Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's Been Two Months Since I Looked At You (Sorry, Barenaked Ladies)

Geez, I just realized that it has been almost two months since I last posted. Where has the summer gone? Here in Maine, we have begun our preparation for winter with the stacking of firewood, getting the snowblower ready, putting gardens to bed, watching the leaves start to fall, and the bringing out the warmer clothes from their hibernation. I am ready for the cooler air but my wife has not embraced the coming cold. Of course she wears a sweater during the summer.

In the last few months, a lot of things have happened here in Otis Land. I started doing illustration work for A&E which has been a blast. My good friend, Ilene Block, is the creative director there so that is my "in". I also in the final stages of a new book with Islandport Press. We are working together on Lynn Plourde's new Christmas book. Once it is in print production, I can reveal more. During this chaos, I managed to just finish up the fifth installment for an ongoing app with Nine22 Media. There is talk of book project after the new year. I also squeezed a quick illustration for Peter Reynolds Dot Day and was on the Celebri-Dot page. Check out the blog and see the other wonderful illustrations that were submitted. Katie Davis has listed us on her blog as well.

©2013 Russ Cox | Regnery Kids and Capstone Publishing

In late August, I had two books that I illustrated come out. The first one is Whatever Says Mark (yeah I know the one on the right), written by Terry Collins and published by Capstone, is about a boy who never uses punctuation until he has help with a special teacher. It can be purchased at Amazon.

Freddy the Frogcaster, written by Janice Dean (Yes, Janice Dean of Fox News Weather fame), was with Regnery Kids. The story revolves around a little frog with the ability to forecast the weather. He can much better than the local weather celebrity. The book also has some basic weather terms in the back so it doubles as an educational book. Recently it was featured on the Today Show with Hoda and Kathie Lee. Amazon has it available for purchase. Below is how the book and characters came to life.

©2013 Russ Cox | Regnery Kids 

We started out doing character studies of the main character, Freddy. Regnery Kids liked one of the designs and had a few tweaks. I took the character and sketched with different expressions to make sure his overall facial features would work with the various emotions the story needed. I played around with a missing tooth or a gap but that was nixed.

©2013 Russ Cox | Regnery Kids 

The next step was to storyboard the entire book. The publisher provided me with some notes but let me play with the layout of the illustrations. They placed the copy in my storyboard to see how it work with the illustrations.

©2013 Russ Cox | Regnery Kids 

Regnery Kids needed the cover art completed right away for their catalog so we jumped into designing it. The above thumbnails were sent for approval. They selected the sketch with the arrow.

©2013 Russ Cox | Regnery Kids 

We kicked around the idea of adding a border with weather symbols but nixed it due to some production nightmares that could arise.

©2013 Russ Cox | Regnery Kids

This is the final version with the type in place. I painted this in Painter, using multiple layers for easy changes and color tweaking. Since Painter does not use the CMYK color option, I had to take each final illustration into Photoshop to tweak the colors and change them from RGB to CMYK. With the greens, the color did shift but I was able to get them back to their original values and chroma with some tweaking.

©2013 Russ Cox | Regnery Kids

Once the color was done and the overall color theme established, I enlarged the storyboards and did a tighter version of each page. Once approved, they were dropped into Painter where they were rendered in color. Again, the finals were brought into Photoshop to be converted to CMYK. I think Painter needs to provide the CMYK option to avoid the color shifts that happen when using RGB.

That pretty much wraps up the Freddy book. We will begin the sequel in a few months, once I am finished with my latest book.

As far as my own book, my agents and I are tweaking another round of storyboards before we begin the dummy process. I think my agents, Jodell and Loretta, are wonderful. They have pushed me very hard in getting this story to a point where they are ready for submitting it to publishers. My evenings and nights will be doing a very tight dummy and a spread, along with character studies. But first, I will take a break for a couple of weeks. Look for a post upon my return. All I can say about it for now is "ciao".

"I always try to treat the book itself as the artwork. I don't want you to stop while you're reading one of my books and say, 'Oh! What a gorgeous illustration!' I want you to stop at the end of the book and say, 'This is a good book.” Chris Raschka

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