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Pictured directly above is the illustration, as I mentioned in my BookPage review, in Julie Fogliano’s if you want to see a whale (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press), illustrated by Erin E. Stead, that took my breath away when I turned the page and first saw it. You should do yourself a favor today, if you’ll allow me to make the suggestion, and click on that image to embiggen it. And just soak it in for a while. Boy howdy and howdy boy, do I love that spread.
Above that are some images that show how Erin Stead got from point A (or somewhere near it) to point B.
Last week, I linked here at 7-Imp to my BookPage review of this book, and I thought it’d be fun to follow up here at 7-Imp with some art from the book. Then Erin sent some sketches, too, and some images of what her process was like in creating these beautiful illustrations (linoleum blocks and pencil, as you’ll read below). I thank her for taking the time to share.
She sent these just yesterday, and I thought I’d post them soon; given a busier-than-normal schedule this week, I figured I’d be lucky to post them this week at all. But I just read that today is the book’s big release day, so I decided to drop what I was doing and post this now. (You might think, if I didn’t admit these things, I were actually organized.)
If you read my review, you know I love this book. It’s a whisper to a friend, a book you should step away from a busy schedule to read and savor, and a beautiful thing to share with a child.
Here’s Erin …
Erin: Julie wrote if you want to see a whale while she was vacationing with her family in Maine a few summers ago. If I remember correctly, she wasn’t sure it could be a picture book, which is also what she thought of the first book we made together, and then it’s spring. It’s a feeling that I didn’t agree with, and neither did our editor, Neal Porter. She does tend to write about things that aren’t there. (In spring, there is no Spring to illustrate most of the time, and in whale … well, there really isn’t a whale for quite a while). As someone who makes pictures, drawing the absence of something poses a problem. But her writing is such a delicate and open problem to solve that it’s a satisfying challenge. Most of the time.
There are days when I don’t feel like I’ve got it.
But in the end there is a book and it has a cloth binding dyed to a custom color, and it is a this-book-is-my-very-own-secret trim size. The book comes out this month, and I am customarily nervous.
I started this book very slowly. I thought it was important to scale the setting back as much as possible, so the pictures could be in an imaginary, abstracted space. The drawings for this text had to be very open — to me, that is. (If someone else illustrated this book, maybe not. Julie’s texts tend to have no characters or setting, so I get to invent it.) I got some help from Phil (my husband and often co-author, who is also an illustrator), who helped me design much of the book. Most of the conversations we had were about finding the proper balance between drawing something specific and leaving something out. Pacing Julie’s text also takes some thought. When I receive the writing, it’s the poem as she wrote it. I have to find the page breaks and respect the pace. It takes a lot of reading. Luckily, she is an awfully good writer.
Here are some pictures of the sketches, process, and final illustrations for if you want to see a whale. I made these pictures using linoleum blocks and pencil. It seems like a pretty simple jump after making spring in woodblock and pencil, and yet (!) it took a while to get there. I tried and failed with a few different processes first.
I start the whole process with a sketch.
These are the linoleum blocks. I have to work backwards, which I often forget to do.
[The image directly below] is an example of what the print looks like before I draw on it. This is actually a print that didn’t make the cut. I tend to print a few times and then decide which one I am going to draw on after hemming and hawing a bit.
and things that are not sweet / and things that are not roses”
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some hanging down / in the sky that’s spread out, side to side / or the certain sun that’s shining / because if you start to look straight up / you might just miss a whale”
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You might notice [below] the grasses I sketched don’t match the grasses I carved. There are a couple of reasons for this. There is a design element in the book where the page on the left in a double page spread is a full color, but the page on the right has a white background. I wanted the grass to spill over to the right page, as though I made the picture as one big double-paged spread. So I had to cut the grass (ha!) separately on a long linoleum block. The grass also looks different from the sketch, because I cut it free hand. At the time, this seemed logical. But as I type this, what a terrible idea! I was working backwards and what if I made a mistake? Still, I know if I had to make the picture over again I would do the same thing. Artists aren’t exactly known for their responsible choices.
small and green / across the leaf, just nibble scoot / because things that are smaller than most things / can’t be as giant as a whale”
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We moved the “words” and “pictures” line after the final art was made, because this version was too monochromatic.
That’s it! That’s some of the book. Thanks for letting me stop by!
IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE. Text copyright © 2013 by Julie Fogliano. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Erin E. Stead. Published by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Erin E. Stead.