The first book we did was The Wonderful Egg and it took 5 weeks to complete all of the images. There were two of us working on it, but we had a tight schedule and when it came to working on I Like Animals we had to call on three others to help us meet our deadline.

Was the way color was printed in the 1950s and 1960s drastically different from today? How?

In the 50s and 60s most of children’s books that were illustrated were printed using separations created by the illustrator. As time went on and technology improved illustrator’s artwork would be photographed and translated into CMYK separations using a photographic process. In the early days presumably this process was more expensive than simply asking illustrators to provide their own separations. Many children’s books also had a 4/2 colour scheme – meaning half of the book would include 4 colour images and the other half would have 2 colour images. This would save money in the printing process and also give the illustrator slightly less work to do on the 2 colour images. It does give these books a nice rhythm as you turn the pages. It was a practical consideration that has fed into the aesthetic, that’s quite interesting in itself.I Like Animals by Dahlov Ipcar

(image here.)

I’m curious if you got any backlash for republishing something with incorrect factual information? As a reader (and a librarian!) I love the choice, and see such value in preserving a particularly lovely era in picture books, but I wonder if you received any negative feedback. (Hope not.)

We have had a few comments, not really negative ones, more observations of the change in thought on the origin of dinosaurs etc. I think most people realise quickly that it’s an old title, so there is different kind of appeal when reading it. Also as I stated above the key story behind the egg, is still relevant in today’s thinking.I Like Animals by Dahlov Ipcar I Like Animals by Dahlov Ipcar

Why did you all decide to remaster this book, and are there plans for others as well? (We are thankful and we are hopeful, too!)

We decided to remaster this book as it felt quite contemporary in its treatment of the subject matter even though knowledge of the subject has changed, but the key message is still widely accepted in palaeontology. The illustrations are beautiful and we wanted to Dahlov’s this work to a new generation. This year we also released her book I Like Animals, next year we will be re-publishing Black & White and Wild & Tame Animals also by Dahlov Ipcar.I Like Animals by Dahlov Ipcarbreaker

Cool, right? What a legacy! Big thanks to Flying Eye for gathering us all around the campfire in celebration of great stories.

And speaking of color separations, check out this post at Seven Impossible Things for a look at how Jonathan Bean is doing the same thing in a contemporary picture book. Unreal. But very real, which is the great news.

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Thanks to the folks at Flying Eye (Tucker, Sam, and Emily!) for the images in this post. I received a copy of The Wonderful Egg, but all thoughts are my own.

Flashlight and an interview with Lizi Boyd

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

by Lizi Boyd (Chronicle Books, 2014.)

I really love Lizi Boyd’s work. It’s this perfect mix of oh, of course and oh, I never. Once upon a time I wrote about Inside Outside over on Design Mom, and I’ve been looking forward to this new book for a good while. It’s a great thing to have room for more.

And can you stop looking at that cover? I can’t. It’s beckoning, it’s comforting, it’s hurry-up-and-get-adventuring.

So I was lucky enough to have a chat with Lizi Boyd about creating books, the sound of picture books, her process, and her dogs. Thanks for welcoming your book to the world with us this way, Lizi.

(Click any of the images to enlarge.)breakerCan you talk about where this book came from? Was it always in the pipeline along with Inside Outside, or did working in that form spark the idea for Flashlight?

One night when I was working on Inside Outside I realized the dogs had been out for a long time. It was very dark and I took a flashlight to look for them. I heard noises in the field and when I flashed the light suddenly there was color; their eyes, collars, the apples and grasses. It was so cool! And then I thought, oh, a book. I couldn’t wait to get inside and google around to see if it had been done. It seemed so utterly simple and wonderful. I began the sketches for it the next day. So, yes, Inside Outside influenced the idea because in working on that book it was utterly quiet and still in my studio and that encouraged the idea for Flashlight.Flashlight by Lizi BoydHow do you know when something is working, and how do you know when something is overworked?

When it’s a wordless book I need to just go along with a very quiet head and allow the idea to tell itself. I actually have to ‘see’, by making the drawings, where it’s going to take me. And I need a completely empty house because my studio is in our house.

Mostly I know when to pause and wait it out or take the dogs for a good long walk and think about what I’m working on. That being said I just filled up a box with sketches for other projects that are little beginnings and seem not to be ready to tell me what they’re about and where  they’d like to go.

