How a Dummy Works...
The title refers to the book dummy overview that I promised a few blog entries ago and not in any way to the dragon at work, though I am sure on certain days, my family might argue the point.
The floor of my office is hardly visible, I am still tracking down a few things and I need to make up more of DD-98 Santa’s Dragon for the show since Because You Count keeps running out of it here! Yet in the midst of all this preparation, I must also remember to get birthday presents for the parties that the girls are attending while I am away, make up some chicken soup for another meal and get laundry done on this glorious, summer-like day. If Nick hadn’t offered to take the girls to choir tonight before he heads out to play basketball, I might have gone quietly mad.
So.... what is a book dummy? In the simplest of terms, a book dummy lets an illustrator plan out the book from the manuscript so that you know how many pages you will need, how many illustrations and what types of illustrations each page will contain. Not all illustrations are created the same way. Some of them are spot illustrations that appear on white space near the text, some fade out or wrap around the text, others have text go on top of them and still others are full bleed illustrations with no text anywhere on the page.
I always try to create my dummies about half scale or 50 percent the size of the book. I know of some artists who prefer to draw their dummies actual size, but since I have to make the final illustrations at least 10 percent BIGGER than actually size, that seems a bit frustrating to me. There’s more energy in the sketchy drawings I make while planning out a story when it’s a cute set of folded pages I can hold in my hand to flip through.
The dummy is also a fun and challenging stage of the illustration process because you actually have to figure out what goes where, how to break the story down into manageable chunks that make sense to illustrate together etc. Since we are printing this story ourselves, the author and I have a bit more freedom and control to decide exactly how we’d like the book to look. Even though we’ve planned out the full dummy and how many illustrations it will need, there may still be some surprises along the way...
Here’s the dummy lying next to the manuscript. You can see how marked up that copy has gotten as I planned layouts and played with the text.
One of the biggest challenges for an illustrator is how to make sure that your drawings support the story instead of competing with the words. The pictures don’t have to duplicate everything that the words are saying, but rather compliment them. This is especially important near the beginning of the book when the characters and setting are still being established. I made sure that the pictures here will wrap around the text, giving the words plenty of room. This book contains a lot more story and a lot more text that the first one I did for Nanny Kay, so it has been a fun challenge to use the space creatively!
Here’s how a page in the dummy gets closer to being a finished illustration. First, there was the dummy version of page 15 where Butch the dinosaur finally reveals himself to Owen. This page has a fair bit of text, but needs to convey the astonishment that dinosaur-loving Owen feels when meeting a real, but much smaller, dinosaur in person. You’ll have to buy the book to find out why!
Here’s the pencil sketch of the layout done LARGER than the final illustration needs to be so that the artwork will tighten up when sized to the page. Note how I have the borders of the page marked in Sharpie, but some parts of the rocks may be drawn outside those lines. Since this will be a wrap bleed illustration, some of the image will “bleed” off the page, but I still need to paint in there in case the page trim is a bit off. By doing my sketches this size in an area defined as the same shape as the book, I can make sure that the composition works and still leaves room for the text.
Here’s a close up look at Owen...
and at Butch (his real dinosaur name is unpronounceable!)
So there are the steps of how a dummy works and how it moves one step closer to being a final illustration.
Needless to say, the drawing and painting are on hold until I get back from Toronto. I want to go play with floss instead!