Most of the scans are now done, and I am testing out two pages set against each other. Usually I would work on a double page spread, but because of the paper I chose, which was in smallish blocks, and also due to having a worktable that is quite small and always totally covered with layers of stuff (all being used), I did the illustrations on separate pieces of paper. This is really not to be advised, but is producing some interesting juxtapositions. Anyway, the book is what it is, by now. The borders on the finished pictures will be narrower than in this example, as I don’t want too much brown in the book. These scans are a touch hectic in colour, but this may tone down when they are full size, and in CYMK format. I shall check this when I go up to the printers for a pre-print meeting. What I do feel cheerful about is that I have learned so much, so far, and have a lot more to learn, which is all to the good.
A completely new idea for the logo – a small pen and ink figure drawn on grey paper, lightly coloured, then isolated from the background and set against a moon and sky set up on the computer. This will be very small, obviously; but I think it works much better than an earlier attempt. It shows up OK in black and white. The Moonwuzo is a character from an earlier book, “Old Merlaine”, which was published by Heinemann some years past. I have been working on an illustrated dedication, and a small oval for the last page of the book, and then all the imagery is finished. Most of the scans have now been done, though they need some cleaning up and then the words will be laid over the imagery, in most cases. Hoping to get “The Midnight Hare” to the printers within the next few weeks.
The scanned pictures for the book are now nearly all stored as pdfs on the computer, ready for the text to be laid on to them with Adobe Acrobat. There has been a need to clean up some of the colours as the brown paper used has a ridge on it which traps the top layer of colour and produces a stripy effect. It was quite fun trying to eliminate this, but in some paintings melding the colours produced too bland an outcome. My Wacom tablet has been useful for adding details, and all sorts of clever programs on Photoshop have enabled me, for instance, to lay the painted words of the invisible Midnight Hare on to the picture, without my painting them directly on to the paper.
The text is finished, so that is the next thing to deal with. There are of course imponderables, not knowing how accurate my scanner will be when the scans are taken to the printers. On the whole I deduct some of the magenta and brighten slightly. There will be a preliminary meeting with the printers before the book goes to press, when we can hopefully sort out these subtle matters. I have found it necessary to concentrate on one element at a time whilst getting this book to publication; having a kind of loose deadline for the printing is a useful spur.
This is the first page that as been set up to print, original in PDF, though this is a jpeg. It will be necessary to go over to Adobe Acrobat to put in the text, then store on the desktop until the book is put on to disc. I have thought for a long time about how to present The Midnight Hare, as most of the words are to be incorporated in the paintings; and I have decided to go for a rough edge – this takes far more time, as the Photoshop magic wand doesn’t really work with this, as the margins aren’t that clean, and it is inclined to pick up colour in the painting itself. However, I like the hand-made look. The new scanner has arrived, the blues are coming out fine, and not breaking up as they did before. The skies will need work on the computer to eliminate some of the stripeness, which comes from the paper, but a little bit of this is OK, I think it adds to the slightly crafted look, rather than having a shiny, hard-edged appearance. It is a relief to have decided on the method, now there is a lot of hard work ahead.
The blue tints seem to have worked OK on this picture of the Midnight Hare and Milo flying off above the wood. I overlaid them with various other colours and smoothed them with water, so obviously there is this one particular colour, pale cyan, that the scanner breaks up alarmingly when it is laid directly on the brown background. We came back today with the winter sun glaring straight in our eyes, and I was seeing fleeting patches of magenta and cyan and a kind of mustard yellow all over everything for a while. There was a whiteness to the sun itself and the glare surrounding it, and it made me consider cooling down the yellow in this illustration. On the other hand, the yellow works against the whiteness of the hare; and also enlivens the page, which can get too subdued with the strength of the brown as a base.
I have started to load illustrations for The Midnight Hare on to my scanner at 600dpi, which is the size I use for material to be printed; and blow me down, the scanner resolutely refuses to print out the pale cyan that I have used on several pages in the book, other than in random blotches. In the end I changed the colours, and the illustration on the left is how I will leave it. There are problems working on brown paper with gouache, neocolor and crayon, especially as the paper is supposed to be for pastels. However, the somewhat subdued tones quite please me – I shall have to work out something else for the skies, but at least I have come across the problem now rather than when the book is ready to go to print. Probably quite fortunate that much of the book takes place at night, as pale cyan isn’t much of a night-shade. How spoilt one is, with new technology – times past, one’s work came out in virulent shades, created by expensive machinery; whereas now all I have to do is sit here and fool around with crayons and the computer. Nice.
I am devouring my WordPress book at the moment, my last site was set up by someone who knew what they were doing…. I need more information on my home page, and maybe put all this here now as a blog, but haven’t found out how to do this yet. At the same time I am looking at my Photoshop book to work out another technical problem. For a technophobe this is gruelling.
This is the freest painting I have done, I just did it straight out, it will go right across two pages. The technique is gouache, neocolor crayons and ordinary crayons. Because of the size the paper is different (I prefer working in notebooks) and so the grain is going the other way which helps the look of the thing. The hare’s legs will go right across the page, and because I am having the book perfect-bound rather than stapled, probably a fraction of his limbs will be lost. But printers are pretty brilliant these days, aided by computers, so I expect the image will not be too damaged. Years ago there were great rooms full of paint and rollers and the quality of the printed image was pretty rubbish; much more satisfying these days….
I suppose all this that I am trying to do now is what is called hard work. I have worked long hours before, on commissions, staying up all night except for an hour sleeping in my clothes, I like the middle of the night with the radio on softly and no-one about. But nowadays I am more disciplined in my habits, and work mostly in the morning; except when the winter sun comes in to the little studio at the wrong angle and dazzles the page so that I can see nothing.
Today I took out a WordPress plan so that I will be able to sell The Midnight Hare over the Internet – I shall see if this pans out. Don’t have to deal with the technicalities as yet, as the launch date is some months away. I feel that maybe this opening page should be something other than a blog, but basically this is a site about self-publishing a book rather than a strictly commercial site, so we shall see how it goes along. The paintings are nearly finished, I have ordered a flatbed scanner, though I do have an all-in-one already – but I like flatbed scanners, and besides, I know the sod’s law of the mechanical conk-out at the crucial moment, so it is better to make an effort to be prepared. The first priority now is a completely finished text, down to the last comma, and some cover lettering and text for the back, so am looking out old reviews as they give some credence to the project.
Moving on to a new stage of the book, and think I will put this cover design in as the first entry in the new Moonwuzo Books website. I have been poring over a book of cover designs and notice that many of the most striking ones have lettering that looks as if it has been hand-written – noticing that, I now feel that something more dynamic is called for here, maybe with a forward slant to mirror the movement across the sky. But the colour of the lettering and the spine I like. It would be more logical to have deep blue for the night time, but I just relish the red, there is a kind of joy in it. For pre-publication purposes, I need to get this cover done within the next couple of weeks; so it will back out to my studio, aka the Tardis, up in the vegetable garden, where I will try and find a way of jazzing up this lettering.
Many times I have been involved with setting up illustrated books, sending the work off to publishers in London, though lately working with the local publisher Serafina Press I have done the scans myself. But somehow, with this story, I seem to have a different attitude. Maybe it is because it is totally a one-man band project. I am very lucky in that not that far away in Spittal, Berwick upon Tweed, are some brilliant book printers who will help me through the tangle.