Thursday, September 8, 2011

Evolution of an Illustration

I recently sent "Prof. Barrister's Dinosaur Mysteries #5: THE CASE OF THE CRESTED CRYPTOCLIDUS" off to my publisher, Nimble Books. Yay! But as an author-illustrator, sending a work to my pub means more than just the manuscript; it also means the illustrations.

Now, just like the text, illustrations can go through edits. Sometimes, an illustration is perfect (or pretty close) the first time I draw it. Other times it needs to be fixed. Here's an example from THE CRESTED CRYPTOCLIDUS that I thought was kind of interesting.

Here, one of the books' heroes, intrepid 3rd grade dinosaur expert Nate, is swimming for his life from a giant Jurassic predator known as Liopleurodon.

Very rough, but conveys the idea. I knew when I drew it that I'd want to improve it. When I returned to this illustration, I realized two things: (1) I liked Nate's expression and body position (which is an extension of his expression), but (2) the illustration lacked the urgency and peril I wanted.

I realized the solution lay in the scale. Nate was too big compared to what I was trying convey as a gigantic marine monster. So I simply shrank Nate down (reduced on a photocopier) and tried again.

That led to also adding depth to the Liopleurodon's mouth. Much better. But still not quite right.

The Liopleurodon's snout was too blunt, and not like the scientific illustrations I'd seen. (I pride myself on paleontological accuracy). So I transformed it from stubby and dog-like to sleek and crocodilian.

Way scarier. Note that Nate hasn't changed from the original sketch.

Now just a matter of cleaning & adding color. Voila! The final illustration:
Very worth the edits, I think.

THE CRESTED CRYPTOCLIDUS is scheduled for December release, with this and 17 other full color illustrations. For information on the first four books (including links to purchase them!), check out

Bonus question: You may have noticed something about the Liopleurodon's nostrils. Free Prof. Barrister sketch to the first person who posts a comment correctly explaining what it is and why it was important to the animal.