Once I accumulated dozens and dozens of drawings, most of which were unusable (but led me to the ones that were), I sifted through them and kept the ones that had potential. I always like to have way more than I need rather than the opposite. I feel the same way about cooking. I've been accused of making way too much food, but hey, leftovers are not a bad thing.
I laid out the drawings more or less in chronological order, even though most of these mediums overlapped each other. There was no way to put them in any sort of totally accurate order, but I tried my best. From this I created a very rough book dummy, which consisted of black and white sketches and first draft text.
My editor Nancy Inteli at HarperCollins really liked the idea so we moved ahead with smoothing out the idea. Throughout the editing process, Nancy would send me suggestions and questions and I would reply with responses and answers. We did this a lot.
I mean a lot.
If you'll notice in most of my picture books, I tend to use the title page to start the story since there are only 16 spreads in a 40-page picture book (subtracting the front and back covers, the end pages, and title spread), so I try to use as much as I can.
I wanted to start the story with early man, so I came up with this image of a prehistoric man gazing up at the vast night sky with his son, to allude to the idea of generations and how it played into the book. I guess what I'm suggesting is that these stories are passed down to each generation, especially in the beginning, when it was an oral tradition. Someone had to hear and learn the stories and then pass them down to the next generation.
I also wanted to touch on the ideas of those first stories. I thought about early man and how he may have looked up at the night sky full of mystery, stars, and endless blackness. What did he think? How did he explain his existence or where he fit into the cosmos? Why was he here? Maybe he created stories to explain these things.
Perhaps these stories provided comfort in a cold, dark, confusing world that surrounded him. Maybe that's why we still tell those stories today.
I imagined he created stories about the stars in the sky above him. Perhaps this is the way the zodiac came into existence. I did some research and learned that astrology has a very ancient history. Perhaps those signs were the subject of man's earliest stories.
So I combined the image of early man around a campfire with the signs of the zodiac swirling in the night sky above to suggest that these are the stories he's telling to the rapt listeners huddled together on a cold night around a warm fire.
Then I started thinking about just what drove man to keep telling these stories. Why didn't they eventually stop being told? Why weren't they abandoned? What was that ineffable something, that desire to hand them down from generation to generation? Being a visual person and being that this was a picture book, I knew I had to depict this with an image. I also knew whatever it was, it had to appear throughout the story in order to string the images together.
This is what I drew.
To me, this represented INSPIRATION. I imagined that this bird flew through man's history, always moving ahead into the future.
And I wanted it to be red because red is such a powerful color for me. I didn't want too many things in the book to be red, so the reader could spot it. The bird is not in all of the images, but it's in all of the spreads (even the one spread you don't think it's in).
So on to the art.
First I take the rough sketch and place a sheet of frosted vellum over it. Then using the rough sketch as a guide, I redraw the image onto the vellum using India ink and a brush. I like using vellum because it's smooth so the lines are clean. I also use the blackest black ink I can find, so the lines are clear and dark.
This is the line drawing for the title page spread.
Then I scan the line art and open it in Photoshop, then apply color.
This is the final art once it was designed by the extraordinaire Rick Farley.
Next: Moving through history.