Why do you think your stories are best suited to the form of the picture book? And specifically in Flashlight, I feel like a sensibility exists with the excitement and adventure of something so seemingly dangerous: the night, the dark, the strange creatures. Can you talk to that a bit?

It hadn’t occurred to me until I was making Inside Outside that a book and its story could belong to the readers ‘telling of the story’ not just the one the author is writing and illustrating. Picture books are all about this but I want to see how far I can stretch this idea. So I’ll surprise you by saying that the nighttime element; the dark, the strange creatures, a sense of danger was never part of my thinking. My sons weren’t afraid of the dark. The notebook I kept while working on Flashlight has these words; story + imagination + silence. Sound/elemental. A book one can ear if one really listens. (One does ‘hear’ books!)Flashlight by Lizi BoydCan you talk about the physical design of the book? The paper, the ink, how you got such lush blacks (which I think is difficult!) and how you engineered the peeks and surprises of the die cuts? Did the design of the book drive what had to happen in the story or vice versa?

I tried out several shades of gray / black papers and settled on the blackest one. I loved the way the beam of the light popped and the colors too, all of which needed to be painted over several times to get their finished strength. The die cuts were made with templates so on the finished illustrations there weren’t any holes just a tracing of where the cuts would be made. This part was difficult and there were quite a few changes done by Sarah Gillingham, art director, with her brilliant eye and computer skills! Many of the die cuts surprised us.

What are some of your favorite books and/or art from childhood? What is your favorite piece of art hanging in your home or studio?

I grew up in an artistic, visually inspired house. Our mother was a mid-century potter who moved her studio from NYC to VT. There were lots of books every kind; art, nature, children’s books and interesting objects of design all around us.

I love primitive masks and have a few real beauties. (A man recently came with his five-year-old son and said, “Do these masks frighten you?” – something that hadn’t occurred to me. His son was so busy with his iPad that I don’t think he noticed them. Maybe they could have frightened him away from his iPad for a moment?)Flashlight by Lizi BoydWhat modern picture books do you look to for inspiration and encouragement?

I have a stack of picture books in the studio. My friends, far and wide, send me books from everywhere; France, Italy, Germany. And I have some new ones from Chronicle, all exquisite; the printing, the paper and the design. Flashlight became the book it is because of Chronicle’s eye, care and hand in the myriad production details.breakerAnd take a look at this lovely trailer for more of a sense of Flashlight’s magic.

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To all of our boxes of little beginnings!

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Thanks to Chronicle Books for the images, a review copy of the book, and connecting me to Lizi Boyd. Thoughts and opinions my own. 

How to Hide a Lion

How to Hide a Lion by Helen Stephens

How to Hide a Lion (Henry Holt, 2013. Originally published 2012 in the UK.)

by Helen StephensLion5

 

One hot day, a lion strolled into town to buy a hat.

Of course he did. That frilly blue thing in the window is pretty fancy after all. This beast only has eyes for that bonnet, and bypassed the bakery without even a side eye. But while the beast has eyes for the bonnet, the townspeople have eyes for safety and decorum. They chase him out. 

And like any smart wild animal, he finds refuge in a kid. A kid who was not scared of him in the least. A kid who saw a problem that needed solving. A kid who saw her world differently. She knows he needs hiding, and I think that’s such a beautiful example of what it must be like to be a kid. You have this vague awareness of things that are problems for grownups, and yet you attack them as if those grownups are absurd. 

That’s kid truth. That’s a great thing for this lion.

There’s smushing behind the shower curtain, there’s lounging on the limb of a tree, and there’s plenty of bed-jumping. And still, when he overhears Iris’s parents saying there’s no such thing as a kind lion, there’s sadness.

But.

Lion1

The way Helen Stephens is using color in this book is both sweet and striking to me. This lion, large and yellow, takes up a lot of space on pages of close ups. And his girl, Iris, matches him a bit with her yellow arms and brown mane. That’s sweet. That’s friends who can see themselves in each other.

But the blues. Loose complements to the wild yellow of the beast, the wild brown of Iris’s hair. Ever notice when a book is cracked open, the edges of the cover frame it a bit? This one is blue, a lovely turquoise. The endpapers are a shade of sky and a deep navy. Those pages and that cover peek around the story itself.

A little touch of blue, giving this lion a hug.

