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Brian Wonders:  The Making of a Children's Book

BRIAN WONDERS at GRAND PARK BOOK FESTIVAL

Brian Wonders books will be on sale at the Writ Large pop up shop at Grand Park Book Festival in Los Angeles this coming weekend!  Noon to 5pm.

If you haven't been to Grand Park and you live in the LA area -- it's a must!  Bring a picnic!  Bring the kids.  There's a huge water fountain and reflecting pool on the west end.  Come by, say hello, and get your Brian Wonders on like these ladies.

  Talk about inspiration!!!

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 24

BOOKS ARE IN!


Super excited to announce that the Brian Wonders picture books have arrived!  Pictured below is the first of 2 dollies, making it a total of 20 boxes.  Slipcovers are also in and we are actively filling orders.  Thank you for ordering your first edition copy here.  

Printed and manufactured in the USA

Printed and manufactured in the USA

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 21

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THE BELLY OF THE BEAST

Deep inside the belly of the book there's a fold-out map revealing the inner workings of the Ship Monster -- there's a glowing boiler room; a churning, roaring furnace; and soon-to-be digested captives along with lost treasure.  This page is the center piece of the book, a double-gate fold out measuring 12" x 48" when fully opened.  

Scroll all the way down to watch a time-lapse movie of this gargantuan illustration.  It's a few days worth of work condensed down to two minutes. 

 

Below I'm posting snapshots of the piece in progress:

The original pencil drawing

The original pencil drawing

The drawing, scanned and cleaned up in the computer

The drawing, scanned and cleaned up in the computer

Here's an early "value pass".  In an illustration as complex as this, for me it's important to get the lights and darks of the overall design worked out before adding color.  

Here's an early "value pass".  In an illustration as complex as this, for me it's important to get the lights and darks of the overall design worked out before adding color.  

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This is a detail of the final illustration.  As you can see, there are giant squid swimming inside the belly, angler fish singing into the pipes, and eels powering the generator.  Also inside the pipes is Brian exploring through the maze.  

This is a detail of the final illustration.  As you can see, there are giant squid swimming inside the belly, angler fish singing into the pipes, and eels powering the generator.  Also inside the pipes is Brian exploring through the maze.  

Click above to watch the time-lapse video!  

Thank you for sharing our blog and pre-ordering the book

 

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 19

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THE SHIP MONSTER

There's a monster in the story shaped like a scary cruise ship.  My 5 year-old nephew calls it "el barco monstro".  I think he's scared of it but I also think it's his favorite page.

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The original idea was to have something fantastical emerging from the pool... I had the thought of a cruise ship, something like the Titanic...  When I sketched it out, the ship took on a life of its own.  I gave it eyes, a gaping mouth and a menacing smile, and after that the story went off in an unpredictable new direction.  

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Here's some of the CG modeling that went into it.  A friend helped me with basic curved hull of the ship (thanks Mike!).  Then I went in an pushed and pulled the CG model using 3D lattices, forming it to the shape I wanted while using the original sketch as an overlay guide.  You can see the sketch overlay on the top right quadrant.  

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After the CG modeling is done, I have the image printed out and it becomes the underpainting to the illustration.  Above and below are the two raw paintings that were later comped together into a final illustration along with other elements like balloons.

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At the time I thought PHEW!  All this was a bit of overkill for one illustration, but the results were a cool combination of newfangled CG and traditional paint and I moved forward with this technique for other illustrations in the book. 

We are selling books!!  And thank you for the pre-orders!  The shot below is from a set of color proofs that I wedged into a book from my library.  Just wanted to start seeing what the finished picture book will look like.... 

 
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The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 18

ENTER THE PIPE MAZE

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Towards the middle of the book, Brian enters a maze of pipes...  here's some background on the making of the illustration.


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The original thumbnail from around 2 years ago.  The basic concept was a tiny Brian among towering pipes, underwater chimneys, columns of bubbles, and a sense of gushing from inside of them.

I had the idea of creating it in the computer because of all the cool architectural elements that came with it.  

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This is the CG model of the smokestacks and the structure of the final composition.  Now looking back at it, I sort of want to see it animated...  

It might look complicated but actually the CG model is composed of basic shapes that are relatively easy to model.  The very large smokestack was created by modeling a single slice of scallop and then duplicating it around a center Y axis about thirty times.  Easy!  A little fun animation fact:  a black and white render like this one is called an 'ambient occlusion' pass.  Its purpose is to create the impression of shadows without actually casting any.  It is very effective for capturing shadow detail in nooks and crannies, and when used in conjunction with a compositing program it can be used to hone and sweeten shadow detail.  

Ok back to drawing...

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Now that I had a template, the next step was to... draw.  I went back in pencil, added a few things.  Next, the drawing was scanned in, a base coat of colors was digitally applied, then the image was printed out, mounted on board, and prepped for a coat of actual paint.  

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The painting then got scanned into the computer for a few final touches and joins the rest of the finished illustrations from the book.  Here's it up on screen.

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Pre-Order  :  Stay tuned  :.

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 15

SPOILER ALERT!


This week I've been fleshing out the ending of the book.  The end to the story has been through many iterations, but recently I decided it would end with a kiss.  Now that I'm done with the illustration, this ending will have to stick!

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This week's time-lapse shows the creation of this illustration:  from its humble beginnings as a thumbnail sketch, to the illustration taking its place among the other finished pages of the book.  I had envisioned a simple pencil sketch for this illustration with maybe a wash of color over it, but somewhere along the way the thought of adding a magnificent swirl of hair on the girl crept into my head and I couldn't make the thought go away.  It was very frustrating because a giant swirl of hair was going to add a few extra hours to the drawing, especially since I thought it would be even cooler if I first modeled the hair in CG...  Once I gave in to the new direction, the drawing sort of snow-balled and I had no choice but to follow it where it wanted to go.  The results are in the video and below.  

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More about the book here:

The Making of a Picture Book: journal entry 14

BRIAN READY FOR HIS CLOSE-UP


The book opens on a wide establishing shot that pushes closer and closer in as you turn the pages.  By the third page turn you land on a close-up of Brian, intensely focused and peering through his telescope.  Hit play to watch the time-lapse of the drawing.

tiny sketch

tiny sketch

This illustration started out as the quick sketch pictured above.  I thought it had the right energy and proportions, but it was a teeny tiny sketch, and for the close-up I needed a large drawing of Brian's face in order to fill the page.  Often it's impossible to recapture the spontaneity of a sketch, and after a couple of attempts I just blew up the tiny thing, printed it out, and that became my starting point for this illustration.  I think I'm going to do more of that in the future.  That's me tracing the sketch in the first few seconds of the video.  My glass desktop also makes a great light table.  I recommend it!

final black and white

final black and white

I used India ink for the hair and to get some deep shadows.  The rest of the drawing is graphite.  Stay tuned for the next post--the coloring process that follows in the computer.  

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