Pop having a snooze
I didn't end up using this biro sketch in my latest blog post
So I've been working on a huge blog post about my experience and process of creating a picture book. The scope just kept getting broader and broader and I got too frustrated with it and in a fit of rage deleted the entire thing. I've finally decided to try and attack the topic again now that I'm pretty relaxed and holidaying at the coast, and this time I'm going for a different approach. I'm sure anyone interested in reading what I have to say will be intimidated by a novel of a blog post anyway so I'm going to break it up into sections and keep them short and sweet (I aim to anyway).
For those that know me, writing a picture book might seem like a strange project. Firstly I am a self proclaimed comic nerd, why didn't I write a comic? The reason I did anything at all was because I decided to give myself a year of working casual jobs with little responsibility, I figured I deserved a break after finishing my uni degree. If I was going to be taking it relatively easy I thought I may as well get back into doing something I was truly passionate about but didn't have time for while studying, art, and while I was at it I could do something productive. So I set myself a goal in my downtime after work: to finish a script for a comic series by the end of the year.
Similar to my first experience trying to write this blog post, my comic series script got way out of hand. It jumped backwards and forwards through time by hundreds of years, it attacked speciesism, sexism, racism, classism and capitalism. It had clones, nuclear fallout, futuristic pharmaceuticals, mental illness and technology beyond our means. However, with the comic script I didn't rage quit and delete the whole thing. I would have liked to at times but I stuck at it and finished in my timeframe.This is the first page illustrated.
Now that I have finished the comic script I've decided it would make a good prequel to another story I want to write, and it will most likely take me an age to finish that as well so don't hold your breath.
About three months in to writing the script I realised that although I was enjoying the creative process I wasn't producing any physical art, which is what I wanted to do at the start of the year in the first place. I updated my goals for the year with the task of completing a picture book by the end of the year. The decision to create a picture book did start as an afterthought in the process of writing a comic series but I have always been fascinated by picture books and children's literature.
The reason I settled on a picture book over any other potential project is because of my experience working one of my casual jobs as a childcare assistant - the official position was an early childhood educator. As the title suggests, parents drop their children off with the promise of their child returning to them having learnt particular social conventions necessary for their future in our education system. I strongly disagreed with a lot of the behaviour that the different centres I worked at encouraged, it was plain to see where the prejudice and bigotry that plagues our society began.
Something that really annoyed me was that the children only ever learnt about animals in the context of how we use and abuse them. Animals either come from the zoo, the farm or a fantastical story that is explicitly for one particular faith. I felt as though all of these stories had their own agenda independent of teaching children about the amazing earthlings we share our existence with. I have so much respect for authors, such as Dr Seuss, who strive to promote important and meaningful messages through their work rather than simply appealing to the largest demographic for the best sales figures.
So my objective became clear, I would write a story that was actually about the animals in their own right and their true lifestyle, I would write something that I felt needed to be heard.
Don't change that dial, the next exciting instalment is due next year!
If you ask anyone how to go about working for themselves one of the first steps is usually to have business cards, that's my thinking anyway. Having no previous knowledge of how it's done and never having a desire to make myself any, this is how I made business cards:
1. Figure out what I like and why. I want to promote and sell my artwork so I figure it would make sense to have a sample of my abilities in wallet- and pocket-sized format.
I've been following this guy on Tumblr for years and thanks to Rosi, my extremely generous mother-out-law, I recently got to visit his workplace in Brooklyn and got myself one of his business cards. I really like the composition of his cards and am going to shamelessly copy his layout.
2. Sketch it out. I love the shapes, the repetition and the use of space in the above cards, I also love the artwork but it's not mine and sadly can't be on my cards.
So I spent an hour or two broken up over a couple of days to do some sketches, trying not to force myself to a decision or to overthink it. As you can see, initially I was intent on having the lower image being a skull and the repetitive imagery above being wolves.
I do love drawing skulls, skeletons, monsters, wolves, ghosts etc. I don't see myself as particularly macabre but as my mother pointed out, my business cards would come across that way and for someone who intends to launch a children's book in a few weeks, probably not a wise choice. It is very important that my artwork is meaningful to me, especially something that I will be distributing to represent myself. With this in mind, I settled on the current design.
As any of my family or friends will tell you, I've always been pretty keen on insects. The beetle is a rhinoceros beetle or Dynistinae which is a subfamily of the scarab beetle. This little dude can lift up to 850 times its own weight! Not only does it share the name of one of the coolest land animals it also has horns that are (in proportion to its size) way more bad arse. Oh, and it can fly, need I say more?
