While the Artist's Away
While the Artist's Away came out this week, and it was a long time coming. I first had the idea several years ago. Here's a spread from an earlier version:
Back then the dog was sort of in cahoots with the cat:
The problem was I couldn't figure out a good way to fit the story into a 32-page picture book without it feeling rushed. So the project spent many years sleeping soundly in a folder on my computer. Then came e-publishing. Unlike physical books, which are constrained by how they're bound and what they cost, eBooks can have as many pages as you like. I couldn't tell this story in 32 pages, but 80 pages? No problem!
Like any illustrated book, this one began as a bunch of rough sketches. Making the final art, however, involved more than just my usual watercolor painting; I needed a whole bunch of things.
First I took multiple photos of the workspace itself, to be used in different spreads. Here's one of those photos:
Next I made all of my illustrations. There were cats...
...various watercolor splotches and splatters...
...and mice. In this instance, I made a small group and then copied and pasted them repeatedly to create the illusion of an army.
I also needed a paintbrush...
...and "Portrait of a Child" by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. I've always loved this painting and have a postcard of it, which I planned to use. Of course, when it came time to take some photos of the workspace, the postcard was nowhere to be found. So the kid had to be downloaded and then photoshopped into each spread. And yes, the postcard was found shortly after I did all that. I'm not kidding.
Here's the finished spread:
Since this book contains illustrations illustrating each other, I wanted to give each character a different level of drawing ability. For me painting the cat, it was no problem since I had a photo of my hand and an illustration. It's just me painting a cat. Pretty straightforward.
The cat's drawing style needed to be distinct from mine. You can see he draws a bit more crudely than I do. He's happy with stick arms and dots for eyes.
And the mouse, poor guy. He can barely draw at all.
For more information about While the Artist's Away, go to http://www.gorilla-publishing.com/
Watch the trailer while you're there. It's really awesome.