Just like Iris. Lion3Lion2

These vignettes! The gag is a an unhide-able lion, right? It’s an impossibility that’s highlighted with the use of these orange-yellows and blues. 

After the lion escapes his Iris-refuge, he blends in to his surroundings. A camouflaged cat, if you will. He holds his breath between two marble-sculpted friends. I don’t want to show you the spread, cause Big Things Happen, but take a look at the colors of that page. His hiding is a success. No need for blues to offset his presence. 

Also, I love how this book is pretty big. That’s obviously not a very technical or artistic term to to reference trim size, but it’s true. A lion is tricky to hide, and the physical space this book takes up is the gentlest nod to the absurdity of that task. Besides, a lion wouldn’t fit in a smaller book, right? 

He’d be much harder to hide that way.Lion4ch

PS: Be sure to visit this post from Danielle at This Picture Book Life. There’s some secret-spoiler-y-easter-egg things on the pages of this book, and her post is the coolest.

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone (Candlewick, 2003)

by Timothy Basil Ering

I have a feeling this is one of those books that you either adore to hyperbolic proportions or is completely off your radar. 

I’m in the hyperbolic proportions camp, but it’s still a book I forget about. And then when I remember, I wonder how I forgot?!

So this is an origin story, one that starts in Cementland and ends in gritty beauty.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

The first spread is so perfect. A wide shot of Cementland, described as a dull, gray, endless place. A boy, arms open and striped in red, stands at your attention in the midst of all that gray. All of the lines and the stress and the mess lead you right to him.

This red-striped fellow believes treasure hides among the heaps of junk in Cementland, and in a triumphant moment finds a box bursting with color. Bright colored packages, but filled only with tiny gray specks.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil EringHundreds of them. Not wondrous riches.

He plants anyway. And after two or three minutes, nothing happens.

While he’s gone, thieves root and loot the plot. So this boy–this treasure hunter, gathers smelly socks, scraggly wires, and of course, a crown, and dubs his creation Frog Belly Rat Bone, the monster who will protect the specks. 

They are a duo with a mission and a patched together friendship that pays big rewards.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering 

That’s why Timothy Basil Ering’s use of texture is the only possibility for this type of storytelling. The art is the story. It’s stitched up. It’s not slick. It’s piled up and layered and cobbled together just like Frog Belly Rat Bone himself.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil EringThere’s warmth in the mess and intention in the scatter. It’s as beautiful as that treasure that the red-striped boy finds. And creates.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Eringbreaker

“…[W]hen I first made the dummy book for Frog Belly Rat Bone, naturally, I beat up some wood and sewed it all together. It gave it that nostalgic, cobbled-together look that’s just plain interesting to me. I wanted it to look like it was made the same way the little boy in the story makes Frog Belly, with just raw hand-stitching and splashes of paint.”

(That’s from here, which is a great read!)

It’s definitely one I want to share early in the year with our fourth graders who are the school’s expert gardeners. It would pair well with The Curious Garden (for obvious reasons) but also classic unlikely friendship stories. Isn’t a trash-made monster-thing with picky underwear a pretty unlikely friend? I’m thinking about Amos and Boris and Leonardo the Terrible Monster.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

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Giveaway Update: Thanks for playing! I’ve picked the winners, but I’m going to wait until my order comes in from the bookstore to share the spoils. We had to special order a few titles. Did you know your local indie will do that for you?! And then you get to go back. Stay tuned!

Martin Pebble

Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble (Phaidon, 2006; first published in French, 1969)

by Jean-Jacques Sempé

I love this book.

I love the type on the cover.

I love the yellow.

I love the shape and the size and the story.

I love Martin Pebble.

He’s loveable.

(I picked this up on a recent trip to Once Upon a Time in Montrose, CA, which is exactly why shopping in stores is the greatest thing. I had to touch this thing to believe it, and I might not have seen this thing if it weren’t for the bookseller. Bookstores are like story petting zoos and museums that don’t give you the stinkeye if you get too close to the art.)

(Something like that.)

But poor Martin Pebble.

Martin Pebble could have been a happy little boy, like many other children. But, sad to say . . . he had something that was rather unusual the matter with him:

he kept blushing.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques Sempé Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble blushes for all the usual reasons and for no reason at all. The brilliance of Sempé’s color here is hard to miss. Black and white line work contains the red of Martin’s face, and that red occasionally extends to the text as well.

