I drew these pictures for Kevin and my ongoing endeavor, a children’s book, titled “Jalapena”. If the name sounds familiar, that’s good, because my last post was over eight months ago. If not, well, it’s a story about a young troll, Jalapena, and her human friend, Raven, as they journey to save their world by means of saving a unicorn. Kevin based it upon stories he told his daughter when she was younger.
As per my last post I’ve been putting a lot more effort into drawing “au natural”, with pencils, pens, and paper. The first two drawings were done entirely on my Surface Pro using Clip Studio and Gimp. The later three were done using a blue pencil, an HB pencil, Micron Pens, and a sheet of printer paper. It takes a little more work, but is a lot more rewarding for me. At some point, if there’s enough interest, I’ll do a quick post on my process.
An unintended but unavoidable result of our trip to Vegas a few months ago was our new pet, Mochi, the Axolotl. Axolotl’s are almost extinct in the wild and illegal to own and sell in California, but quite plentiful in the city known for loose slots, loose women, and ( as we found out ) loose pet restrictions. After experiencing Mochi firsthand, I’m honestly surprised that Axolotls still exist in the wild at all. They’re clumsy for starters. Mochi, of course, is also bright shade of pink, a color that does everything but scream “here I am, come eat me” to any predator with more than an ounce of intelligence.
Although Mochi is my oldest daughter, Ashley’s, pet, my wife, Jodie, is her primary caretaker. Honestly, I am more than a little jealous of the amount of attention she gets, too. Every morning Jodie and her sister Jayme, who adopted an Axolotl of her own while in Vegas with us, compare detailed notes of water conditions, bowel movements, and the number of worms their respective legged-fish ate the day prior. The nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia levels all have to be just right as well as the water temperature. Since we got Mochi Amazon has chartered entire truckloads worth of fans, filtration devices, sand, rocks, blood worms, and nightcrawlers, water testing kits, etc… to our house – oh, and Jayme’s, too, of course. Mochi only cost about thirty dollars, but we’ve easily spent ten times that keeping her alive.
I’ve often caught Jodie staring into Mochi’s aquarium, wondering, I assume, if the clumsy, pink, legged fish staring back through the glass has developed any sort of affection for her. I can only guess…..
On a side note, you might have noticed that my artwork has changed. Up until a month or so ago I drew the majority of my comics and illustrations digitally on my Microsoft Surface Pro 7 using Clip Studio Paint and Gimp. I’ve since gone back to basics and started using pencils, inks, and paper. My reasons are threefold. First, after spending an entire day at work in front of a computer screen, it was getting more and more difficult to motivate myself to spend even more time in front of the same screen to do my art. Second, although drawing digitally allowed me to make corrections easier, I found myself taking it to extremes. I found myself obsessing over every detail and, in the long run, I felt my artwork was loosing some spontaneity. Third, I found myself not improving as much as I would of liked. Drawing digitally was making me sloppy. Paper can only be erased so many times before you wear a hole through it. Computer pixels aren’t so limited. While using pencil and ink I find myself carefully planning each stroke.
Admittedly, I’m still working out the details. My lines aren’t as crisp, my colors are streaky, and the scanner I’ve been using somehow manages to wash everything out, but I’m enjoying the whole process a lot more. I haven’t completely ruled out digital arts, either. I just needed a little change.
Here are some character sketches for the book that my friend, Kevin, and I have been working on. Some characters turned out to be very different than Kevin had initially written in his earlier drafts. Tholoman, for example, was supposed to be a grizzled old human male. Now he’s a “young” elf. We thought by making him younger we could have fun with the chemistry between him and the young girl protagonists.
We’ve also been involving our daughters’, too. Kevin runs all his revisions by his daughter, Clara. As for me, when I was sketching the Bokziks, a group of sometimes-half-animal antagonists, I didn’t realize my oldest daughter, Ashley, was peering over my shoulder.
“Dad, you should make her a half-squirrel.”, she said matter-of-factly. “It’d be cool.”
“Yeah?”, I looked up, startled.
So, I erased the crude “were-dog” that I had been working on and in its its place quickly scribbled out a bushy tail, squat hips, and tiny legs and feet.
“Like that?”, I asked, unsure.
“Yeah!”, she smiled back.
So, yeah, collaboration is fun. Sometimes it might even take you somewhere you never expected to be.
I’ve always liked maps. They tell you where you’ve been – or better yet, where you might go.
