Last month publisher Christy Ottaviano [Henry Holt & Co,/Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of MacMillan Publishing] offered me the project to illustrate the upcoming picture book, Gizmos, Gadgets and Guitars –The Story of Leo Fender. Author Michael Mahin’s jaunty, insightful story of a California kid, Leo Fender (born in 1909), who as a teenager began immersing himself in studying electronics –initially radios and sound systems, and then also early amplifiers and electric lap slide guitars. Through trial and error Fender became the leading designer/engineer/manufacturer of slim, solid body electric guitars. By the early 1950’s his unique innovative designs were on their way to becoming the most successful mass-produced electric guitars in history, intrinsically linked to the emergence of the new music genre, Rock n Roll. Musicians around the world all know the iconic names of the Fender guitars: Telecaster and Stratocaster…
With just one read through of the Michal Mahin manuscript it was an easy and instant decision for me to accept taking on this terrific picture book project, which is my third nonfiction picture book with publisher Christy Ottaviano. Michael’s crafting in condensing Leo Fender’s life story and contribution to music instrumentation into the picture book format is masterful. It will be great fun and challenging to illustrate his words.
The core time frame of this story is from the 1920’s through the 1950’s –following Leo from a boy into adulthood. I really enjoy creating images depicting these earlier eras in American history. The fashions, the automobiles, the …gadgets!
To date I’ve illustrated 30 picture books… 23 fiction titles and 7 non-fiction titles.See my previous illustrated picture books for period non-fiction stories:
Now that the contract with the publisher has been signed, I’ve jumped right into my intensive photo reference research and my crucial preliminary rough storyboarding stage for Gizmos, Gadgets and Guitars, which essentially is a multitude of trial & error very crude thumbnail sketches to work out which actions and events in the story I’ll create illustrations for, where the placement of the text will be in relationship to the art images, as well as the page turn breaks. This rough preliminary stage looks loose and very simple, but it is the most difficult and important aspect of creating the illustrations for any picture book! They are a visual shorthand purposely very rough and very small in size so that I can quickly map out the planned illustrations for the entire book, to see the orchestration of the images. It will take me about a couple weeks to firmly decide my intended plan for the illustrations via these rough storyboarding stage thumbnail sketches.
Next will come the actual sketching stage –to create the full-sized official final sketches of the intended illustrations, based on the preliminary rough storyboarding. Once completed, I will present the official final sketches to the editor, art director and design team at the publisher in a formal in-person presentation. This final sketch stage will take me about two and a half months to complete.
Then once all the final sketches are fully approved by the publisher, the last step, of course, is to create all the final illustrations and cover art, which will take me about 4 months to fully complete!
Posted here are just a few of my preliminary rough storyboarding doodles and rough thumbnail sketches…