I couldn’t let Mother’s Day go by this year without mentioning Gray, my only child, who happens also to be my occasional co-conspirator in the realm of book illustration. This ginger fellow may be taller than me now, but is barely a teenager—he turned thirteen last fall, just a few months after he contributed drawings to one of my latest book endeavors, duopress‘s 100 PABLO PICASSOS. Summarizing the incredible life of Pablo Picasso for a 32-page children’s book would be a difficult task for anyone, but author Mauricio Velázquez de León made it look easy. There are 14 two-page spreads in the book, each devoted to a different topic: Picasso’s Blue Period (above), his Rose Period, the years he spent chumming with the likes of Max Jacob and Henri Matisse in Gertrude Stein’s studio (below), etc. The first spread in 100 PABLO PICASSOS is devoted to the artist’s early life—and this is where Gray comes in. Gray is an amazing artist—he made the above sketch, which is such a tiny sample of his overall body of work that it is laughable. In my house, storage tubs filled with thirteen years of this kind of thing are stuck in every closet and under every bed. Because of my son’s particular interest in architecture, duopress contracted then-nine-year-old Gray to doodle some famous Big Apple buildings for the web component of Doodle New York (by Puck/illustrated by Violet Lemay/2012). A handful of QR codes are sprinkled throughout Doodle New York, which are linked to downloadable coloring pages—several of which were drawn (with a blue ball-point pen!) by Gray… whose professional name is Graham Fruisen. The coloring pages are still available, but you can only see them if you buy the book and scan the QR codes. When you do, imagine a skinny, freckled, bespectacled teenager groaning with despair. “That is not my best work!” As soon as I read Mauricio’s manuscript for 100 PABLO PICASSOS, I knew I would enlist Gray’s help for the “Picasso as a boy” spread. The mom in me was excited because school was out for the summer, and I was looking stuff for Gray to do. I asked him to contribute drawings of donkeys, doves, and bulls—not Gray’s typical genre, but he was willing to dabble. My hope was that my new assistant would just draw them already! As a boy Picasso drew in a classic style, very similar to the way Gray tends to draw—but my son went the extra mile. He researched Picasso and did his best to draw donkeys, doves and bulls as he imagined Picasso (the grown up, world renowned artist) would have drawn them. The result (below) is beautiful, even if it isn’t exactly what I had in mind. But hey, this is what happens when illustrators pay their assistants with Little Debbie Swiss Rolls and blueberry freezes from the corner Quickie Mart. Our resulting collaboration, 100 Pablo Picassos, is newly available everywhere books are sold. Click here to order your copy today! And THANK YOU, Gray! You’ll always be my baby. Mama loves you, boy.
100 Pablo Picassos is a 32-page children’s picture book, every square inch of which is crammed with full-bleeding spreads as well as tons of spot illustrations.
After the release date, I’ll write a nice long post about how we made the book, which is the brainchild of the author Mauricio Velázquez de León.
It is February as I’m writing this post, three months before the official release date of 100 Pablo Picassos; however, hard copies are already available for pre-order and will actually materialize everywhere books are sold in April, and the e-Book versions are good to go now. As a contributor, it’s time for me to start making some noise!
Making Some Noise
Thanks to my former life as a professor of self promotion, there is a small part of my brain that is always clicking away, trying to come up with innovative ways to publicize whatever project has been holding my attention. The obvious first step is always social media, because it is easy and free.
Use Existing Art
Perhaps most obvious way for an illustrator to promote her upcoming book is to generate interest by sharing the art that she’s already created for the project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and etc. I’ve been taking advantage of the plethora of illustrations that we created for 100 Pablo Picassos, posting little bits of it daily—along with interesting photos and facts of Picasso’s history acquired from the internet—on my Violet Lemay Illustration Facebook fan page. I’ve been pacing myself, “leaking” the art slowly, a task made easier for 100 Pablo Picassos because it contains many, many spot illustrations; however, the same approach can be applied to a book whose every page is covered with full-bleeding two-page spreads. The artist of such a book could tease her audience and draw out the promotion process by posting close-up detail shots from each spread, leading up to the big moment when she posts the whole image in its entirety.