Subtle. Striking.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéThe contrast Sempé crafts between Martin’s red face and all that black and white makes that blushing even worse.

Martin is in a pickle. He’s tiny and nearly lost on the page save for his giveaway condition.

He dreamed of fitting in.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéBut he always stood out.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéThen comes a series of sneezes, some very loud A T I S H O O s, and there he is.

Roddy Rackett, the new neighbor.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéWhen the story changes, and the hardships knock at the door, Sempé doesn’t just use the suspense of a page turn. He stops the story cold.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéRoddy Rackett’s family moves away.

When you are a boy, and when you are made normal in the quirks of another, you never really forget about it. You think about A T I S H O O s while you are doing grownup things like riding taxis and elevators.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéMartin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéSometimes things get back to normal.Martin Pebble by Jean-Jacques SempéI won’t spoil past that pink-lettered page.

But I love it.IMG_1250 copy

And!

Sempé himself sounds like a storybook character. He sold tooth powder door-to-door salesman! Delivered wine by bicycle! (More here.)

Click here for some of Sempé’s covers for The New Yorker. Lovely.

And this Pinterest board is a feast for the eyes, too. Enjoy!

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Ninja! and an interview with Arree Chung

Ninja! by Arree Chungby Arree Chung

published June 2014 by Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of Macmillan.

Friends, I’m so excited to have Arree Chung in this corner of the internet today. I met Arree last summer at SCBWI in Los Angeles, and am humbled every time I think about how we share an agent and a friendship. He’s an expert storyteller with a bright, animated style and a fresh perspective. Ninja! is his debut picture book, and it will be far from his last.

First, you should watch this short film. And here’s my confession. Arree sent this to me a number of weeks ago with the caveat that it was unreleased and not to share. Except: it was too awesome not to. So I showed it to my students, because single-digit-aged kids are pretty good at secrets and don’t have Twitter accounts anyway.

They loved it. And I mean L O V E D  I T. Each class, without fail, asked to watch it many, many times in a row. So we did.

Meet Maxwell, and then meet Arree.

breakerWhat has been the most surprising thing about this whole debut picture book thing?

The most surprising thing about the publishing process is how long it takes to actually bring a book to market (1.5 – 2 years).  My background is in games, where companies can publish with the click of a button and make updates via the internet.  The process gives me appreciation for the care that goes into the publishing process.  It also helps to have a great team of people to work with.  Everyone from your agent, publisher, editor and art director in making the book and then there’s publicity, marketing and sales folks that help in getting the book out.1stCoverAn early cover design.Ninja_Revision_Notesrevision notes.

I’m fortunate to have a supportive publisher in Macmillan.  They have a great team of experts.  Each one helps you with a specific aspect of the publishing process.  I’ve learned so much.  I’m so grateful I’ve been in good hands.  I’ve worked hard to hold up my end of the deal and make something special.  With Ninja it was easy, because I loved it so much.

Who are your creative and/or literary heroes?

Oh, so many!

Authors:
Roald Dahl
E.B. White
Jack Gantos
Judy Blume
Jeff Kinney

Illustrators:
Russell Patterson
Chris Ware
Yuko Shimitzo

Author/Illustrators:
Shel Silverstien
Wolf Erlbruch
William Steig
Mo Willems
Peter Brown
Leo Lionni
Maurice Sendak
Ian Falconer
Jon Klassen
David Shannon
Bill Peet
Calef Brown

Comics:
Jim Lee
Scott McFarlane
Jeffrey Brown
Bill Watterson
Jim Davis
Charles Schulz

Animation/Film:
Brad Bird
John Lassetter
Guillermo Del Toro
Chris Sanders
Danny Boyle
Tim Burton
Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit)
Steven Spielberg
Hayao Miyazaki

Can you talk about the similarities and differences in animation and the picture book form?

I love both mediums for different reasons.  Both mediums can transport the reader into new worlds.  I love it when a book or movie captures my imagination and I am completely immersed in a world that has been built.  The world is invented but it feels familiar and the story resonates with honesty.  I hate it when a story is force feeding me a message and it feels like an infomercial or when a story rambles without a focus.  Storytelling is magical when it has both the imagination and heart and speaks to you directly and honestly.  A great story is so exhilarating.  There’s nothing in the world that feels like it.  I love both animation and picture books because they have the ability to create magic.

