Tag Archives: Vanessa van der Baan

From sketches to art

A sampling of Anne Rockwell books

Left-to-right: Becoming Butterflies, Planes, Our Stars, My Spring Robin, Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train, My Preschool

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10. Would you share some of your own process with us? And what’s coming up for you?

Joy Chu: Here are selected pages from the book dummy for My Preschool, followed by pages from the final book. Your grand-daughter assisted you with creating the artwork, yes?

Outline sketch for the title page of "My Preschool"

Note that the above sketch is the mirror-image version of the final result below.
[Anne: This is the drawing that's transferred onto mylar, via your monoprint process, yes?—JC]

Title page art from "My Preschool"

Title page art from "My Preschool"

Finished art from "My Preschool"

Finished art from "My Preschool"

A book dummy sketch from "My Preschool"

A book dummy sketch from "My Preschool"

Here are images from the book dummy for Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train. Anne provided the drawings, which were colorized by Vanessa van der Baan.

A book dummy page from "Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train"

A book dummy page from "Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train"

Sketch was transferred, then colorized.

Sketch was transferred, then colorized.

Another dummy page from "Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train"

Another dummy page from "Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train"

Corresponding colorized final art

Corresponding colorized final art

Anne Rockwell: Vanessa and I are working on a similar book about the local police station called Vroom! Vroom! Go the Police. Vanessa is illustrating all by herself–a first.  But she’s been an animator at Cartoon Network ever since she finished college at NYU film school.

Vanessa van deer Baan: It has definitely been an interesting transition from the animation world into the world of children’s books.

I have really enjoyed seeing through the process and how it differs. It’s much more fun to have your artwork seen for more than a millisecond and it allows me to spend more time focusing on detail.It’s also more rewarding to have something tangible in the end!

Creating the dummy for the first time was also a challenging process. It is a lot like story boarding for animation but you also have a lot less of a moment to tell the story in than with animation. One image must relay a large chunk of the story.

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge working on this new book and I can’t wait to see how it turns out once all the color is in place!

Joy Chu: And here is Vanessa’s muse for creating her VROOM VROOM images:

"VroomVroom" van der Baan

"VroomVroom" van der Baan

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Joy Chu: Let’s look at yet another art technique. Here are samples from another of Anne’s collaborators, artist Megan Halsey. This is from Becoming Butterflies:

Cover from "Becoming Butterflies"

Cover from "Becoming Butterflies"

Title page from "Becoming Butterflies"

Title page from "Becoming Butterflies"

From "Becoming Butterflies"

From "Becoming Butterflies"

From "Becoming Butterflies"

From "Becoming Butterflies"

From "Becoming Butterflies"

From "Becoming Butterflies"

According to the copyright page, the illustrations were “…first painted in watercolor on Passion watercolor paper, then individuallly cut out and glued in layers to create a three-dimensional piece of art.”

Since three-dimensional art cannot be shot on a scanner, the art must be shot by a photographer, either digitally or via transparencies.

It also appears that the background texture of the watercolor paper itself — not just of the subjects themselves, but the backgrounds they are adhered to — was included as part of the art, as seen with the white space on the title page.

This presents a new set of issues to address. By its very nature, the quality of the photograph is dependent upon the lighting of the artwork and the skill of the photographer.

The colors in the resulting photograph, or scan, will invariably change between the original paint color and what the camera perceives.

And then there are the shadows. How harsh or soft will they be in the resulting photoscan? Will they detract or enhance the art? And what about inadvertent unwanted shadows from neighboring elements?

Of course, the goal is to have the photo or scan match the original art as closely as humanly possible.

Ultimately, the end results must be approved by the artist, editor, art director, and the book printer.

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More collaborations

Anne’s books cover such a wide range of topics. It’s lovely to see the variety of artistic styles applied to her work — whether by herself, or by others. Visit Anne’s book page, and you’ll see the categories at-a-glance.

Anne Rockwell's book categories

Anne Rockwell's book categories

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8.  Let’s look at other collaborations. . .

Here’s a charming selection of illustrations from Bernice Lum. This title is another Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out book :

"My Pet Hampster," by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Bernice Lum

"My Pet Hampster," by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Bernice Lum

From "My Pet Hampster", art by Bernice Lum

From "My Pet Hampster", art by Bernice Lum

From "My Pet Hampster", art by Bernice Lum

From "My Pet Hampster", art by Bernice Lum

Anne Rockwell: I think it is overall charming!  It’s a rather humanized hamster, don’t you think?

