I am very excited to have an exhibition of the original art for my book, THE TYPEWRITER, along with other assorted work at the Southington Community Cultural Arts Center at 93 North Main Street in Southington, Ct. The exhibition runs through December 31 with an opening on Thursday, December 1 (7-10 pm) and a special children's presentation on Sunday, December 4 (1:00 pm). Please see the link below for details. http://www.southingtonarts.org http://www.southingtonarts.org/bill-thomson
If you are near Vernon, Connecticut on Saturday, October 29, please come and see a nice children's
book exhibition including my original artwork at Arts Center East 709 Hartford
Turnpike Vernon, CT 06066. I will be making a presentation about my work, participating
in a panel discussion and signing books tomorrow at 2pm)! http://artscentereast.org/event/creating-childrens-picture-book-presentation-2/
If you are near Warwick, NY on October 8, you can visit me at the Warwick Children's Book Festival from 11am-4pm, a WONDERFUL event sponsored by the Warwick Public Library celebrating children's literature!
My latest book, The Typewriter, celebrates
the power of words and fuses imagination with writing in a dramatic visual
adventure. The Typewriter follows CHALK and FOSSIL as the
final chapter in my trilogy of wordless books. Each of these books explores a
different elementary school subject through the lens of a child’s
imagination. The Typewriter intends to foster creativity and
encourages young readers to view writing as a fun and powerful tool.
The Typewriter,CHALK and FOSSIL
were not only created to entertain young readers, but I hope they will serve as
educational tools as well. Wordless stories require the participation of
young readers and offer the opportunity to create unique narratives
by interpreting what is seen in the illustrations. This allows readers to
develop an understanding of story structure, establish characters and settings,
and hone prediction, sequence and inference skills. Wordless books can function
as a visual prompt to build confidence for beginning or reluctant readers, as a
"story starter" for older children, and as a possible launching point
for creative activities or discussion. Creative educators across the country
have utilized my books in wonderful ways with their students, and I hope The
Typewriter will be put to similar good use.
For me, creating a book is an evolving process. The
Typewriter began as a written synopsis that was very different than
the book I ultimately created. After refining my initial story idea, I drew
small thumbnail sketches to clarify the story and work out the vantage point of
each illustration. As a comparison of my first thumbnail sketches with the finished book would demonstrate, the ending
of the book completely changed from what I originally drew. But this
isn't unusual- I constantly try to improve upon my initial idea and make many
changes throughout the entire creative process.
Here is my thumbnail sketch for an illustration
depicting what happened after the children typed the word, "ice
cream." This illustration underwent went more changes than any
illustration in the entire book (and maybe any book I have illustrated).
After settling on my idea, I always shoot reference
photographs to provide visual information to draw and paint from. This
helps me make every element of my painting look equally convincing and
believable. My youngest son, Ethan, was the model for this illustration, and you
can see him holding an ice cream cone similar to my sketch.
While photographing my other models, I realized
eating small ice cream cones wasn't a very dramatic or grand visual. While I
wanted to show ice cream as something kids could relate to, I thought a large
bucket of ice cream would be much more spectacular and fit better with the
beach. I quickly doodled an alternate sketch idea with the ice cream being in a
giant beach bucket and shot additional photographs to go along with that idea.
I liked it much better and moved the illustration in that direction.
Here are the photographs that I took for the
various other elements of the illustration. Photographs provide visual
reference that help me make the lighting and form consistent and believable.
But as you can see, I alternated things significantly (especially their heads
and faces). These two models, Mikayla and Hilton, were students I met while
visiting an elementary school- they were WONDERFUL! I also took photos of
Sunset Beach, North Carolina, our favorite family vacation spot. I use the best
information from many photos as the starting point for my drawing, and then
change freely to create the best and most convincing painting I can.
I draw the illustration in graphite on a piece of
Crescent #115 Watercolor board.
Then I paint over the entire drawing with a thin
coat of Gesso and Yellow Ochre Acrylic paint. This gives the entire image a
warm "sunshine" base color.
black areas are painted next to establish the darkest darks.
After that, I mask off everything except the sky.
To make the sky completely smooth, I use an airbrush.
I really don't like using airbrushes because I have
to cover my entire studio with plastic. Airbrushes throw a mist of paint in the
air and everything in my studio usually gets covered with light dusting of
color. My studio is messy enough without the addition of colored airbrush dust.
Then I use the airbrush to apply the sky color.
After the mask is removed, the blue sky is complete
while everything else remained its original warm base color.
But despite my best efforts, a light blue dusting
still found its way all over my studio.
Next, I mask off the sky and figures, leaving only
the sand areas exposed. I apply various values of light tan sand colors with
toothbrush to create a fine speckled texture.
After the mask is removed, the sky and sand are
complete and I paint the water with F.W. Acrylic Inks. I like to work from back
to front, so I always paint the background elements of my illustration first. I
really like the contrast in texture between the smooth airbrushed sky and
speckled sand- it is beginning to feel like the beach! I also add some light
blue/violet acrylic washes to give all of the shadow areas a cool tone.
Next I paint the bucket, ice cream, and birds...
… and then the skin tones, beach ball, and
the kid's clothing.
And finally, I go over everything one last time
with very sharp Prismacolor colored pencils.
After the illustration was complete and delivered,
my editor and art director had some concerns about the green bucket and asked
if I would consider changing the color digitally. Creating a book is a
collaboration between a publisher and author/illustrator, and I am always happy
to explore other possibilities if it will improve the book. As a side note- I
hadn't realized it at the time, but every bucket I have ever painted was green.
It was time to venture out of my comfort zone (ha, ha).
I explored several different color variations with
Photoshop to show possible alternatives. Because the bucket appeared in three
illustrations, the color had to work equally well on multiple illustrations.
After trying a variety of color options, we settled
on the orange bucket. I like it much, MUCH better because it relates to the
Monarch butterfly that connects the three books in my wordless trilogy. As
complimentary colors, the orange also really pops against the blue sky.
The designer made the final color adjustment in
production and this is what the final illustration looks like in the book.
Creating a children's book is a long journey and
there are often many changes and adjustments along the way. My constant goal is
to produce the very best book that I possibly can for young readers to enjoy.
The story is MOST important, so I never allow myself to get too attached to any
one particular aspect if I can possibly make it better. In the case of this
illustration, I believe that flexibility resulted in a much better illustration
and improved the story overall. I think the ice cream bucket was a MAJOR
improvement, and I also like the bucket's color change much better as well. I
might not always be smart enough to get it right the first time, but by
continually striving to improve and being open to change, I try to get
there in the end.
As the concluding chapter in my wordless trilogy, I really wanted The
Typewriter to be special. I spent more time on this book than anything
I have ever done. From drawing reflections on each of the typewriter's
forty-six keys to carefully painting the letters adorning its reflective case
to demonstrating the function of this beautiful vintage writing machine-
creating every meticulous detail of this book was a true labor of love. I
hope you enjoy reading The Typewriter as much as I enjoyed creating it,
and that it brings the power of words to life for young readers everywhere!