How they are different?  Well, I think the main difference is that film tends to be a passive experience.  The viewer is in a dream like state that watches the story unfold.  It’s like being suspended in a time capsule and you watch everything that happens.  You take the story in a more subliminal kind of way.NinjaCreepAwaySpread14_15Books on the other hand I think are active experiences.  You as the reader actively interact with the words and pictures.  It’s like your brain is the film projector and is working to play the story.  Because of this, I think books are much more intimate experiences.  You go at your own pace.  You stop, question and wonder.  Sometimes you’re so engaged, you speed all the way through and sometimes you like to read slowly just because.  Readers engage books with their imaginations and a lot of the story is told in-between the words, the page turns and the illustrations whereas films are full experiences that use all the arts of composition, acting, music and visuals to put you in a state of suspension.

Both are magical and I love doing both so much.

Can you give us any behind-the-scenes information on how you created the short film? Did you get to know Maxwell differently in that format?

Yeah!  It was so thrilling to bring Maxwell to life.  I had a pretty good idea of who he is as a character after creating the book but actually seeing him move and casting Taylor Wong as Maxwell brought another whole dimension.

As for production, here’s a quick behind the scenes look of what it took to make the short film.  I plan on doing a much more in-depth look in a separate blog post.

We used 4 software tools: Photoshop, Flash, After Effects and Final Cut Pro.  The process was a highly collaborative effort between folks at MacMillan, myself and David Shovlin, the animator.  It was a ton of work to do but a ton of fun as well.ShortFilm_Process

In all, it took about 5 weeks of work.  David and I worked really hard on it and I’m really proud of what we created in a relatively short period of time.2013-09-09 23:23Where did Ninja! come from?

It’s been my dream to make my own picture books for a long time.  The first conception of Ninja came when I was in art school.  I jotted down “A boy goes creeping around the house dressed as a Ninja and causes trouble.”  That was probably in 2007 or so.

Maxwell_1st_CharacterSketchesNinja_Thumbnails        MaxwellScanNoPencilNinja_earlySketches-1Early Ninja! thumbnails and character sketches.

In 2012, I decided to do the Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Summer Conference.  We were given an assignment to submit a story along with a manuscript, thumbnails, character sketches, and a finished illustration.  Up to that point, I had been writing stories for years but was stuck on many of them.  For the workshop we had to write down answers to the following questions:

WHO
WHAT is the dilemma?
WHERE does it take place?
HOW is the problem solved?

This really helped me a lot.  Previous to this, many of my stories didn’t have focus and wandered a lot.  Ninja was a big break through for me as a storyteller and I had lots of people who helped guide me through it.   I’m so thankful for Rubin, my agent, and Kate, my editor.  The more I worked on it, the more the world and character took shape and gained depth.  It was so much fun to make.

Do you remember any art you made as a kid? What was it?!

Yeah, I made a lot of ninja stars and origami.  I was also obsessed with Legos.  I loved to build cruiser space ships and large fortresses armed to the teeth.  Whenever my uncle bought us Legos, we would make the thing we were supposed to make and then tear it apart and then make what we wanted to make.  Making your own thing was much more fun.

I was a huge comic book reader and collector as well.  I bought all of the X-men, Spiderman, Spider-ham, Batman and Spawn comics.  I still buy comics.

I also really love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I used to record all of the episodes.  In fact, I used to press pause on the VCR and trace drawings of the Ninja Turtles by overlaying paper onto the TV.  At school, everyone thought I was the best drawer, but I never told anyone my technique til now!  Eventually I copied so many drawings I could draw it out of memory.  I tried to do the same technique with Transformers but that wasn’t nearly as successful because I didn’t understand perspective as at 12 year old.

And now what’s next for you?Ninja_GhostStoryI’ve got a lot of things I’m working on.  I have lots of Ninja stories to tell with Maxwell. (I’m so excited about all of them!)  One of them involves an old Chinese folktale involving ghosts!

I’m also illustrating two Potty Training books for kids that are hilarious.HowToPeeillustrations from How to Pee

I have lots of picture book stories I’m developing and I’m also writing a middle grade novel titled Ming Lee, All American.  Ming Lee chronicles my experiences growing up as an ABC (American Born Chinese).  It’s deeply personal and is funny in that Louis CK, embarrassing but honest kind of way.  I would describe it as Judy Blume meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Of course, it is its own thing that I am figuring out.  I have a sense of what I want it to be but you never know what it will be until you get there.

