Monday, August 16, 2010

There Will Be Blood... er, Sketches.

I just finished up the first round of sketches for a new book I'm working on. This book is a book of poems written by the uber-talented, critically acclaimed novelist Gail Carson Levine (!). The publisher, HarperCollins (my first with them).

Anyhow... the first thing I do before sketching is... panic. Then procrastinate. Then read and re-read the manuscript and panic and procrastinate. Drawing, I've said, is a scary, scary thing. OK. Cue that "world's smallest violin".

Then, I'm ready. I pull up a cup of coffee and print off the manuscript. In this case, the manuscript has been very graciously laid out by my wonderful art director here, Martha Rago. Type is set and placed and paginated. This is very helpful.

For less distraction, I usually do my sketches offsite. So I need to assemble my arsenal. First, I grab a ream of the finest drawing paper a guy can buy (koff-koff).

Yeah, it's just flimsy old printer/copy paper. But I've found this to be the best for sketching. For the following reasons: a) if I scrap a sheet (it happens), it's not gonna break some bank; b) it's semi-translucent and good for a quick trace should I need to trace something I've just sketched to rework, overlay, etc.; and c) it's the perfect size for my flatbed scanner (more on this later).

I will also be needing a pencil... your everyday Dixon Ticonderoga HB will do (those "no. 2" pencils they asked you to bring when you took the SAT's). And a new favorite, the click eraser.

Last, not least, I need a trusty portable pencil sharpener. I bought mine at one of those "everything's a dollar" stores when I was a senior in high school. Apparently Disney ordered way too much Rescue Rangers merchandise so a lot got dumped into the ol' dollar bins. This little guy's done me good (more than he might say for me--looks like he took a dip in some ink sometime, somewhere).

Weeks (if not months) later, I end up with a pile of paper (51 sheets to be exact), a nubbier pencil and quite a few clicks taken off the eraser.

Exhibit A: Let's take a look at a sample. What I needed was a drawing of a cow chewing away at a tall, tall plant that stretches high up into the sky. You may be able to see, at the bottom of the sheet, several failed attempts at a cow's face and head. By the time I got it right, I was up at the top left corner of the page. So I drew the rest of the plant off to the right. Instead of re-drawing the whole thing as one successful piece. This is the digital age, brothers and sisters, and that would be a waste of time. I will scan and splice the two successful pieces together later on the computer.

Exhibit B: Occasionally, while sketching, I may rethink my choices on a face. Or position. Proportion. If I've got a basically good drawing, instead of starting all over with the pencil, I'll draw a better face or make notes off to the side on how I should rework (cut/paste, resize, etc.) this on the computer, after it's all scanned in. Digital. Age.

Below is my spliced, resized, reworked sketch in place of a finished layout. I blurred GCL's poem cause it ain't mine to share.

And below is that other sketch reworked.

Stepping back a minute... This desk is where I bring that pile of 51 pages of sketches. Power up the computer and scanner and settle in for a marathon scanning session. Followed by a marathon Photoshop (for dummies) session.

My not-very-fancy-but-does-just-fine desktop scanner. Thank you for being you, lil' guy.

And when I'm done, after, I'm sure several rounds of sketch revisions, when everyone is happy and ready to proceed to final art, I will move everything over here. The drawing table.

And yeah, I know what you're thinking. I should probably go clean up this place now.


Kyle said...

I always love seeing the behind the scenes posts, but then I was one of those kids that liked the "here's how crayons are made" Mr. Rogers episodes best. And, congrats on the upcoming book.

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks, Kyle! Great to hear from you on the blog again.