Souls, moods


Friday I woke early— in an hour often filled with shrieks and cacophony in the playground across the street. This morning there was only a fine stillness, accompanied by the sound of a steady, soft rain falling wetly on the leaves and pavement.

In the afternoon it cleared, turned into a lovely evening for walking, so we walked, and in between destinations stopped at the playground north of here to ride the swings.

Did some little drawings at the bar after that; I didn’t have the pages of the book with me, but was thinking a bit about moods; ways to capture.

Process: from manuscript to illustrated book

From manuscript to finished book: a brief process overview

This is a post about a project I’ve been participating in for a few months. It’s a noir-style children’s book in which nursery rhymes meet police procedural. A friend and client of mine, R. Andrew Heidel (owner of famous The Way Station bar), wrote True Crimes from Rhymes Square years ago and finally found an illustrator who was right for the job— Eric Hamilton. They hired me on as the publication designer.

Copy fitting process with thumbnail drawings
A sample spread during the copy-fitting process with thumbnail drawings

Eric spent months working on loads of thumbnails and sketches to work out the characters (of which there are many), as well as working out the illustrations. He provided me with no less than four thumbnails for each page/spread. I worked with the copy and layout design to arrive at a good balance of text-to-image, and Andy and I art directed during this process.

The same spread, after months of editing copy, Eric refining the illustrations, and me refining the design of the book

The book is being produced with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, and will be a sort of work-in-progress limited-edition hardcover, comprised of rough drawings, polished pencil illustrations, and final painted illustrations. It will serve as proof-of concept when Andy approaches publishers to create a series based on this initial story.

Sample spread showing several levels of 'finish' on the illustrations
Sample spread showing several levels of ‘finish’ on the illustrations
One of the spreads in finished pencil form for this work-in-progress edition
One of the spreads in finished pencil form for this work-in-progress edition
A few other cover designs before arriving at the final design
A few other cover designs before arriving at the final design
Spider, who has a creepy crush on Miss Muffet…

The Kickstarter campaign has reached— and exceeded— its minimum goal, but we are still eager to achieve the full amount to both produce the book and pay us for all of the hours that we’ve put into this project. In addition to the KS campaign, there is a Booster sale of tee shirts featuring one of the most fascinating characters, Spider.tee-shirtsprojectswelove
We received a jolly email just a few days ago telling us we were a featured Kickstarter project, but there are only FOUR days left— the KS express on October 15. Go have a look, and support out book project to get your own limited edition, signed copy of this in-progress  book.

There are loads more process images in the “Updates” tab from the illustrator, so you’ll get more sneak peeks at the character design and development.

The beauty of antique paper

Toi et Moi title page
Pencil, marker, and casein on antique book page [2016]
Found this coverless, foxed old paperback in the 50¢ bin at Bruised Apple Books in Peekskill, NY during our camping trip a few weeks ago. It was clearly a popular volume in its time (319th edition!), its slender chapters sporting titles that encompass all the feels, to use contemporary parlance.

Here are just a few…

Expansions (development)
Nerfs (nerves)
Tristesse (sadness)
Sérénité (calm)
Abat-Jour (shade, or reflect)
Chance (luck)
Ames, Modes, Etc (souls, moods, etc)

Anyway, they’re rather beautiful pages and I’ve decided to use them as drawing surfaces, despite their acidity and fragility, with a notion to take the words as prompts (though I have very little French*). Limitations are good catalysts for creativity— without any, one often suffers a kind of option paralysis. We’ll see where this goes.

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Artifacts from an evening wander

Magic hour in Park Slope
South Park Slope mini park 18th Street
South Park Slope mini park 18th Street
Nice color blocking, SoSlo!
A fine, high-ceilinged front room in a North Slope brownstone
A fine, high-ceilinged parlor in a North Slope brownstone— and proper, not hiding behind curtains or blinds!
Wonderful details on this stone-carved entryway, North Slope
Wonderful details on this stone-carved entryway, North Slope

Color shift, mood shift

(a do-dad from the sketchbook)

The wind in the trees at night in October sounds like all the silent wishes of dreams, rushing to be first in line.

Autumn feels like putting a lid on a box of memories, packing away warm weather clothes in trade for sweaters and scarves. It has a newness in its own right, too, but only first by closing the chapter that was Summer. It carries an early morning mist and a nascent darkness.

The seasonal shift invites nostalgia, but more than that— invites a curiosity of the new year, always arriving both too quickly and too late, or in a slumber state wherein one can’t rightly grasp it.
mthope_yellowSome of my favorite parts of pumpkin season: the jeweled glow of early evening windows as I walk past row houses and brownstones; sidewalks and steps carpeted in bright-gold leaves; Japanese maples in full, rich blood tones.

Short-lived slices of beauty that tease and tense before the long grey of winter in the city. Always I feel a love-hate at this transition.



On a crisp fall afternoon, abandon practical pursuits

Portion of a mural on Atlantic Avenue, beneath the BQE overpass
Portion of a mural on Atlantic Avenue beneath the BQE overpass

A Monday broke sunny and fine in October. Distractions around post-debate night in what must be one of the most absurd political races in modernity. Tried, but not a great day for ‘deep focus’ or productivity.

After emptying garbage and recycle bins (groaning after a forced-indoors rainy weekend), abandon practical pursuits. Walk.

Head north, wend through Gowanus. Court Street to Atlantic. The late afternoon sun begins to wane; the light is changing but still bright. Tack west, shop lights and people.

Think about stopping, then reconsider— more miles are the prescription. The cusp of a fine sunset and I’m so near the harbor. Asides and observations.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6
At the West end of Atlantic, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6

Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6A tactical approach: being perhaps of the moment rather than in it, by way of mechanized observation— photography. Adjusting of exposures, of compositions.

Brooklyn Bridge Park
Hello, moon.

It’s still a way of being in the moment; one I find hard to stifle when surrounded by striking views or compositions accessible to my pocket technology (read: not too dark). Mustn’t go to waste. It’s artificial only after a fashion, and the moment in question can be revisited: the eternal Now.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6

Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6(Again, after a fashion)Brooklyn Bridge Park

View of lower Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park
A view of lower Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6Four and a half miles into my walk, pub time. A pint and review the photos. (The walking is meditation; so is this.)

Interior of Floyd, Atlantic Avenue
Interior of Floyd, Atlantic Avenue

Now it’s dark. A different walk awaits on the trip home. Deep velvet blue with jeweled glow of windows; it’s that time of year.

Patisserie window, Court Street
Patisserie window, Court Street

celestial bodies

30 circles exercise
The point of departure here was the 30 circles exercise, but I’m not much of a one for following rules so I made them all different sizes and then it became all about the composition of the circles and ultimately turned into a kindof gravitational meditation in pencil.

And then I went full Dr Seuss on that shit just for fun.