Illustrator Ernie D’Elia chats about #5stonesbooks book cover illustration and the creative process.

Creative Chaos welcomes new readers who are coming here to follow G.A. Morgan’s blog tour for the Kirkus starred review book, The KinfolkThis blog is called “Creative Chaos” for a reason. Not only do creators exist in a world that pulls them in various crazy, stressful directions, but the process of making art of any media is a wonderful jumble of ideas and leads, backtracks and revisions. It’s messy and often—yes—chaotic. Ernie D’Elia is an illustrator who understands the chaos of creation. He fashions three dimensional worlds from nothing. He draws. He paints. He writes. (All images that follow are property of Ernie D’Elia and Islandport Press and may not be used without permission.)

Ernie and I met through New England SCBWI and attended a wonderful intensive by Lita Judge about breaking into kidlit illustration by focussing on book covers. The next thing I knew, Ernie was sharing his cover design for The Fog of Forgetting, the first in the Five Stones Trilogy (#5stonesbooks) by G.A. Morgan, published by Islandport Press. This week, The Kinfolk, the final installment of that trilogy launched. Welcome, Ernie! 
Q. Tell us a little about your professional journey (or chaos) that led you to illustrate the Five Stones Trilogy. Was The Fog of Forgetting your first cover? What other professional illustration jobs did you have before this?
A. Thanks for inviting me to talk about creating the covers for the Five Stones Trilogy, and creating in general!
The Fog of Forgetting was not my first cover. The first was a really fun adventure story called “How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy King.” There was a great up-lit Mayan King with a jaguar headdress, looming over the heroes. 

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Q. Wow, I love the light! In the workshop we took together, Lita stressed the importance of being open to revision and brainstorming a large quantity of cover ideas. Once you got the job, did your first drawing get approved? How did you land on the final art for book one?
A. Fog of Forgetting went through a handful of sketch ideas, then a couple roughs, and one or two changes in the final drawing.
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Sketch #4

My favorite idea (sketch #4) did not make the cut, but looking back, it wasn’t the best fit.

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Sketch #2
Sketch #2 was too crowded, but the tree, platform and waterfall were on target.
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Sketch #2 Round 2
Sketch round 2 #2 was almost there, but he looked too tentative. In the final art, he’s gripping a sword, looking heroic.
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That’s why flexibility is really important! It’s hard to be objective when you’re in the throes of making stuff. Trust in your editor/art director!
Q. What is your process choosing the scene you’d like to portray? Do you read each of the books before you start drafting cover ideas or are you given a synopsis?
A. I don’t always get the entire manuscript. Usually there are a few select scenes to work with, luckily. I would probably overwhelm everyone with sketches of every scene–“Let’s make this a graphic novel!” written on every page.
Q. Which book cover was the most difficult to create and why? How did you find a solution?
A. The trickiest by far was Chantarelle, the second book. Islandport had a specific set of requirements for this one. The characters are falling into a chasm, an explosion propels them up and out, AND there’s a giant black panther after them. The perspective alone was a challenge, not to mention 5 desperate reaching hands. There were way too many sketches of that cover to share, let’s just say there was a heaping pile of trial and error, and a steaming bowl of failure, until it was all worked out. Creative chaos at its best!
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Chantarelle final painting
In direct opposition to that one, Kinfolk was two drawings, some minor tweaking, and right into the final. It’s my favorite of the three.
Q. Each book features various characters from the stories. Tell us a little bit about your process of character creation.
A. Creating characters from G.A. Morgan’s work wasn’t difficult because they were so well written. I felt like I had a clear idea of each person. I think it was Annie O’Brien that said you shouldn’t draw characters, you should draw people. A character can easily become a cartoon, but a person is an individual; not a stereotype, not an archetype. That’s especially true when portraying people of ethnic backgrounds that are not your own.
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The Kinfolk sketch #2
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The Kinfolk sketch #4
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The Kinfolk FPO (for position only)
Q. No illustrator is an island, and you worked with Islandport Press children’s editor, Melissa Kim. How did Melissa guide you in this process? Was she more hands on or off? Were there any particular suggestions she gave that were especially helpful to you as an illustrator that you’d be willing to pass on here?
A. Melissa was great to work with! Her input was always spot-on. It was her suggestion to change the posture of Chase (on the first cover) from frightened to more bold. She was hands on, as far as being involved in guiding the process, and was always there to answer questions. I had a great time working on these books with her! Like I said before, trust your art director!
Thanks so much for visiting Creative Chaos today, Ernie!
Thanks for having me on the blog! See you soon, hopefully!
If you missed the other blog posts on this week’s tour, I’ve listed them below. Don’t miss the world debut of the book trailer tomorrow!
Monday, October 24: G.A. Morgan Lists Her Top Ten Fantasy Books for Kids on Pragmatic Mom.
Tuesday, October 25: Launch Day! Happy Book Birthday post on Middle Grade Mafia
Wednesday, October 26: G.A. Morgan Interview on From the Mixed-up Files of Middle Grade Authors
Thursday, October 27: Cover Illustrator Ernie D’Elia talks process and book covers on Creative Chaos
Friday, October 28: A debut of The Kinfolk book trailer on the Islandport Press Blog.
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Here’s Kirkus Reviews had to say in their starred review about The Kinfolk:
 
