30 Rock Storytime – a 30 Rock picture book project
When it comes to funny sitcoms with ridiculous characters and smart, witty writing, 30 Rock is near the top of my list of favorites. I started a personal portfolio project to see what jokes and characters from the show could be like if they were illustrated like a children’s book.
As part of the Let’s Make Picture Books group, I developed this new picture book cover portfolio piece. Fergus the Friendly Fu Dog is fictional story about a fu dog and his human friend Maddie. Fu dogs, also known as guardian lions, are a Chinese symbol of protection – primarily seen in front of temples or places of importance. They are always seen in pairs – a male and female – and usually stone sculptures. Studying a little bit of their background helped me develop the relationships between characters and how I wanted to color and texture Fergus.
Picture book cover sketches, color roughs and character development
I started creating rough thumbnails for my cover. Thinking about the appeal a cover would have on the bookstore shelves drove me to these 2 cover ideas. Both of them show the scale of Fergus compared to his human and can immediately communicate the magical nature of the character. While one choice focused primarily on the 2 characters, the other introduced a little of the setting of the characters – that they are in “the real world” on the girl’s neighborhood street. Once I had chosen the sketches, I moved on to color roughs to work out how I might best apply the color.
After I had chosen some thumbnails to develop and worked through the color roughs, I was still undecided on which to proceed with. I ended up refining my sketches for both ideas – thinking that might help with the choice to move forward.
Going into the character development process, I knew I wanted to try and make Fergus appear to be made from stone. He also needed to appear less intimidating than actual fu dog statues! I chose a soft color palette – and went with blue to help communicate that he was a boy. I then wanted to make sure his golden ornate collar and accent pieces stood out against the rock texture.
I also spent time during this process thinking about his friend. Since fu dogs are traditionally seen in pairs of male and female, I wanted to give him a little girl to befriend.
Final Picture Book Cover
After experimenting with texture ideas for both the stone and gold, I finally chose a sketch to finish off and came up with a technique to apply to the final artwork. I added divots, cracks and weathering to Fergus to make it appear as if he’s very old and mythical. Finally, I added some hand lettered text for the title. While I felt like the text could be more ornate to match his decorative collar, I decided to make it more legible for young children who would be reading this book.
Deep Sea Explorers Club Children’s Book Illustration
As part of the Let’s Make Picture Books group, I created this children’s book illustration piece for the Deep Sea Explorers club as they set out to explore the wreckage of the Titanic. The idea was to make creatures of the deep sea seem lovable and I wanted the scene to feel fun and colorful. I added the snack table to reinforce they regularly meet to explore different parts of the ocean.
Study & Exploration
Inhabitants of the deep ocean are, honestly, pretty terrifying! It was a challenge to present them in a fun and approachable way for a children’s book illustration for picture books. I spent nearly a week researching all the different types of life that live in the dark depths of the sea, watching videos, reading about and sketching them.
Working through several rough sketch iterations helped to evolve the overall illustration. As they progressed, the idea of the snack table took place and the main, human character took on more detail and personality.
I then moved on to some color roughs to quickly explore the palette that work the best and not be too dark.
A spread from a fictional children’s picture book about two best friends that love to listen to music every day after school. Kyle’s dog Gus liked to do his best to sing along and the boys think it’s the funniest thing ever!
From the initial sketch (below, left), I wanted to make the scene a little more dynamic. So, I changed the perspective and placed the scene inside a vignette. I also reworked the boys expression to show how funny they think it is that the dog’s howling along to the music.
After the color version above, I thought there were some issues with the vignette and how it interacts with the dog and how the bird in the window was intersecting with the text. So, I re-illustrated as a spread to fix those problems and show more of the boys’ room – which was something I liked from the first sketch.
(I also couldn’t resist adding more records to work in some more of my favorite artist and albums like the Beatles, Avett Brothers, Needtobreathe and the Hamilton soundtrack!)
I LOVE movies! And they inspire a lot of my movie and TV handlettering and illustration. I could sit down on a weekend and just watch movies if… you know I didn’t have other things to do! Some of my favorite movies of all time are (usually because I grew up with them – not necessarily because they are world-changing… maybe!) The Three Amigos, Star Wars, The Last Dragon and Shaun of the Dead.
I created a faux cover of this German fairy tale, The Clever Little Tailor as an exercise in children’s book illustration. It’s a crazy tale of a smart young tailor who outwits a bear to win the hand of a princess. The project allowed me to explore some new textures and a fun hand-lettered treatment for the title.