Forget-Me-Nots book art: the process

Here is a piece of art from my latest book, Forget-Me-Nots, Poems to Learn by Heart, A poetry anthology compiled by Mary Ann Hoberman and published by Little,Brown/Hachette. Below you can see the preliminary sketches of the spread, and the changes it went through. The finish art work is done with mechanical pencil line and tube watercolor on Arches cold press 90lbs. Some dry pastel is used here and there in the book, like below in the shaded bit in the water and at the bottom.For those who don’t know what paper designations mean, Arches is the name of a very old French art paper maker. They make most of their paper by hand. They are quite famous and popular so the paper can be found all over, both here in Ireland where I live, and in the US where I did the first few books in this series with Mary Ann Hoberman. 90 pound is the weight, or thickness of the paper. The “press” is hown the paper is moulded, or more simply how rough texture of the paper is. “Hot” is the smoothest, “cold” is medium rough, and “rough” is the roughest surface, with lots of pits and lumps.

Most people don’t use 90lb paper for watercolor. I use a lightbox for line art, so I need thin paper. I’ll explain that another time….

It can make a big difference switching papers, to ones that you are not used to, so I try to stick to one easily available paper, as I am likely to screw up and run out of paper, just when art is due in two days time, and it would be an inconvenient disaster to have to mail order special paper in a hurry. It’s simply unthinkable to use two different papers in one book. It would change the art too much.

This is the final sketch (above) with text in place that I would have sent in a revised dummy to the designer in New York.This is a cleaner design rough(above) of the whole spread idea. The rabbit is still rowing the boat. the blocks are used to visualize where text would be.This is a new idea (above)for the spread incorporating the entire spread as one design image. Here you can see the text I was imagining in different places with more sky and less water. The sketch art is usually roughed out  in a sketch pad, at home or sitting in a coffee shop, then scanned, then combined with the text in photoshop which has been roughly set ind placed on a page layout like this shown here. Sometimes I draw directly onto a xerox of the text proof. Below is an example. Some of the shading is added by computer as I prepare to send them off to the publisher/editor/designer for review. Sometimes they are just smudged pencil line.
This is the original design (above) sent in the first sketch dummy to New York. The two pages were different at this point. But you can see the elements of the final design in this one.

The spreads, or two facing pages together in an open book, were not intended to be, or described to me as one continuous image, but they were assembled as closely related. For most of this book I tried to bring one image if possible to incorporate the poems appearing on the two pages. I did not have a say in the choice of poems or their grouping, though I did change the audiences perception of them by linking them in this visual way. The pencil line would be the same mechanical pencil I use for sketching.You become accustom to a pencil’s “personality”, so it makes sense to stay witht he same exact pencil for the final. I switched to mechanical pencils, instead of wood pencils you need to sharpen, as the line is consistent and predictable. Not always a good thing but sketching out in the world is much easier with them and they make better ones all the time.

Let me know if there is anything else you’d like to know about how the art is made. M.E.

Deb Marciano - August 2, 2012 - 4:00 am

Michael and Maryann have produced another gem. What a beautiful collection of poems totally made alive with Michael’s creative drawings. Each illustration tells a story, too! I already bought my copy and gave one to Joan Glazer for her birthday. this will become another book to share with my pre-service teachers. Love it. Thank you for your dedication to children’s quality literature.