Watson-Guptil publishing had approved my proposal and now I was going to write and draw my first book. To me, this moment was as exciting as the day I got my first real comic book assignment from Marvel Comics. I was so energized I started painting my next character for the book before I even signed the contract. The Thunder Troll.
This painting was a simple yellow/violet complimentary color scheme. Color theory still can get confusing and it makes the most sense to me when I keep it simple using complimentary colors.
Anyway, I had several Ideas floating around my head for characters to include in the book but not nearly enough to fill an entire tome. So the first thing I felt I had to do was decide on the amount of characters it would take to fill the book and then start coming up with the ideas for them. At first I would just come up with random names that I thought were funny or just odd and write them down. Sometimes I would concoct a little information about the character and sometimes I would just right down the name. I also asked my kids and wife for input and they helped me conceptualize a few of the characters.
Once I had a a substantial list of creature names accumulated, I would start visually designing them in my sketchbook. I have a whole sketchbook full of the creature designs that I will reveal…..sometime:)
Along with the Thunder Troll, these next three (Troll Monkey, The Bug-eyed Bush Beard and Little Bigfoot) were the first batch of watercolor paintings that I did. The fur on these three were a real challenge and took me some time to figure out but I think they all turned out well in that regard. Deadline pressure was a long way from mounting when I painted these and it is a good thing.
I really worked backwards on this project (at least in terms of how most people would probably approach it) in that I did the art first and then the writing to accompany it. I felt that creating the art for the book would take the lion’s share of the time so I wanted to get rolling on that and worry about writing the text later. This initially started out as a good idea because I was able to spend a lot of time on the first couple of character designs and paintings and really think things through so the design of the character really matched the narrative that the creature would be placed in. As time went on I got more comic work (you know, the stuff that actually pays the bills) and my dream book project got relegated to being worked on in my spare time.
After almost three years I had completed only about half of the 45 paintings I had to do for the book and the publisher was getting annoyed. In fact, I got a call from her in June 2007 wanting to know how far along I was. Now remember, I was leaving almost all of the writing to the end. So when I told her that I hadn’t done any writing and only had 20 color illustrations done, she threatened to pull the plug on the book. I convinced her how important the book was to me even though I hadn’t really been diligently working on it and begged her for a little more time. She gave me until October to get the book done.
It took me 3 years to do 20 color illustrations and now I was faced with the proposition of painting 25 color illustrations, writing 45 pages of text and doing close to 75 pencil drawings in about 4 months all the while doing a page a day of comic work! Woo Hoo!
But you know what? I did that and more! Find out how next time!