Brian Wonders:  The Making of a Children's Book

Brian Wonders Goes to Bologna



Recently traveled to Bologna, Italy for their annual Fiera di Libri.  Was totally inspired by the festival and the artwork, and  brought back with me a pile of books.  Here's a few images from the fair.  More on my Instagram:  thevictorrobert.

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 13



Here's a quick time-lapse video of the work that goes into arranging a trail of one thousand balloons into a treacherous rolling ocean.  This illustration appears in the middle of the book at the height of action, and I wanted the balloons to maintain the action like they were taking you on a roller coaster ride.  They climb over a crest before turning the corner and dropping down, gathering speed before entering into the gullet of the emerging monster.  The main reason I'm re-doing the balloons here is--when I decided the book should have no words, I felt I should highlight certain recurring motifs, like these balloons, in order to help better visually connect one page to the next.  


The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 12


As a kid, my favorite part of the water park was hands down the wave pool.  But the wave pool was also a scary place because of the wall at the far end.  It had bright red signs all around it warning kids not to swim too close to it--because you would get sucked under by the wave machine, I was told.  My head filled in the rest.  But when I looked under to see this machine there was nothing to see--just a dark gash running across the bottom, from end to end, breathing.  A gaping mouth ready to pull you in.  I think I created these happy ladies of the waves to deal with that trauma. 

Here's the process:


Starts out with loose ideas.  Pencil on paper.  The final pencil sketch gets cleaned up and scanned into the computer, then altered if need be. 


This is the final pencil image.  I altered the pencil color, turned it blue.  I also added a string of balloons.  This part doesn't need to be too tight, because it will get printed out and then painted on top of.  It will serve as my underlayer for the acrylic paint stage.  


Here's the final acrylic painting.  Notice Brian was painted onto his own square.  This is always my last resort when I can't get something in the painting quite right.  The painting gets scanned back into the computer, where I adjust the colors and levels and it all gets finished off with additional details. 


Details like this one:  this is a layer of waves I rendered in 3D.  This image is then drag and dropped on top of the painting.  Nothing too technical here, just a basic wave shader on smooth planes.  I just wanted to get some hard digital detail in the painting against the looser brush strokes. 


Final image!  Image scanned, color adjusted, CG waves added.  The balloons were another element that was first rendered in CG and then blended into the illustration.

Don't forget we are pre-selling the Brian Wonders picture book here

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*"Making Of" videos are being archived on vimeo and youtube

More to come...

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 11


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Here's a look at the big board!  Our book has 48 pages, and this is how I keep track of the progress on each page.  The spreads get printed out and posted up so I can stand back and get a look at the big picture at once.  It's incredibly helpful.  This is also helps me get a sense for the pacing of the images and how they flow from one page to another.  


Green tags mean the page is done; pink tags mean there's still some work to do.  Yes, there's a lot of pink tags, but for the most part the pages just need a final pass of bubbles or a quick overall freshener, which I'll do in the computer. 


The big board also helps in instances where I've made a change to the story that has had a rippling effect.  For example, after adding the bear to the story (Journal Entry 10), I needed to keep track of where he should reappear, meaning, popping him into pages that were already finished... 


Here's another spread that is pretty close to being done (bottom right), but to which I'm going back and adding a shark.  In an early version of the book I had a whole page dedicated to a swarming school of these hundred-eyed sharks, but that idea ended up on the cutting room floor.  Then I thought, I'll just add the sharks to another page!  

The Making of a Picture Book: follow up, entry 9


Just a quick follow up on the last post... Time lapse of the illustration in progress... 

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 9



This drawing had me frustrated for the longest time and I just kept procrastinating working on it.  Finally this week I had to deal with it, and I think it's turned into one of my favorite pages.  I think what cracked it was giving the characters all clothes to wear underwater!  They were supposed to be colorful fish, and so I gave them colorful swimwear.  I also added the snorkel cat and an alien fish to fill in some holes in the composition.  This one is about 80 percent there as far as rendering goes.  

This drawing will get scanned in, and I will add finishing touches to it in the computer.  Painting was all done in acrylics.  Stay tuned, I will be posting a time-lapse of this one's painting in progress.  

And a quick thank you for continuing to pre-order the book!      

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 7


This is a time-lapse video of my illustration process for one of the pages.  The original illustration was rendered with acrylic paints on paper.  It then gets scanned, and then this process takes over.  Generally my computer tweaks are minor, but this particular illustration had a lot of computer work done to it.  I decided a lot of cleaning up was necessary and I even changed the character's face from the original painting.

Did you know you can share this??  Click the little share icon below, it's the one that looks like three little UFOs flying in formation.

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 6


A friend accused me of a boring blog and suggested maybe I should start posting a little bit of the history of BW, early sketches and all that...  So this one's for you, Josh...  Here's a few cool ones from yeeeaars ago back when BW was just a little idea rolling around in my brain (and yours).  Cute little thing.  It's like looking at old photographs for me.  Check out the Grandma sketch.  She used to have a Long Island in her hand!  I still imagine she has a cocktail nearby, it's just off frame.  

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 5



Seems for the past several weeks I've been Brian Wonders 24-7, but it's all been on the web front.  I think finally I've got all the necessaries set up - Brian Wonders has his own website, FaceBook, Twitter, Vine and Pintrest!  This is absolutely nuts.  Can I get back to painting now?  Actually, all these social platforms have me excited about new ways of putting the illustrations out there... I think  some cool social BW ideas will be coming up.  After I get some more painting done.  

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 2



Getting the website up and runnin'.  Thank you SquareSpace for a clean on-line presence across all platforms.  You can also access our site via your smart phone, not pictured here....