imgres.png     “Morgan holds the complex plot deftly, alternating the third-person narration through the points of view of several main characters (Dankar, Chase, Knox, Evelyn) chapter by chapter. With clarity and economy, she intertwines back story, setting, adventure, and philosophy in convivial balance, and she admirably maintains the individuality of her very large cast of characters (helpfully delineated in a guide at the back). She tests her characters sorely and sometimes violently, but it’s always in service of the plot. Teeming with adventure and philosophical richness, this trilogy closer excels.”
 Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Here’s a link to the Islandport Press bookstore.
Or ask your local bookseller for The Kinfolk today!

 

Meet Orson!

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Hope you are all having a fine day. The sun is breaking through the clouds here in Maine and for Orson (click on the image to make it larger). Check out my blog post at Creative Bookings about using #GivingTuesday to help fund author and illustrator visits. “November Round-up and #GivingTuesday”

Bear with me…

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More bear sketching today. This new work is bringing me such joy. I don’t know if it is just the change of project, or that it’s drawing, or that it is bringing me back to my first love, picture books, or if it is that I’m steeped in bears (they are SO DARN CUTE) but the work makes me light of spirit. Also, I spend much less time online when I’m at my drawing desk and away from the computer. Amen!

“You look happy!”

Panda brothers

 

Last night while Son #2 worked on his homework, I played with my new brush pen. You dip it in water or ink, turn the back end, and it sucks the liquid into a vial within the pen. Then just paint away. I was totally engrossed in creating these cuties when I startled to find Son #2 at my shoulder. “You look so happy!” he said.

Note to self: Draw more. Worry less.

Illustrator Hints from Publisher Dean Lunt of Islandport Press

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of Dean Lunt’s company. Dean is the Publisher of Islandport Press which publishes titles for Children and Young Adults such as:

   

Dean and I had a great conversation about the ever-changing publishing industry, book marketing in general, and personal marketing for illustrators specifically.

Dean says that a marketing postcard from a job seeking illustrator every six months is the most useful tool for the publisher. To make your marketing postcard effective it needs to meet the following criteria:

  1. Feature a fresh new image each time you send a publisher a marketing postcard.
  2. Include your contact information on the postcard.
  3. Include the link to your online portfolio.
  4. Categorize your online portfolio by media, type, or subject (eg: collage v. pen and ink, color v. black & white, children’s v. editorial) for ease of navigation.
  5. Update your website. The “News” section should have recent, relevant info. Images should be fresh.
  6. Size pictures for quick viewing.  A lower resolution makes for smaller file sizes and 72 DPI is all that is needed to look good on a computer screen.

If you get the call and sign on to a project, be aware that one doesn’t stop being a children’s book illustrator when the artwork is delivered. Dean is always looking for illustrators who have the energy for school visits, signing, and other marketing events.

Interested in submitting to Islandport Press? Here are the guidelines. View the brand new Islandport Press YouTube Channel!

101 Kidlit Links (okay not that many…but a lot)

The English class that I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays lets out just in time for me to turn on Maine Public Radio and catch Maine Calling with Keith Shortall. Yesterday’s program put a spring in my step as Keith had author illustrators Scott Nash, Chris Van Dusen, and Kirkus reviewer Vicky Smith discussing writing and illustrating for children, and the publishing industry. Click here for the archived show.

I pulled over and called in immediately to remind the listeners that over 500 SCBWI members in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and over 1,800 members in New England take the art, craft and business of children’s books seriously. Since then, I’ve had a few emails and wanted to post a few quick answers to FAQ’s and links for anyone who might be curious about SCBWI, New England SCBWI, critiques, professional development, etc. Feel free to leave me comments below with other questions and I’ll try to answer them in a timely way.