Ming_Lee_CoverMingLeeHairCut

breakerA huge thanks to Arree for this peek into the mind of a master craftsman. Be sure to get your hands on Ninja! this week!

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Number One Sam and an interview with Greg Pizzoli

Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoliby Greg Pizzoli

published 2014 by Disney-Hyperion

I’m honored and thrilled to have Greg Pizzoli back to the blog this week. About a year ago we talked about Kroc and The Watermelon Seed, and in the many weeks since, that thing (and Greg!) won the Geisel Award! My kindergarteners call him ‘the BURRRRPPP man’ which I’m pretty sure is the highest praise any mere mortal can achieve.

But today! Today is the birthday of Greg’s latest and greatest, Number One Sam. This is my favorite tweet about it:Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 3.47.57 PM(And side note, you should follow Matt Roeser at Candlewick cause he has impeccable taste and eyeballs.)

And this (!) is the trailer:

breakerGreg chatted with me about process and art and picture books, and I’ve read these answers about a billion times and am still learning. Enjoy!

Your spot color. Wow! Can you talk about why such a stripped-down design with a limited color palette is such a powerful visual device?

Great question!

To be honest, I’m not sure. But, I think it comes down
to working from an intention, and just having a plan, or restrictions
set in place from the beginning. You can’t just grab another color
from somewhere – when it comes time to make final art, we’ve done
rounds of pantone tests and paper tests, and the limitations and
possibilities are in place, so nothing is casual. Maybe it makes you
consider things in a way that is unique to working in that way?

I know for me, if I’m doing a book that is printed in a limited color
palette, it can feel restrictive in one sense, but there is a real
freedom within the limitations, if you know what I mean. There’s not
endless guessing the way there might be with a CMYK book. Obviously we
do lots of tests and make sure we get the base colors right for the
book, but once that is done, I can start carving out the drawings and
not worry too much about the colors, because we’ve done so much work
on the front end. It’s a challenge I enjoy.

Here’s a photo of a spot color test proof.Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

Why do you think your stories are best suited to the form of the picture
book. What can you do in this form that you might not be able to in another?

This is a tough one, Carter. Boy, I come to your blog looking to have
a good time, maybe show a video or something, and you slam me with
this “why picture books” stuff. Sheesh. “Gotcha blogging” right here.
But that’s fine, I’ll play along.

I’m kidding, of course. But, it is a tough one. I guess it’s not all
that complicated for me. I’ve always loved picture books and I think
it’s because there are so many possible ways to solve the problem of
telling a story with text and images. It’s a cliche I think, but you
really can do anything in a picture book. But here again, I like the
restrictions. As much as I might complain to my editor that I “just
need one more spread” to tell the story, it’s actually nice to have a
structure where you have to fit a complete world, with a character, a
problem, and (maybe?) a solution to that problem in only 40 (or so)
pages.

There’s something about how deliberate every decision has to be
that is super appealing to me. I’ve been working on writing a longer
thing recently, a series, and it’s not as though I’m not deliberate
when working on it, but I’ll admit that it feels as though not as much
is hinging on each line or picture in the same way. With picture
books, you don’t have room for anything to feel arbitrary. I like
that.

Also, I thought you might want to see these. Sam started out as a
print of a weird dog (top) and then I made a print of another
(cuter) dog, and he kept coming up in my sketchbooks until he became
Number One Sam (bottom).Number One Sam by Greg PizzoliNumber One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

What do you think are the most important considerations when creating a book trailer?
How do you think through compressing an already spare narrative into a short
animation? Are there aspects to animation you wish you had access to in
picture book art or vice versa? (I guess mostly I’m curious about how book
trailers share storytelling space with picture books and what they can do
differently. Does that make sense?!)

Ya know, it’s a complicated thing this book trailer business. I am
really happy with the two we’ve done so far, but I definitely can’t
take all the credit. Jimmy Simpson, directed and animated both the
trailer for The Watermelon Seed and for Number One Sam, and he is
pretty incredible to work with. Both times we started working, I had
already finished the book, and I had a very basic sense of what I
wanted the trailer to be, but he figures out all of the transitions
and added all of the touches that make them work as well as I think
they do. For example, the “wink” shot from the Number One Sam trailer –
that’s all Jimmy. And of course, he does all of the animation.

