Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wind in the Willows Jacket Process

The illustrated edition of Wind in the Willows I'm doing with IDW Publishing was announced last week. The Wind in the Willows has long been a favorite of mine. I love talking animal stories and I don’t know that they get better than Kenneth Grahame’s. This has also been a bucket list project for me, something I needed to illustrate before I die. This project started in 2014, and a combination of its intensity as an illustration task and other projects & commitments has led us to a release of Oct 2016.

Pre-Order on Amazon -or- Through your Local Comic Shop using Order Code: JUN16 0571

For this week's blogpost I'm going to detail the process I used for creating the jacket cover (a wrap around, like Mouse Guard books)

Because books are often judged by their cover, I wanted to make sure Wind in the Willows is perceived as an ensemble cast book with 4 main characters, rather than just "Mr. Toad & his Wild Ride". I chose this moment from chapter 6: Mr Toad:
"They reached the carriage-drive of Toad Hall to find, as the Badger had anticipated, a shiny new motor-car, or great size, painted a bright red (Toad's favourite colour), standing in front of the house. As they neared the door it was flung open, and Mr. Toad, arrayed in goggles, cap, gaiters, and enormous overcoat, came swaggering down the steps..."

The sketches for the characters were fairly straight forward. I'd drawn them a few times previously just for fun, so the only decisions I was making was getting postures right for the scene (Badger anticipating Toad's antics, Rat & Mole a bit nervous about them, and Toad strutting proud about them) and locking in on their proportions.

For the setting, I opted not to make a model of Toad Hall, but to do a front facade rough drawing (I only drew half of it and then mirrored it). It's thoroughly based on Mapledurham House, the same house E. H. Shepherd used as reference when  he illustrated Willows back in 1960.

Using my rough, I enlarged and refined the Toad Hall drawing with the motor-car drawn in that I found era-appropriate reference for.  and used the composite of all the sketches as my pencils/layout for the jacket wraparound. Having every character drawn separately allowed me to position them and resize them for scale as I needed. In this step I also planned space for the spine of the book and tested the book's title and bylines. The yellow border was my visual note for where the "trim" line and where the "bleed" are.

I printed that digitally composited layout out on several sheets of copy paper to a size of 22" x 15" and taped that to the back of a big sheet of Bristol. On my lightbox I was able to see through the surface of the Bristol to the printout underneath. I inked using Copic Multiliners. Because this jacket was to also be in color, I didn't render the textures as heavily as I may have if this had been a strictly black & white illustration. Below you can see a few photos I took with my phone as I made my way across the piece:

Once all the inking was done, I scanned the artwork. This took a few passes on may scanner (11" x 17") and some careful re-assembly back in Photoshop. Then I flatted in all the color for the piece. The term 'Flatting' in coloring refers to adding in flat color, no rendering, no effects, just color swatches. This step is like a grown-up version of coloring inside the lines (even when sometimes the lines aren't closed off...so no fill-tool here folks). I'd decided on most of my color choices for this piece before I started (I had previous character illustrations to pull from and the notes from the text as well as Mapledurham House).

I rendered the color in Photoshop using a textured brush and the Dodge (Lighten) & Burn (Darken) Tools. This is done in same way I render any Mouse Guard piece or freelance cover/pinup I've covered here on the blog. In this step, I also established a few color-holds (places where I paint the inkwork to be a color rather than just black) on the motor-car's glass parts and Toad, Rat, & Badger's clothes.

The last step was the Text...but, the Title text needed a better treatment than to just sit on the art. It could easily get lost in the details of Toad Hall above Toad's head, and I didn't want to just apply an outline or shadow behind the type for it to stand out, so I inked a wreath border the type could sit in. I found a stock border to use as inspiration, but then populated the foliage with willow leaves and cat tails. Because this is a separate piece it can be easily removed from the jacket art for use as a stand-alone illustration.

It’s been tremendously difficult to illustrate as I’m trying to live up to the spirit of the original text while living in the shadows of illustrators like E. H. Shepard, Arthur Rackham, Inga Moore, and Robert Ingpen (among many others) who have visualized this tale in ways impossible not to be influenced by. The challenge of doing this story right has lead me to push my work further than I ever have, and I think my artwork will be forever changed by it for the better.

Wind in the Willows can be Pre-Ordered on Amazon 
Through your Local Comic Shop using Order Code JUN16 0571

For all my other Willows Process Posts:

2016 Appearances:


PMcC said...

On the IDW website, it says you will be signing every copy of the first printing, is that correct? And will copies ordered through Amazon be signed, too, or would it be copies purchased through your website or IDW's website?

DPetersen said...

PMcC: Not 100 % sure about the Amazon orders, but the LCS orders will be (via bookplate)

Mayhem said...

I'm deliberately getting this through my LCS to make sure I get the bookplate as well. I suspect the lass I usually speak to there may order a copy for herself as she's a Willows fan AND a Mouse Guard fan ;)

Angeline D'Balentine said...

Ah ok, so the LCS gets signing. Good to note. Thanks for the insight!
(Though the LCS can be a bit complicated, but glad I have a friend who owns a comic store... if I am still understanding all this.) *Wink ... Thanks David!

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