The Process of Illustrating Mr. Ferris And His Wheel

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.
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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:
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Once the sketch was approved, I traced over the people in the drawing with brush and ink, or a micro pen for details:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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This was the result of my effort:
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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.

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