Before there was MapQuest or Google Maps there was the Thomas Guide, a hefty, seemingly indecipherable, yet indispensable tome of colorful road maps. Mine was gifted to me by my parents on my 16th birthday along with my first car, a 1972 Volkswagen Bug. Weighing in at three pounds and measuring over an inch thick mine only covered San Diego County, but in an era before cell phones it saved my rear more times than I like to admit. My Thomas Guide rode under the driver’s seat of that Bug and several others before it met its ultimate demise. I kept it far longer than it was useful. MapQuest’s printable turn-by-turn instructions knocked the books’ usefulness to its knees, Google Maps and the Apple iPhone severed its head altogether.
Although the Thomas Guide was practical I always preferred those with, well, a little more imagination. As a kid that meant the park maps handed out at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, or Wild Rivers. I enjoyed plotting my adventures along the colorful pathways and trying to figure out what attractions changed since my last “adventure”.
During our last meeting, Kevin, the author I have been collaborating with, and I decided that our book needed a map. After sketching out a ( very ) rough draft with him I returned home and pondered what such a map should look like. I decided it needed to be practical, like a Thomas Brother’s Guide, but also fun like the park maps handed to me at amusement parks. This is what I came up with. If it makes you smile, I succeeded. If not, well, at least I tried!
Oh! Any my daughter, Ashley, helped me with the design and color for this one. I’ll make an artist out of her yet!
I am in awe by how much work goes into the writing of a book. There’s the book itself – and then there’s all of the world building that takes place behind the scenes. World building is the history, characters backstories, creatures, cities – basically everything that goes into creating a believable world, or “atmosphere” in which the story takes place. It’s “frustratingly fun” to conjure up – frustrating in that much of the generated content may be omitted entirely in the actual book, but incredibly fun to dream up. My friend, Kevin, the author, and I are having a great time.
Here’s an excerpt from the book for which the above illustration was created. I hope you like it.
There was a loud crack of thunder and lightning beamed down from the sky brightening everything in the trees around them. Jalapeña and Raven looked at one another with wide eyes, realizing for the first time that they weren’t alone.
“Are those spiders,” asked Jalapeña?
“ Um yeah, Uh I think so? What should we do?”
“Just keep walking and hope we can see better when the lighting strikes again.” Jalapeña couldn’t believe what she had seen and Raven didn’t seem too sure about the spiders either. The sky suddenly lit up brightly and thunder shook through the treetops. They could both see clearly now, hundreds of bright red eyes glowed in the light. The spiders were getting closer and it was clear they were as big as the two girls, maybe bigger.
Jalapeña screamed, first a loud screech and the “RUUUUUNNNN!” Raven was already running ahead of her. Jalapeña started to run but was quickly pulled upward by something and swung forward through the trees.
At the next crack of lightning, she could see that she was swinging above where Raven was running and she continued moving forward as if on a pendulum. “Raven!” she screamed. She didn’t think Raven had heard her, the rain was now coming even harder and in large drops, the size of golf balls, splashing off of everything and causing small rivers and waterfalls to form all around them. The next lightning bolt Jalapeña saw Raven continuing to run along the muddy trail, not too far below her. What she saw ahead of her was even more terrifying than the spiders; a giant wall of water was rushing down the trail, pushing trees down ahead of it. It was headed right for Raven but there was nothing Jalapeña could do but yell futilely as the noise was now far too loud to hear or be heard…
A few months ago my friend, Kevin, asked if I would help him illustrate a book he had been working on. The book is based on a collection of stories he had told to his daughter, Clara, at bedtime and over long plane flights to keep her preoccupied. The stories tell the story of “Jalapeña”, an 8-year-old red-headed troll and her human friend, “Raven”, as they go on a series of adventures. Kevin shared his manuscript with me and, although I really enjoyed the story, I was hesitant to illustrate it. His story was epic. It contained a huge cast of characters and creatures and traversed a wide variety of places over different time periods.
“You know”, I told Kevin, “I’ve never done this before!”
“…I’ve just drawn comics…”, I continued, before he could interrupt. “… and, it’s almost a given that my artwork will improve as the book progresses. The illustrations might be inconsistent!”
“That’s okay!”, he replied, calmly.
In that instant I realized that Kevin and I were in the same boat. He wasn’t a professional writer any more than I was a professional artist. It’d be a learning process for both of us.
And then I smiled.
“Okay then.”, I said.
“Let’s do it.”
The experience so far has been nothing short of awesome…