I used mountains reaching up through clouds as my repetitive imagery. Since childhood I've always admired and contemplated mountains. They can contain entire ecosystems that vary depending on how far up they are. They absorb the sun, the rain, the wind and snow all in the same manner, they remain largely unaffected by outside influences and yet they propagate life.
I love geometric designs, probably as an extension of my love for maths and physics. On the front the beetle is framed by an icosahedron, on the back the image is of a hexagonal mandala.
The business card I am using as a reference for the layout is in full beautiful colour, however I'm a big fan of high contrast art which is just black and white. Also, I wanted to print on 100% recycled brown card. The decision to use just black ink affected the cost of printing and also the software I chose to do the artwork in.
3. Computer wizardry. I had only ever practiced traditional art up until about a year ago when I decided I wanted to write and illustrate a picture book. There are thousands of different set ups you can have depending on the software you would prefer to use, what art style you would like to emulate, what hardware you want to purchase etc. My limiting factor for my setup was cost, and so I kept an eye on eBay waiting for a decent but cheap graphics tablet to pop up, and eventually purchased this second-hand for about $300. The software I use to do the line work or inking for pictures is Manga Studio EX4. I'm sure there are plenty of other more sophisticated programs that would do the same and more but I really like that Manga Studio has an easy and simple interface, you can set your preferences with your tablet easily. Out of all the software I have used, Manga Studio is unparalleled when it comes to creating comics and graphic novels (I may have a comic series in the works). As mentioned previously I would like my business cards to have high contrast artwork displayed, therefore Manga Studio is an easy choice for software as its intended use was originally just for doing the line work of manga.
3.1 Determine dimensions. It's a good idea to do this step before you finalise any of your artwork. Figure out which company you would like to do your printing through and what their choices are for printing dimensions. I chose to print with Print Together, a Melbourne based company that strives to provide the most environmentally friendly printing at an affordable price. I have printed with them before and they were a pleasure to print with and provided excellent quality prints. They also provide an instant online quote and email copy if you fill out all the required information, I did this and was happy with the price and continued on.
I had a look at the options they provided for business cards, and while keeping in mind I needed to include a certain amount of bleed I started a new page in Manga Studio and input the preferences. Depending on what software you are using, most of them generally have an option where you can show guidelines for printing, input your bleed and trim dimensions there.
4. Ink it. I took photos or scanned in the images I had settled on from my sketches and using a number of layers arranged them within my new page. Once they were all placed roughly where I wanted, I made a reference image folder and put all the reference layers in, I lowered the opacity on all of them and started tracing. Usually I'll have one layer that I have a general ink sketch encompassing the entire image, and then have a few other layers for particular details. I put the beetle and the icosahedron on their own layer so that I could move it around the page and figure out where it looked best.
The front of the business card was definitely the most work, the back of the business card has only one image, the geometric mandala. I started a new page with the same dimensions as the previous page to start inking the back of my business card. Usually I like to do all my own typography however I want the text on my business cards to be very clear with no room for misinterpretation especially as the text will be pretty small. I chose a font that I thought was appropriate and wrote out my text on a new layer, I tried to make it appear as though the text was my own creation by adding tiny ink splatter marks sparingly around the text.
5. Print it. Once I was happy with both sides of my business card, I checked on Print Together's website for their preferred file format for submission of artwork. I filled out all the required information for the quantity I was after, my shipping and billing, and my contact information. After double checking everything I submitted my designs and paid in full (which was very scary). Shortly after, I received a confirmation email, then a few days later I received a digital proof email:
6. Cards, glorious cards. It only took about a business week for the cards to arrive on my doorstep after I confirmed that the digital proof looked awesome. I could not have been happier with the first glimpse of the final product in my hot little hands. The last thing I needed to do was figure out some way to display my new pride and joy for my upcoming book launch, so I purchased a beautifully crafted cardholder, hand-made from recycled materials from my mate over at Third Chance Wood.
I was planning on writing instructional blog posts for anyone interested in any of my creations, so I hope you've found this first of the series helpful. I know I've been overly detailed in sections and probably a bit too vague in others, so if you have any questions please feel free to ask. Also, if you do want to create your own business cards and this all looks like too much work, send your ideas or designs over to me, I can give you a quote and we can work together.