Hey everyone, This is the first of my illustration blogs! I'm hoping that this would offer a glimpse into my real world journey into book illustration. I have done some exciting stuff in the past prior to the launch of my new site, so if I do feel like it, I may refer to past projects as I see fit. For now though, I'm happy to share my most recent work. Chess Made Simple is the latest completed project I was privileged to be a part of. It's a children's book written by Jamaican national chess master Mikhail Solomon and I think it is a great introduction to the game for the little ones.
The main challenge for this project was to make the illustrations of the chess pieces into funny characters that would appeal to kids as they read. The process was long and as usual I needed to do a bit of research to get a feel for the possible individual personalities of the chess pieces. The great part about this project is that my client had a strong idea for what he needed and therefore the main story for each illustration was fairly easy to conceptualize but the style of art was the main creative issue to overcome.
I tend to default to a more realistic approach in my renderings and while my initial sketches were cartoonish, they were still too realistic for the original plan for the book. So I had to backpedaled a bit and took a new approach by rendering the concepts in an old school pen and ink comic style of art- but of course in Corel Painter. I always start with my sketch book and pencil, and once I have a solid concept I return to the computer. Sometimes I'll draw from scratch based on my pencil rendering but other times I'll scan the sketch if it is detailed, then draw over it on a new layer.
The character that I thought was the most interesting to re-imagine was the rook. The rook in itself doesn't represent a single breathing thing like the rest of the pieces so it took a little more to make it animate. At first I decided to just perch a soldier on the tower but that concept didn't blend well with the rest of chess pieces which whole body was the single character. I also felt that interaction for the rook with the other characters would be clumsy in my opinion. So after completing the concept of the other pieces I went back to it and came up with the idea to add a window in the side with two eyes gazing out of the dark room within. Then it struck me, the whole window could be the face! I made the window frame seem like his brow line while the sill a mouth of sorts. You can see it coming together in my weird sketch. The cover art is a whole other story in itself, but I'll save that for a next time.
I was able to get a hold of some of the final pages of the book and I'm liking the layout. The rook racing was a nice concept that wouldn't have worked with my initial idea. More of these Illustrations will be in my portfolio at the end of the month. In the meantime I'm also doing the cover of the follow-up to this book. Chess Made Simple is set to be out at the end of the month so I'll keep you posted about how you can pickup a copy.