Monday, December 24, 2007

Recent Work: “No Pretty Pictures” Book Jacket

This must be the month for holocaust book covers.
No Pretty Pictures is the powerful wartime memoir of the well-known children's book artist, Anita Lobel. The project art director is Paul Zakris of Greenwillow Books.

Born into a Polish Jewish family in 1934, Lobel, along with her younger brother, spent most of WWII fleeing the Nazis in the Polish countryside before being sent to a concentration camp near the war's end. Miraculously, they were liberated in 1945 and eventually reunited with their parents.

Above is the finished artwork depicting the small "framed" figures of the author and her brother silhouetted on a lonely hillside. At right is the b&w photo (taken shortly after the war) which I used for the figures. To make the photograph of the figures in the landscape, I made a table top model and placed small colorized cutout figures (about 2 or 3 inches high) on the "hill" against a sky backdrop. Much of the detail ended up on the cutting room floor when I digitally added the frame, branches, and painted textures in the finish, but such is life.

My intention is for the weathered, hanging frame to suggest the abandoned possessions of the many victims, as well as to tie in with the title.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Recent Work: “T4” Book Jacket Final Art

Here is the finished wraparound artwork for the T4 jacket (with many thanks to my striking young model), and how it will appear on the cover with the type treatment (see previous entry) The images of the hands on either side of the "T4" type are sign language for the title. This was the author's idea (nice touch!).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Work In Progress: “T4” Book Jacket

T4, to be published by Houghton Mifflin, is a middle grade holocaust novel in verse by Ann Clare LeZotte.

T4 was the name given the Nazi plan to exterminate Germany’s mentally and physically disabled population. Derived from the address of its headquarters in Berlin, Tiergartenstrasse 4, the policy ended in 1941, but not before 270,000 people had been murdered and another 400,000 sterilized.

The book tells the story of Paula Becker, thirteen year-old German girl. Paula is deaf, and therefore a target of the T4 policy. Fleeing the Nazis, Paula spends two tense years in hiding before being reunited with her family.

The brief called for a cover that evoked history, without being depressing. Creative Director Sheila Smallwood suggested a subdued but appealing image of Paula. The brevity of the title gave me the opportunity for a type treatment that mimicked the Nazi swastika.

Above are the sketches presented on the left. On the right, are some photos used for reference and inspiration taken with my cell phone at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage exhibition, Deadly Medicine: Creating The Master Race.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Five Step Brainstorming Process

I have been creating conceptual illustrations for about fifteen years, and solving design problems longer than that. To generate ideas, over time I have developed this five step process which has worked well for me:
  1. Immerse yourself in the material. Whether it is a book jacket, magazine illustration, or corporate brochure cover, I take time to really focus on the text. The amount of time will vary, of course, depending on the project. I like to spend enough time so that I can comfortably state the theme of the piece in a couple of sentences.
  2. Free associate. Before I actually start drawing, I spend about twenty minutes making a list. With the content from step one fresh in my mind, I write down any word that comes to mind. These could be visual elements, verbs, or adjectives. Don't edit, just write.
  3. Make many thumbnails. Next, drawing on your free association list, create eight to ten rough thumbnail pencils. Try different combinations of list items. Often for me, adjectives from the list will conjure up visual images. It is important to really push yourself at this point, but still without judging, and don't worry at all about the quality of the drawing. The goal at this stage is quantity. I allow about forty five minutes for this step.
  4. Take a break. Let your unconscious do some of the work, while you do something else. Take a walk, take a shower, I like to play my guitar. This break could be for half an hour, or it could be overnight.
  5. Edit the thumbnails, refine sketches. Okay, this is really two steps, but a five step process sounds so much better than six. Usually, when I come to stage, I have fresh ideas for the thumbnails, so I add to or modify them as needed. Then, I choose the two or three best thumbnail ideas to work up into tighter sketches to present to the client.