If you are just getting started, you can find the top 10 FAQ’s about writing and publishing for children and Young Adults, how to format your manuscript, info about publishers, and an editor’s point of view here.

If you are more experienced and are looking for further professional development you can try various adult or continuing ed programs including MECA. For more intense and academic study take a look at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Hamline, Lesley, or Simmons. RISD, and Hollins are a couple of the children’s book illustration certificate programs. Google MFA Children’s Illustration if that is what you want.

If you are a teacher or librarian and want to hire an author or illustrator to present their book and teach about the craft of writing or illustrating, I suggest the SCBWI speaker’s bureau. You can search by state, or look for specific people. The New England region also has a database called Connections.

If you live in the New England area and want to find out more about the New England region of SCBWI, visit our website. We are an active region with many events. Coming up is our annual spring conference. One of the largest regional conferences, New England welcomes more than 500 participants and 100 faculty to Springfield, MA for three days of workshops and speakers May 305, 2013. The focus this year is craft and we are featuring PRO tracks for those who are published. Registration will begin in February. Watch the website for more info.

The SCBWI community is especially welcoming and supportive and that is only the beginning. Discounts to professional development conferences and workshops, publications, critique groups, and a whole series of grants and awards are benefits of membership. Check it out. There’s a link at the bottom of the page to actually register as a member.

SCBWI critique groups are only available to members. To see if there is already a group in your New England area you can click on your state here. There is a two part post with Stacy Mozer (our Crit group organizer) here, and here.

There are some writers and illustrators who are not interested in waiting for or supporting traditional publishing and so they choose the self-publishing route. There are plenty of print-on-demand, and epub companies. I’m not qualified to recommend one company over another. Do be aware that some companies are Vanity Presses (often they contact you) who make promises of publication with hidden costs. Educate yourself about publishers and agents by doing a quick check on Predators and Editors.

If you are taking your first steps on your journey to become a writer or illustrator, I have two messages. One: Welcome. If you are here you probably can’t stop yourself. You write and draw because you are compelled. The journey is long and comes with many pitfalls and no promises. You are in good company. Two: If this is not your heart’s desire, turn back now. The journey is long and comes with many pitfalls and no promises.

 

Happier Critiques

There’s a wonderful post today over at Publishing Crawl called 3 Ways To Improve Your Critique Using Conflict Communication by Amie Kaufman. When you take a break from writing or drawing, click on over.

I have personal experience with this both on the critiquer and critiqued side of things and have found that as Ms. Kaufman posits, it is so important for both people to understand what the person being critiqued wants out of the review and feedback.

Hoping that everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving filled with enough food, family and friends. Here’s one of my illustrations from the portfolio archives for the occasion.

Member Monday: NESCBWI Fall Events!

The RA’s in New England have not been idle during the summer months. No… after the spring conference we all hunker down and keep planning events for you. Three events are on the docket in the next few months!

2nd Annual Children’s Book Illustration Symposium

The Illustration Symposium takes place on Saturday, September 29th from 9:30 to 4:30 and includes a snack and lunch. The event is a presentation of SCBWI in Northern New England (contact Northern RA, Anna Boll) and New Hampshire Institute of Art. Last year this event was “Illustrator Day,” but with its fancy title comes some extra bells and whistles. In addition to a keynote speech by Melissa Sweet, and an encore presentation of highly evaluated illustration workshops from our spring conference (from Anne Sibley O’Brien and Brian Lies), we’ve added in an exciting panel discussion about book production of Melissa Sweet’s ALA Sibert winning book Balloons Over Broadway. A designer from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the Art Director from Candlewick Press are also available for portfolio critiques. Book sale by Toadstool Books. Sign up today!

Overcoming Challenges: A Program for Writers and Illustrators

On Saturday, October 6, 2012, from 10:00 to 3:30, at the Eric Carle Museum in Western Massachusetts (contact PAL Coordinator, Melissa Stewart) four authors and author-illustrators will participate in a two-part program that addresses the challenges we all face as writers and illustrators of children’s book. A book sale and signing will round out the day.

Encore! 2012

On Saturday October 20, SCBWI in Southern New England (contact Southern RA, Sally Riley) will host ENCORE! 2012, a day with four writing workshops by faculty who received high evaluations at our spring conference. For this event, NE-SCBWI teams with the Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature (ASTAL) at Rhode Island College in Providence. The registration fee of $50 includes a continental breakfast and hot buffet lunch.

Whether you are a writer or illustrator living in northern or southern New England or in between, please take advantage of the amazing professional development opportunities provided by NESCBWI.