7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #498: Featuring Erin E. Stead

h1 August 28th, 2016 by jules

“The Uncorker’s heart was a glass vessel filled to the brim.”
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Pictured above is a preliminary image from Erin E. Stead’s illustrations for Michelle Cuevas’ The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles (Dial, August 2016), as well as a spread from the book. I have a review of this picture book over at BookPage (here), and Erin visits today to talk a bit about the art and to share some images.

I thank her for sharing. Let’s get right to it.



Erin: Philip and I recently moved the studio and the majority of our life into this red barn on the Leelanau peninsula in northern Michigan.



This is my new desk, which I am pretty excited about. We’ve had a lot of crappy drawing tables between the two of us (and when we first started making books we only had one small desk in one small apartment), but this one is actually sturdy and level.



This is one of my first dummies for The Uncorker. You’ll see I originally thought the book was going to be tall, but this was a bad idea. Still, a lot of the early images stayed. You’ll notice I left myself a helpful note that just says “wrong” on one of them.


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I re-started this book after finishing a bit of it. I am worried this is becoming a habit. I re-started the book before this one about five times (no exaggeration). I started this one with a lot of watercolor thumbnails, since it seemed the most obvious medium for a book about the ocean.


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I was worried that there wasn’t enough atmosphere, though, so I tried cardboard printing. I inked a piece of chipboard and made a print off that. This is a thumbnail, and the ochre and red are added with oil pastels.


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I liked that method, so I began the book. Here are a couple of survivors.


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As I got into the story more and more, I was worried the printing here was too aggressive and disconnected to the drawing style for the book. The Uncorker himself is a gentle fellow. I experimented with mono printing on a woodblock.


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And there it was. Seaspray and color modulation. I felt a little better, so I remade the opening spread.


“The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles lived alone on a high spot with only one tree for shade. He always kept his eyes on he waves, watchful for a glint of glass.”
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After that, the method was set and I was on my way. Here are all the tools I use to make the book — except for pencils, which are pretty important.


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I was obviously very influenced by my surroundings when making this book. We don’t live near an ocean, but we do live near giant sand dunes and a giant lake.


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Title page illustration
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Cover art
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“The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles arrived early, carrying a handful of his favorite seashells. He thought it might be rude to show up uninvited and empty-handed.”
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“While the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles loved his job, he couldn’t help but wonder
if he would ever receive a letter. …”

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We also live by an area called “Fishtown,” which I based the village nearest to The Uncorker on.


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“First he visited the maker of cakes. …”
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“‘Sorry,’ each one sighed. ‘Though I do wish I’d received an invitation to such a party.”
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Here are just a few more!


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“One day, the waves tipped their white postman hats to the Uncorker
and delivered a bottle with a very peculiar letter inside. …”

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“The Uncorker asked a seagull, a sailor, and a one-man band. …”
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Thanks for looking! I’ll leave you with the view from the dog’s desk area. She works harder than her two human co-workers.




THE UNCORKER OF OCEAN BOTTLES. Copyright © 2016 by Michelle Cuevas. Illustrations © 2016 by Erin E. Stead. Some final art used by permission of the publisher, Dial Books, New York. All other images used by permission of Erin E. Stead.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Time with my friend.

2) A kicker pointed out that it’s only two more weeks till we’ve all kicked 500 WEEKS IN A ROW. That’s 500 weeks of trying to find the good in this whacked-out world.

3) I fell hard for this poem, though the contrarian in me should not admit it.

4) Though I was somewhat disappointed by the first episode I listened to (I like my podcasters to stay on point as well as Terry Gross does), I think Laura Marling’s new podcast seems promising. Good topic, and you all know I love her music.

5) A big group at story time at Parnassus Books yesterday.

6) I had a donut flavored like Vanilla Wafers.

7) Oh, I figured out this week that 7-Imp is ten years old. In Blogging World, that makes it a DINOSAUR. I’m so glad artists, during all those years, have come here to share art. Like Erin did today.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

11 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #498: Featuring Erin E. Stead”

  1. Thank you, Erin, for sharing your process. And this book looks.like.one I need for the library.
    Jules, I want to spend time with that poem. 500 hundred weeks? 10 years? Where did the time go. Yay!
    My kicks:
    1. My poem, “How To Know When You’re Dreaming” is published in VoiceCatcher.
    2. Solidarity with my co-workers regarding our contract.
    3. The understanding from our principal regarding our contract.
    4. Seeing families at the ice cream.social.
    5. Postcard from great nephews.
    6. Watching “Stranger Things”.
    7. Sitting on the deck and reading.
    Have a.great week.

