This is one of my favorite spreads from A Ticket to the Pennant, a children’s book I’m working on set in south Seattle of 1955. It features the iconic Indeginious-meets-moderne facade at the west end of the I-90 floating bridge. It was designed by sculptor James Wehn in 1940. The two rounded portals used to be east and west bound, but since the expansion they’re now both eastbound which, unfortunately, makes it hard to view. My father, West Seattle High School class of ’60, calls them “the tubes,” and says street racers used to drag race in the tunnels in the 1950s (statute of limitations expired) because there was no cross traffic. My father drag raced legally at Puyallup Raceway, for the record. The dashboard is from the 1949 Plymouth he owns currently.
It’s a little early for Halloween, but for a soon-to-be-announced project I’ve been reading a lot of horror stories and I recently discovered the perverse joys of Reddit’s NoSleep, where authors post scary original stories online. Content-wise it’s about as far from Larry Gets Lost and cute animals as you can get.
Each month NoSleep has a contest. July’s winning story (proceed at your own risk) was so haunting that I wanted to try to do an illustration for it. The story is about a man recalling the death of his twin brother when they were young. Somehow, his brother was able to continue speaking for a while after his death and able describe what he encountered in the afterlife. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t pleasant. I wanted the illustration to represent the inter-dimensional, eternity-spanning concepts of the story without being too literal. The deathbed is a kind of portal and the intersection of the two brothers is the doorway between life and death.
The idea of the exercise was to work within the limitations of old fashioned two-color offset printing, the type used in magazines of the ’50s and ’60s, using only black plus one color and tones. Below are some early sketchbook concepts.
Recently Sasquatch Books hired me to illustrate a children’s book called A Ticket to the Pennant, written by Mark Holtzen. It’s a story about the beer company-sponsored Seattle Rainiers baseball team winning the Pacific Coast League pennant in 1955. Set in Rainier Valley near long-gone Sick’s Stadium, the story provided me with a great opportunity for researching 1950s Seattle. I’ve discovered so many interesting things –some included in the book, many not– that I wanted to blog some of it here for posterity. Starting with the cover, featuring the main gate on the northwest corner.
I found this fanciful early, art deco conceptual design in the MOHAI photo archives. You can see some toned down art deco elements in the finished stadium design.
Two aerial shots of Sicks Stadium. I don’t have dates but the top one is clearly older. The trees are still above the gates. Even though the trees were probably present in 1955, I left them out for a cleaner composition. Rainier Avenue runs along the right side.
The Rainiers neon sign. Sometime in the 50s, based on vehicles. We’re not sure whether the sign was actually there in 1955 (it was built around that time) but it was too iconic to leave out. I even used it on the endpapers.
The Angels came after the Rainiers.
Exterior, main gate. 1940s? With apostrophe (Sicks’) and trees over the gates.
1970s, without apostrophe.
This is a view of our hero, Huey, sprinting south on Rainier Avenue toward the stadium. The car in the street is the Mount Baker Cleaners truck, seen here.
One of the great things about working in a large art department is the ability to walk around and see what other people are working on and how they do it. Everybody learns little software tricks and techniques from each other. Now that I don’t work in a big department I have to learn these things on the street.
My all time favorite colorist, maestro Dave Stewart appeared at a panel of colorists at #ECCC. (Full disclosure, I can’t name any other colorists.) He’s the go-to guy for Mike Mignola and Darwyn Cooke. Like them, his aesthetic is rooted in mid century print design and analog brushwork, even if everything is done in Photoshop.
Two photoshop tricks I learned from the panel.
1. Anybody who is trying to achieve natural, painterly strokes in Photoshop uses Kyle Webster’s brushes. That was unanimous among the 7 colorists at the panel. The brushes are very affordable but require CS5 or higher.
2. This one may be embarrassingly common knowledge but was news to me. In Photoshop: Window > Arrange > New window for… This creates a duplicate version of the image you’re working on. If you have an extra monitor you can leave it up there at full screen while you work in closeup on your main monitor. The other image will continually update so you can see how your work is affecting the whole image.
Just finishing up San Francisco ABC. The cover is still in progress but here’s a peek at the interior pages in the meantime.
Because the ABC books are a more simple narrative than the Larry Gets Lost books, I like to play with the design in a bolder way. Every spread is an opportunity for a different poster-like graphic. With this book I tried to evoke the feel of vintage 2- or 3-color printing.
I’m obsessed with Game of Thrones and eagerly awaiting season 5. Here’s a Little Golden Book tribute to my favorite duo (and favorite scene). Since this is season 4 specific I thought I’d better get it out before the new season starts.