Joy Chu: It’s certainly an adorable hamster. For this book, the hamster has to be rendered likeable for us (the reader), so we are sympathetic to it. I think the “humanization” is a good thing.
I do note that that the hamster’s happy-closed eyes echos the little girl’s. I like it when we see its eyes wide-open, too. Kids really respond to eyeballs that move, and look around — the way they do, I think!

Overall, the book makes the subject of caring for hamsters really come alive. I love Bernice’s use of “action lines” to spice up the drawings. Everything really moves . . . the book is purely factual, and yet  not all step-by-step textbook-like in the least.

Joy Chu: Collaborations can take on different methodologies. For Whoo Whoo Goes the Train, you rendered the drawings. Vanessa van der Baan colorized the illustrations.

"Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train," Text and art by Anne Rockwell, colorized by Vanessa van der Baan

"Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train," Text and art by Anne Rockwell, colorized by Vanessa van der Baan

Anne Rockwell: When Vanessa van der Baan agreed to help me with digitally coloring my line art for Whoo Whoo Goes the Train, I wasn’t sure what it would look like.  Some computer art is rather cold and flat for my taste, and from what I’d see of her animation on The Kids Next Door TV show, I doubted that would be her approach.

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

All the same, when I saw her first piece of sample art — the train going over a bridge with fisherfolk and boats underneath— I was bedazzled!  Fortunately our editor at Harper/Collins, Phoebe Yeh, responded as I did, and we were on our way.

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

from "Whoo Whoo Goes the Train"

Whoo Whoo Goes the Train was to be followed by a sort-of companion book about a visit to the local police station.  As I wrote it, the problems I was having with arthritis in my right thumb joint were getting worse, and I’d been told that my only hope was complicated surgery with a lengthy recovery.

By this time, The Kids Next Door had finished all its episodes, and Vanessa had given birth to an adorable little girl.  Her commute was horrendous, so it wasn’t at all surprising that she decided to stay home (way out on Long Island) and be a full time mom.

Wonderful Phoebe accepted my idea that Vanessa not simply color, but illustrate the entire book.  Well, sort of.

First, Vanessa had to do a book dummy.

storyboard diagram

storyboard diagram

For some reason, dummies have always come naturally to me, perhaps because I had drawn a daily comic strip when I was very little on my father’s shirt cardboards.

And I loved Egyptian art in the museum.  I suspected that Vanessa’s experience and training in animation would enable her to understand the pacing of a dummy, too.  And I was right!

Egyptian art sample

Egyptian art sample

When  I saw her dummy for the new book, Vroom Vroom , I was amazed.  It ran the gauntlet at Harper and there were only a few miniscule suggestions.  So she’s at work on  it now.  I’d love to read what she has to say at this stage of the game!

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On art media

cover from ONE-EYED GIANT and Other Monsters

ONE-EYED GIANT and Other Monsters

Joy Chu: Your replies are so fascinating and fun. It’s great we are having this exchange. I also enjoyed your depiction of Greek monsters (silk-screened gold ink outlines, then colorized) in THE ONE-EYED GIANT and THE BOY WHO WOULDN’T OBEY. Who did you work with on those two books? And another one of your books was drawn by you, and colorized by another artist. Did that happen at the time you started having problems with your hand?

THE BOY WHO WOULDN'T OBEY: A Mayan Legend

THE BOY WHO WOULDN'T OBEY: A Mayan Legend

Anne Rockwell: On BOY WHO WOULDN’T OBEY and THE ONE-EYED GIANT, I worked with Libby Shub (now deceased) and Ava Weiss (art director, retired) at Greenwillow.  I’d had one of many hand surgeries so Lizzy (daughter Lizzy Rockwell) colored in ONE-EYED GIANT under my supervision.  BOY WHO is bamboo pen, sepia ink, and watercolor on cream Japanese rice paper.  I’m particularly fond of the way that book looks.

Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train

Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train

Are you referring to WHOO! WHOO! GOES THE TRAIN — by me and colorized by Vanessa van der Baan?  That was due to hand problems. She’s a good friend.  We’re doing another book together for editor Phoebe Yeh called VROOM! VROOM! GO THE POLICE and this one Vanessa is illustrating all by herself — a first.  But she’s been an animator at Cartoon Network ever since she finished college at NYU film school.