  2. That poem!! Oh my. And Erin’s art. What a perfect way to start the day. Thank you!!!

  3. The Steads have selected a truly lovely area of northern Michigan in which to reside. I would still probably be in Charlevoix if I did not find myself needing to be closer to my home town downstate. I do miss the big Lake and the woods even though I have a tiny bit of woods on my property now. I have this book coming my way so I can’t wait to compare Erin’s process with the finished book. Thank you for sharing Erin. Your blog was the first one I followed faithfully, Jules. Your love of children’s literature is a gift to the world. Happy tenth anniversary!
    Congratulations on the publication of your poem, Jone.

    My kicks:
    1. A contractor finally came when promised. Two gas fireplaces are cleaned and ready for winter.
    2. Writing about books
    3. Reading Augusta Scattergood’s new title
    4. Rain
    5. Waiting for new puppies to be born
    6. Children’s laughter and hugs
    7. Visiting a colleague’s classroom for book sharing and storytelling

    Have a wonderful week.

  4. Good morning, Imps! Happy Sunday!

    Hello to Erin and the vessels and the waves and the village.

    Jules: Wowza! Happy 10 years to Seven Imp and happy almost-500 weeks of kicks. And also:

    ‘Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’

    Jone: Congratulations on the publication and the contract.

    Hi Corinna!

    Margie: Hope the pup-mom has a safe birth and that the puppies are all healthy and happy when they arrive!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Auditions
    2) Offers
    3) Visit
    4) Information
    5) Communication
    6) Confirmation
    7) Classification

  5. What a beautiful place to live and work – and of course the dog works harder than the humans! Loved seeing the evolution of the art for this book, such a lovely palette, and the story looks very fun.

    Jules – Thanks for sharing that poem, I liked it even better hearing it read. Congrats on 10 years of 7 Imps! 500 weeks of sending gratitude out into the universe is some pretty strong mojo for goodness and light.

    Jone – congrats on the publication of your poem! Sitting on the deck and reading sounds so delightful.

    Margie – Rain, waiting on new puppies and children’s laughter and hugs sounds like a great week.

    My kicks this week:
    1) A fun work-related thing happened Friday.
    2) Daisy making me laugh because she figured out how to honk the horn in the rental car. Silly dog.
    3) The Fug Girls responding to an email I sent them. Small thing, but made my day.
    4) A friend who’d been injured making more progress with recovery.
    5) My friend Chelle has a booth for Rose City Comic Con for her comic Shenanigans. So proud of her and happy for her.
    6-7) Bachelorette party for a friend. Started in PDX with coffee & gift bags, then a drive to Hood River for horseback riding, a picnic, and wine-tasting. Great day with a great group of friends.

    Happy Sunday Imps! Have a great week!

  6. Happy Almost Ten Years Blogging!

    I enjoyed reading about Erin’s process…and seeing the lovely photographs.

    No kicks for me at the moment. The weather here is gorgeous–but I’m fighting a nasty respiratory infection. I HATE being sick in the summer!!!!!

  7. Margie, yay for rain and new.puppies.
    LW, auditions and offers, do.teel.
    Rachel, Hood River is such a fun place to visit.
    Elaine, hope you feel better.

  8. Jone: Congrats on poem publication!

    Hi, Corinna. I had to read that poem about five times in a row when I first read it — on account of loving it so much. I FINALLY just heard Berry read it himself, now that I found my computer speakers (still unpacking) and plugged them in correctly.

    Margie: Thanks for the kind words on 7-Imp. That means a lot. … NEW PUPPIES? Will you get one of them? … I love your last kick. And I’m glad your contractors showed up. Having just moved and ordered some furniture—which, to be sure, I’m grateful I can do—I know the frustrations of waiting on people who say they will deliver something and then don’t follow through on that.

    Little Willow: Isn’t your wonderful blog even older than 7-Imp? Will you be a dinosaur with me?

    Rachel: I love the way the Fug Girls write and was trying to explain to a friend just last week how funny they are. I like your 4th kick, though kicks 6 to 7 are pretty flippin’ great too.

    Elaine: Feel better soon!

  9. Jules: I have been placed at the top of the list for a new puppy. I am looking for another female chocolate Labrador. We will see what happens. I know how you feel about being grateful to be able to move. I have moved more than most this past year. My gratitude for being back home is huge. There is still lots to do, but it will get done when it should.

  10. I’m so excited for you and the puppy! Keep us updated?

    “It will get done when it should.” I needed to read that.

  11. […] A must-read post at Seven Impossible Things in which Stead’s gorgeous artwork for Uncorker is … […]

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