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. 

How to Survive -Finish3 copy.jpeg

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.
fog-cover sketch 4 copy.jpeg
Sketch #4

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

fog-cover sketch 2.jpeg
Sketch #2
Sketch #2 was too crowded, but the tree, platform and waterfall were on target.
fog-cover sketch round 2,#2.jpeg
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.
TheFogofForgettingBM.jpg
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!
Chantarelle copy.jpg
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.
Kinfolk sketch 2.jpeg
The Kinfolk sketch #2
Kinfolk sketch 4.jpeg
The Kinfolk sketch #4
TheKinfolkFPO.jpg
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.
 Five stones trilogy covers white.jpeg
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!

 

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!

F.A.R.T’s and Palm Reading

Writers and artists often struggle in isolation. They face self-doubt and fear at their easels and desks. Sometimes the celebrations can be lonely too. That’s why friends who make art, and write must stick together. If you need a reminder of this fact, simply consider the acronym F.A.R.T.

Friends
Art
wRite
Together

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, just like the noxious fumes that emanate from one’s tuchas, true writing and art friends are hard to get away from. Sometimes they announce themselves loudly with a knock on the door, sometimes it is just the gentle “bing” of the Google chat notification. Even if they seem to disappear for a while, they come back stinkier stronger than ever. They release tension, bring humor, and when your insides are twisted in knots over your current WIP– they make your tummy feel better.

Today I met with the incredibly energetic and optimistic Julie Kingsley. (the very same person who nominated me for the Lovely Blog award.) Julie and I share many talents: we both write, we both teach, we both parent. But the one thing that Julie can do that I can’t–  she can read palms. Perhaps it was her past life as a gypsy wanderer, or a paranormal gift with which she was born but the woman can tell the future.

Okay. Maybe she can tell the future and maybe she can’t.

What a friend can do is look in your eyes and tell you the truth. She can see the positive when your rose colored glasses are foggy. She can wipe the glasses off for you, point you in the right direction and give you a swift kick in the tuchas.

Hopefully, when she does, you don’t fart.

Attention “Minority” Authors and Illustrators: Approaching Deadlines for Awards/Grants

Two big deadlines are coming up for kidlit authors and illustrators of color.

One, the New Visions Writer’s Award from Lee & Low Publishing.

The NEW VISIONS AWARD will be given for a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500.

Submissions are due October 31st. Click for details. 

The second, is the new SCBWI On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award.

The grant was created to foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books. The grant will be given to two writers or illustrators who are from an ethnic and/or cultural background that is traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America.

Two writers or writer/illustrators will each receive an all-expenses paid trip to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York to meet with editors and agents, a press release to publishers, a year of free membership to SCBWI, and an SCBWI mentor for a year.

Submissions are due November 15th.  Click for details.

Please share freely and encourage those who are eligible to submit!