I draw the stuff, which is somewhat complicated because you have to
keep everything separated, meaning draw the arm on a different layer
from the body, and the hand on a different layer than the arm, and the
ear on it’s own layer, etc. Basically everything needs to move
independently of everything else, but my characters are pretty simple,
so it’s not too big a deal.

And the music is key. My buddy Christopher Sean Powell composed the
music special for both trailers. What a talent, right? He plays in the
band Man Man, and has his solo music project called Spaceship Aloha,
and was a part of a pretty seminal band from these parts called Need
New Body. I’m thrilled we get to work together on this stuff.

But, to your actual question, I see the trailer and the book as
completely separate things. They have their own pacing, and their own
objectives. With the book, you want everything to feel complete, and
have an emotional pay off of some kind. And you have the narrative arc
to keep things together. With the trailer, it’s more of a tease. You
don’t want to give it all away. And I guess our objective is to just
make them fun and unique.

Book trailers have become more popular, and there is a sort of
template for how they are done that we have tried to stay away from.
We just want them to feel different enough to maybe stand out. It’s a
super small community in some ways, and my book trailers certainly
aren’t racking up millions of views or anything, but we enjoy making
them for their own sake, partly I think because we all just like
working together. If other people dig them, and check out the book on
top of that, that’s icing.

What types of trophies do you have lining your shelves? What kind do you
wish you had? Side note: What would a book called Number One Greg be about?

Beyond my published books, which I kind of think of as trophies in a
way, there are a couple. Last year when I finished the art for Number
One Sam, my editor Rotem sent me a trophy that I keep on my bookcase.
And recently I was looking through some old family photos and found a
first place ribbon that I had won for a school wide art contest in
the 1st grade. My family moved around a ton when I was little, so the
actual winning piece was lost. I remember it though! It was a big
piece of yellow poster board with a marker drawing of outer space.

Maybe it’s time to do a space book?Number One Sam by Greg PizzoliNumber One Sam by Greg PizzolibreakerAnd now for some art from Number One Sam. Thank you, Greg! (Click to make any of them larger.)Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

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100 Bears

100Bears by Magoli Bardosby Magali Bardos

published 2014 by Flying Eye Books100Bears by Magoli BardosLet me introduce you to Flying Eye Books, if you aren’t already pals with them. Their books are fairly new to me, but are consistently striking and interesting and a different sort of fare than some more commercial offerings. 

Case in point: this post by Danielle Davis over at This Picture Book Life (you know her, right? Her posts are a work of art and always a celebration of the picture book form. I’m lucky to know her in real life, not just on the internet.) and this look at their current season (and an interview!) by Travis Jonker100Bears by Magoli Bardos100 Bears is a counting book with some actual narrative to it. The pace starts off sweetly but then 9 gunshots and an escape leads to a madhouse of 23 knocked over chairs and 37 or 38 bits of confetti. Such trouble a few bears can get into! Some teensy text flaws swim around in that lost-in-translation sea, but there is some real satisfaction in a circular counting story with 100 moving parts. The smile you’ll get from the first and last pages alone is one of the true joys of story.100Bears by Magoli BardosA design technique shown off so spectacularly here is spot color. That’s when a single color is printed at a time, and so the process gets layered (and tricky!) by rolling down the building blocks of a print on the same lithograph. You won’t see gradients or blended color, just blocks of hue. (Here’s a little more about the process, from author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli.)

And why does the cover catch your eye? It’s more than a circus style balancing act of big old bears and their blocky numbers. It’s that complementary color scheme. Blue and orange. With a splash of pink for some oh, yes.

And so what is this thing? I’m not too sure, and I don’t really care! It’s like a coffee table book for the sippy cup set. Enjoy it, for sure.100Bears by Magoli BardosP.S. – Crazy for spot color? Stay tuned and hear again from the master himself, Greg Pizzoli. Coming up soon on Design of the Picture Book!

Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure

by Nikki McClure

published 2014 by Abrams Books (reissue)

Every soul who has seen Nikki McClure’s art has loved it. I’m sure there are studies and statistics on that, trust me. It looks as elegant on an iPhone case as it does on a gift tag or greeting card.

But then there are books, and thank goodness she makes them.Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureThis edition of Collect Raindrops has been reissued in an expanded form and a new format. It’s based on her ongoing calendar series, and begs to take up permanent residence on your coffee or bedside table. Don’t just stick it on the shelf. You’ll want this one at easy reach. It’s gorgeous to touch, to see, and to behold.

