Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ranger in Time #6: Interior Illustrations


I drew 16 black-and-white illustrations for the interior of Ranger in Time: Escape from the Great Earthquake. As I said in my last blog post about the process of creating the cover, this was one of the most challenging assignments I'd ever received. Although every Ranger in Time book has lots of action and danger, this one, set during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, was packed with a lot of city scenes and crowd scenes - both particularly difficult to draw.


In the sketch above, the main characters are dragging a cart down Market Street. While I was attending the Academy of Art University I often walked down this street and sometimes rode the the ferry to Larkspur from this very pier building.

This was a challenging piece to do because of the perspective. First I downloaded a 3d model of the pier building in Google Sketchup and set it up at the perspective I wanted.


I cross-referenced the pier building with some pre-earthquake photos. Then, I looked at photos of the earthquake to inspire the buildings on the sides of the illustration and the crowd in the middle.



Here is the finished version:


And a closeup:


For other scenes, instead of using 3d models I took my own reference photos. In one chapter, the main characters have to pull a boy out from some wreckage. I took pictures of myself pretending to lift up my couch.


And....being stuck...I guess.


Next I looked at photographs of Chinese children from the turn of the century, taking note of their outfits, hairstyles and shoes.





Check out this kid:


Clearly he's one of the gold miners.

Ba dum ching!

Anyway here's the sketch:


Did you guys know I studied Chinese for a year in college? Well I did. It was very hard. One of the few things I can still say is "我不會說中文." However, I did get to use a little of that education in this scene by writing the words "rice" on the bag on the floor and "seasonings" on the shelf.

So...worth it, I guess?

我不知道.


I don't want to give away too much of the book, so if you want to see more, order a copy of Ranger in Time: Escape from the Great Earthquake, written by Kate Messner, available June 27! The paperback version is only $4!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book cover: Ranger in Time: Escape from the Great Earthquake!


Ranger in Time: Escape from the Great Earthquake, written by Kate Messner and published by Scholastic, comes out on June 27. In this episode of the series, everyone's favorite time-travelling golden retriever goes back to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, where he helps a lonely Chinese girl navigate the chaos of the disaster and find a new family.

I was really excited to work on this book because I grew up in the San Francisco area, and Chinatown was one of my favorite places. I was always asking my mom to take me there to look at the shops, eat dim sum and drink tea.

I quickly realized though, that as sentimental as the setting was to me, it was going to be a huge challenge to illustrate. The last Ranger in Time book was fairly easy to draw because it was set in the desolate landscapes of Iceland. But for this book, the Ranger in Time team was demanding my A-game: they wanted CHAOS! FIRE! DESTRUCTION! CROWD SCENES! BUILDINGS!

PERSPECTIVE!!!!!

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo


The team asked for Ranger, running through the rubble-strewn streets of San Francisco, with the main character behind him. These are my three roughs. The team decided they liked the middle one the best, but asked me to put the ruins of City Hall in the background.


The team liked this rough and asked me to add in a smoky sky, and then to send them a color rough.

Here's where I started to run into some problems. I was looking at many, many black-and-white photographs of post-earthquake SF, and I think my brain was just stuck in black-and-white mode. Smoky skies are grey. Ruined buildings are grey. Rubble is grey. Ranger in Time covers are usually super colorful - how was I going to work color into this scene?

My first idea was to have a bright orange sky, lit by the fires that charred the city after the earthquake. But I quickly learned...

...that an orange dog and an orange sky do not mix. Thankfully I never sent to the above color rough to the publisher, because I knew it was no good. I started to get frustrated, and I started throwing all sorts of crazy colors at the scene, just to see what would stick. (Insert angtsy artist montage here. Crumpling up papers and tossing them on the ground. Rubbing tired eyes. Drinking, smoking, toppling over easels in fits of rage.)


What emerged was a yellow-purple sky. Bizarre, but it works.

