Mr. Ferris and His Wheel has been selected to be in the Original Art show at the Society of Illustrators in October. I will have one piece from the book exhibited there and the picture book will be on display with all of the other picture books thought to be the best illustrated for 2014. It is an honor to be included with all of the talented illustrators in the show.
When I received the call about illustrating Mr. Ferris And His Wheel, Ann Rider ran down a list of illustrations on my website that she liked and wanted me to emulate. The only problem was that every illustration was in a different “medium.” Some were created in adobe illustrator, others in photoshop and scanned brush and ink drawings. I was also trying to move away from digital by incorporating more watercolors into my work. After doing several sample pieces and working closely with the art director, Rachel Newborn, we devised a system in which I would incorporate all three styles into one piece. I didn’t know any other illustrator working this way, but agreed to do it, glad that I had six months to figure it out.
I began the project by purchasing a bunch of books on the 1890s. Since the picture book text was relatively short, Ann suggested that I read longer books about the Ferris Wheel so that I could get a better sense of details to add into the illustrations.
After finishing the sketches at the end of last August, I took a weekend vacation for sun and relaxation. While lying under the umbrella and listening to the seagulls, my phone dinged with a message from Ann. Mr. Ferris and His Wheel was to be released six months earlier than its original date. All artwork needed to be in by mid October! I had a month and a half to complete a book I was not entirely sure how I was going to illustrate!
So began a race to complete the book. As I traced over the line work of Mr. Ferris striving to build his wheel before the Chicago World’s Fair, I was also trying to make a deadline. Fortunately, Rachel was quick to respond to each of my spreads as I finished them with suggestions on how to improve them. If I did not have a second pair of eyes, I really don’t know how I could have done it.
Here is a sketch of the first ride in the Ferris Wheel:
Once the sketch was approved, I traced over the people in the drawing with brush and ink, or a micro pen for details:
In order to include my watercolors, we decided that all distant background could be done in washes, but the buildings and machinery needed to be created in adobe illustrator. My next step was to paint the background in vibrant Dr. Martin dyes:
Next, it was time to trace over the sketch in Adobe Illustrator. This process was fairly time consuming as I tried to pick colors that would correspond to the water colors that I would merge into the piece:
After I finished the buildings in Adobe Illustrator, I scanned the linework and water colors. Then I imported the three techniques into Adobe Photoshop. Needless to say, there were a lot of layers in my document as I tried to merge these three different processes into one cohesive piece:
This was the result of my effort:
Two days before my deadline, I got all of my artwork in. I had nearly 40 pages worth of illustrations completed and a year to wait before its release.
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel is available for purchase starting September 2nd.
Look! It’s finally a book!
-Below are some snap shots of my printed illustrations in Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis! Kathryn did an amazing job with her research and text, quoting from primary sources. The non fiction narrative reads like an intriguing story, so it was a pleasure to research the 1890’s and allow the era to filter through dramatic perspectives, lighting, and poses in the pictures to give the story its drama.
My first choice for a color scheme in the book would have been to paint in muted colors and sepias, since it happened a long time ago. I didn’t think that it would appeal to children, however, so I went for extreme color choices-color combinations that excite me. I used purple-blues, purples, and magentas in this book because I consider purple to be majestic, royal, and rich, and does a great job with offsetting fiery oranges, yellows, and acid greens. It was a gamble, but I trust readers will be drawn to the color combinations and the atmosphere that it creates.
MR. FERRIS AND HIS WHEEL
Author: Gibbs Davis
Illustrator: Gilbert Ford
The invention of the Ferris wheel is explored in story and pictures designed to describe the age of innovation for young readers.
The legendary Ferris wheel was one of myriad inventions that came out of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. was a mechanical engineer who was determined to outdo the star of the previous World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower. To Ferris, engineering and innovation were part of the American nature, and he set out to prove it by designing a structure that would amaze fairgoers. Working with his engineering partner, Ferris turned his vision into plans but had difficulty convincing officials until they found themselves without a star attraction months before the fair was to open. They agreed to his plan but provided no financing. Ferris was relentless in his efforts to bring his wheel to fruition, and it became one of the fair’s most popular attractions. This straightforward narrative for younger readers provides a good sense of the period of innovation and the type of personal drive it took to bring ideas to reality. Additional pertinent facts that support the story appear in sidebars. The slightly retro, line-and-color illustrations, done in an unexpected, muted palette, enhance the text and provide additional interest.
Kids who take Ferris wheels for granted should find this history eye-opening. (sources, bibliography, websites) (Informational picture book. 5-8)
Here is a starred review from booklist on Mr. Ferris And His Wheel that will be released in September of this year:
Ten months before the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, there was still no centerpiece to rival that of the previous fair’s Eiffel Tower. Enter young engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., who had a vision of a structure not only tall but also rigged for motion. Having no better choices, fair organizers begrudgingly accepted his proposal but offered not a cent of funding. With but four months to go, George scrambled for funding and materials, most of it a newfangled metal called “steel,” including a 70-ton axle, “the largest piece of steel ever forged.” The harried workers struggled with frozen Chicago ground, unexpected quicksand, more than 100,000 parts, and, most of all, the derision of onlookers who found the spindly looking contraption undignified and sure to collapse in high winds. But it didn’t—rather, it ascended heavenward into both day and night skies, offering unparalleled views from its posh living-room-sized passenger cars. Like Mr. Ferris’ invention, Davis’ picture-book bio soars, inspires, and keeps (the pages) ever turning, matching the gregarious text to smaller, often tech-based side comments. Ford’s impressionistic, wine-colored washes blend a fantastical mood with a staggering sense of mechanical scale. It’s tough to awe readers with a ride with which they are so familiar, but Davis and Ford pull it off.
Grab your tickets; here we go.
I have a new picture book that I illustrated, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, titled MR. FERRIS AND HIS WHEEL. It will be released in September of this year.
Already, some of the images have garnered some attention. A reproduction of the opening scene of Paris and the Eiffel Tower is on display in London at the Dutch Uncle group show of Pencil Factory artists.
The image had to be cropped and printed in house at their design offices in order to be in the show.
The full image is below along with three others that were recognized and displayed at the Society of illustrators back in February…
I will be posting more news and links for purchasing the book closer to the release date.