The Star Painters, a book in progress

the new book i am working on is called “the star painters.”

it’s my new book for kids that i’ve been putting together to start shopping around next year. you can read the summary below, or skip right to some of the sketches i’ve done here.

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the book summary:

david’s best friend liz moves out of town, shortly after a fight about how to play monster and princess. liz wants to fight her own battles, not be saved. a few days later, david gets liz’s address from her parents and encouragement from his mom to write and stay in touch.

david feels a sad cloud following him around, made of his friend’s sudden move after an unresolved argument. liz was into studying astronomy, and he goes to the spot where they often watched constellations, her to explain them, he to paint his own  in the sky. david decides to get over being sad by taking his cloud, stuffing it into a dream cannon, and shooting it into the sky where it explodes into fireworks, that fade into stars that look brighter than before. between these new stars, he paints new constellations.
he decides to write a story about the new creatures in the sky, and writes to liz to invite her to try his new game: star painting.

liz writes back to say she can’t play the game like he does, because stars are already miracles of science to her, and she can’t think of anything to add to something that is already perfect. but she encourages him to write his story, and maybe he can add a dog with a jetpack in there to help out the space girl.

he writes a comic book about the space girl, her dog, and a mutated tugboat driving centaur (the aquatar) who helps her fix her time machine after battling robot pirates and getting helped by a ghost wolf. the story is a parallel of their friendship– one character wants to accept the world as it is, the other wants to embellish it with creative new connections and mythology.

a year later, david has finished his book and gives a copy to liz when she and her parents come to visit. they sit in their old play spot under the stars–liz to read his book, and david to paint the two of them in the sky.

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about the art:

for those who are interested in the look of the book, and the process of the illustrations coming to life, i’ve decided to document the paintings in progress. the first step, after the manuscript has been written, and the storyboards laid out, is to take photo reference for the characters. i’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some generous folks volunteer to pose for it, some of whom you may have heard of. pictured below is chelsea cain’s daughter, eliza, who was a fearless model, and a treat to work with. these are some of the original photos i took, a couple of character studies, and a mock-up of the cover of the comic david writes for liz.

from the storyboards, i start laying out the pages in pencil on tracing paper. i ink the basic parts with micron pens and brushes to create character studies and start laying out the background. from these, i’ll do another series of finished ink drawings, at actual size with the background rendered more like the completed paintings. the finished drawings at their camera-ready size, in this case 13″x22″, then get traced in ink using a light box onto arches cold press paper before going nutty with ink, watercolor, goauche, colored pencils and acrylic.

since the comic in the story is a significant part of the book, i’m making the overall feel of the illustrations pretty comic-like. some of the comics i’ve been reading lately are black hole by charles burns, and big sal’s, by mark ledford. i also like portland underground, illustrated by chris kohler. there are others.



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