The Ranger team asked me to amp up the chaos by adding in fire to City Hall, a crack in the street, more toppled telegraph lines, and bigger smoke. (I can hear my art professor's voice telling me "more drama, Kelley! More drama!" When will I learn, Julie???)


This is one crazy cityscape! Good luck out there, Ranger, you're gonna need it!





Here is the complete cover, designed by Maeve Norton.

Ranger in Time #6: Escape from the Great Earthquake comes out on June 27. I also illustrated 16 interiors for the book, which I will show a sneak peek of on Thursday!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Helpful Links for Illustrators - May 2017


Every few weeks I post a bunch of links related to illustration, publishing, self-employment and personal motivation. I collect these from all over the web and hope that you find them as helpful and inspirational as I did.

Do you have a blog post that you think might be useful for aspiring artists? Have you read any good articles lately you think I should include on my next list? Please leave a comment!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

David Spares Saul's Life


Wait, another Bible story?? I thought you were done with Bible stories, Kelley! I hear you saying.

Calm yourself, blog reader. I did indeed finish working on the Explore the Bible series, but I wanted to show a few of my favorite Bible illustrations on this blog. I finished this one back in December 2015. This scene is from the Old Testament.

So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him...
Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “...the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.” 
So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up.
-1 Samuel 26:7-12 
This was a rather unusual assignment for this series. Usually the client had me draw characters talking and preaching to groups of other characters. The art director always asked to see the expressions on the characters' faces, which made it difficult to use any extreme camera angles. (And meant I had to get creative in other ways.)


But for this scene of a sleeping army, I had the freedom to use a birds-eye-view camera angle. I was also able to get away with only showing the feet of David and Abishai, their shadows looming over Saul menacingly.

The fact that it was a night scene was also somewhat unusual, and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture a moonlight feeling while still keeping the scene colorful enough to appeal to kids.

Because I was having so much fun with this scene, I put more detail into it than usual.


I'll share a few more of my favorite Bible illustrations in the future. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book Covers Before and After - April edition

Every once in a while I do a roundup of book cover illustrations, showing them before and after the cover text was added on top. The cool thing about book covers is that they're made to work together with text, but they also stand on their own. Here are some great examples from some talented illustrators and designers.



art by Rovina Cai


art by Vivienne To


 art by Donato Giancola




art by Dane Cozens

 art by Eric Deschamps

Monday, April 17, 2017

Book cover: Double Fudge Mysteries


Wow, this is an old one! This is one of the first book covers I ever made, way back in 2014. I really liked how it turned out, and I've been itching to show it to you guys! But for some reason it was under NDA for a long, long time, and I forgot about it for a while. But now the book has been published, so I can show it to you.

This is the cover for "Double Fudge Mysteries" from Annie's Fiction. In this cover, the art director asked for the inside of a bakery window, with lots of chocolate treats. A bottle of poison is tucked somewhere behind the desserts. Outside the window, a white persian cat peers at the scene.

"We need to somehow suggest that this takes place in the south," the art director told me over the phone. "Any ideas?"
"I've never actually been to the south," I said.

"Me neither," she said. "What do they have there?"

"Um....alligators?" I suggested.

Eventually I came up with the idea of spanish moss hanging from trees, which has quickly become my go-to solution for any illustration set in the south!

Here are the roughs I sent to the AD.


As a joke, I sent in this rough too:


"Thanks for giving the alligator a try," the AD said, but they decided to go with rough #3, with a change to the cat's pose. But otherwise I was good to go to final.


I had a lot of fun looking at ideas for cute dessert displays on Pinterest! Looking at it now, I think I would have tried to do even more cute things with price tags and patterns on the china and stuff. Again, I drew this three years ago and my style has become more polished and detailed since then.

I spent so much time rendering the frosting on these cupcakes!


Here's the final illustration with the book design:


Now that I see the tagline "someone has a killer sweet tooth," I really wish they would have gone with the alligator idea!
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