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureHere, her pictures are gathered by their season, each introduced with love letters to their very time and place.

“Some people just need help to see the obvious. And that’s what artists are for.”

That sentiment comes from this short film that demystifies her process but reveals a lot of magic. She calls it corny, but I call it lovely:

breakerShe says her paper cuts are like lace, and everything is connected. Before it’s in a book, can’t you picture what that art looks like held up against a light? Physically, the paper that remains envelops the paper that is gone. Like knots, or filaments, or branches. How beautiful then, that her subject is often community. Shared memories and experiences.

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureThe contrast is what connects us. As much story lives in what’s been carved away as what sticks behind. But by simple definition, contrast means difference, and in design, your brain is searching for dominant elements. This art contrasts light and dark, filled and white space, and in those separations paints a portrait of community.

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureAnd then there’s the case cover itself. A web, a symbol itself of creativity and connection, binds the pages together.

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClureIsn’t that remarkable?

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The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

beekle_coverby Dan Santat

published 2014 by Little, Brown (release date is tomorrow, April 8th. I’d recommend lining up outside your local bookstore as soon as possible. You want this book.)

Sometimes, you can tell that a story is going to squeeze its way into your soul.

I got those story-goosebumps when I saw this trailer recently. Hat tip to Mr. Schu and Margie Myers-Culver probably. Or maybe Mr. Santat himself. But:

breakerMaybe sobbed is a more appropriate word choice than saw, because that’s what I did. It was all I could do. But some things you see with your eyes, and some things you see with your heart alone.

I saw Beekle.

This is Dan Santat’s first offering as an author in a decade, though he has illustrated about a trillion books in the meantime. His work is inviting and bold and gripping and nuanced and so clearly Santat. Paired with his own words now, they haunt and amaze. Sweeping and startling and so very shivery.

(Speaking of all those Santats, my students peek under every dust jacket thanks to Kel Gilligan. They are super disappointed if a) the library mylar is in the way and b) if it’s a plain old case cover. Smarties.)

Thank goodness for this:The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatAnd this.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatWhether accidental or intentional, the title is a nod to other epic journeys. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Tintin, Pete and Pete (remember those redheads?). All of those escapades belong to memorable characters.

But Beekle. See him up there on the cover? That milky lump with the crooked, shy smile? No one has remembered him yet, because no one has ever imagined him. Not with their eyes, and not with their hearts.

The folks at the bus stop (save the tiny schnauzer) are too busy with real life and grownup things like tracksuits and newspapers. Of course they can’t see him. That’s why he’s looking at you, the reader. So in you go.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatBeekle was born on a magical island, a home for imaginary friends to wile away the days until they were dreamed up by a real friend. He waited and waited to be picked, and watched everyone else get imagined. And Beekle was alone, so . . .

. . . he did the unimaginable.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatThe whiff of a wild thing on those waves . . . you recognize Beekle’s sailboat and crown, right?SENDAK_1963_Where_the_Wild_Things_Are_pp31-32

(image from here.)The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatBeekle’s sailboat reaches the real world, but no one stops to hear the music. Like any good adventure and friend seeker, he finds branches to climb and a lookout to perch.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatBut no one came.

And then.

If you slowed down and savored the pictures, you might have seen a gust of wind pick up something thin and white. That thing, thin and white, stuck right to a limb holding Beekle. That thin and white canvas, her dream.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatSo many moments add to the magic of this, in addition to the anticipation and raw rooting we are doing for our hero. See the leaves? The stars? That’s how she drew the leaves. That’s how the leaves look on the tree, too. That shape creates instant charm and magical mood, sure. But also, remember the beginning? The waiting and the hoping? On the island, all of that happened under the stars.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatFriends are matched under the stars.

That’s when the world begins to feel a little less strange.

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If there’s a word that means flabbergasted and gobsmacked to the infinitieth power, that’s what I was when I got Beekle in the mail from Dan’s editor at Little, Brown, Connie Hsu. Not only did I get a sneak peek at this gorgeous story, but I got my very own friend. 

beekle How did he know a squatty, mechanized lightbulb bearing tools for creating and messing up and creating anyway was the perfect friend for me?

The stars must have been out that night above Dan’s studio. Thank you, Dan. So, so much.