20 December 1999

Imagine That

In November and December of 1999 I had the second of two full color book assignments for a local children's book publisher. I had been doing mostly black and white cartoon work for this client for a couple years, and these two books were a chance to really stretch out and try something a bit more ambitious. A lot of my relatives seem to be under the impression that I specialize in 'children's book illustration', based on the fact that most of them are only dimly aware of what I do based on a single children's book project that I did back in 1991, when in reality, I very rarely ever do projects of this sort, none of which have been particularly successful.

This particular book (1 used copy still available at Amazon here - must've been a rather dismal failure, it dropped out of sight pretty quickly), contained two completely disconnected stories told in rhyme. The first was a story about a fellow with a magical sack that contains a number of improbable items. I've included a few sample images from this first half of the book. Frankly, the first half was rather uninspiring, and the items that Jack produces from his sack may have been handy rhymes in prose, but made for some rather awkward pictures (a railroad track, a clothes rack, etc). I tried my best to make it interesting, but I don't think I quite made it. The second half of the book, however, really fired up my engines, and you can tell I was having a lot more fun with the images in that story.

The second half of the book was about a bunch of imaginary creatures that lived in the pipes underneath the kitchen sink. I had a lot of fun with these little blobby guys (although the color choice was unfortunate - and I seem to remember being hamstrung by another rhyme in the text), and even tried to tie the two disparate sections of the book together by including them in the design of the waterfountain in the first story. I'm much more comfortable when I am able to overpopulate my cartoon illustrations and to hide a lot of little details throughout the picture. I've included more samples of this second half of the book mainly because I was much more proud of the illustrations for this section.

I've also included an enlargement of part of the above illustration to better show the details (below).

I think one of the reasons that the second half of the book was more successful (from an illustration stand point anyway - the book as a whole seems to have been a dud), was that the text was more vague and open to interpretation, while in the first half everything was very spelled out and set in stone. Like the difference between having an art director who gives you a lot of specific instructions right from the starting gate, to one who leaves the ideas and concepts open to a wider range of thought.

Interesting experience, but I must say I much prefer smaller jobs with tighter deadlines. I really don't think of myself as a 'children's book illustrator'.

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