Make New Art
One advantage that book illustrators have over authors in the area of promotion is that, for any given project, we can create as many additional visuals as time and interest allow. As you can imagine, immersing oneself in the history of Pablo Picasso, one of the world’s most colorful and prolific artists, was both humbling and inspirational. Picasso’s life and his work drew me in as an artist, inspiring a bevy of personal work aimed at promoting the book.
Portraits of Friends
First, I dabbled in acrylics creating Picasso-esque portraits of friends and family members for some upcoming gallery exhibitions.
This was so much fun, and was one of those roads down which I had to walk—it was either that, or die. You artists know what I mean. Some inspirations tickle a little and make you twitch; others come at you with a whip.
I will write about those portraits and the gallery shows in greater detail later this spring as the dates get closer. Or perhaps after, so I’ll have photos to share. Let’s wait and see.
Portraits of Picasso’s Ladies
More recently, spurred on by the approach of Valentine’s Day, I’ve been working on a series of small, quickly-done watercolor portraits of Picasso’s many love interests.
Even a tiny bit of digging into Picasso’s romantic life produces results that can only be described as spectacular. Because 100 Pablo Picassos is a book for children, the author handled the entire topic with grace, tact, and an absolute minimum of words.
We show only one of Picasso’s many lady friends in 100 Pablo Picassos, so I had only one existing painting on the topic to share for Valentine’s Day (above), which features Picasso’s first girlfriend/muse, Fernande Olivier.
Knowing the truth about Picasso’s romantic life as I do now—so many women, all who had an impact on his art in a profound way—the idea of posting only a single image on the topic seemed underwhelming. I could have devoted my daily facebook posts to photos of all of his varied wives and paramours, but I am an illustrator after all. Instead, I decided to paint them—quickly this time, and much smaller that my previous Picasso-inspired portraits.
The result is a new and ever-growing series, including this watercolor portrait of Eva Gouel.
I will be posting my portraits along with interesting photos and facts about these lovely ladies (including Bridgitte Bardot, the object of a Picasso crush!) on my Violet Lemay Illustration Facebook fan page, as well as on Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest—all for the cause of promoting the upcoming release of 100 Pablo Picassos. I would love it if you’d follow along.
If all of this has piqued your curiosity about the women in Picasso’s life, you may enjoy reading Madame Picasso by Anne Girard (Harlequin MIRA, 2014). Madame Picasso, a novel (historic fiction), tells the story of Eva Gouel; it’s a fascinating read that slows down a few years in the life of this great man, whose timeline is regularly assessed in large spans. Click here for more details.
To order 100 Pablo Picassos, click here.
A Story, and a TutorialThis post begins with a story and ends with a helpful spot-color printing tutorial. If you’re a designer in a rush, by all means, scroll!
In the spring of 2013 I was putting final touches on the art for a project that will always be near to my heart: Isabella’s Shoe Studio (duopress/2013).
Isabella followed a string of Doodle books which I also illustrated for duopress. Every book in the Doodle series has a 4-C cover (standard 4-color process printing), and a black and white interior — basically, a pre-press breeze.
Like the Doodle series, Isabella would be an activity book, but would also tell a story.
Isabella’s Shoe Studio is something completely unique: a Doodle Storybook™. We decided to use the the Doodle books’ 8″ square trim size and French flaps to give Isabella duopress’s house look; to set her apart we would do something special in the realm of color.
Some crazy person had the idea to give Isabella’s Shoe Studio a 2-C interior. Somebody else (or possibly the same crazy person?) suggested a 3-C cover. I love the retro look of two- and three-color printing, and we all agreed and it would be a fun, inexpensive way to set Isabella apart.
3-C = (you guessed it!) three colors.
For Isabella’s Shoe Studio’s 3-C cover, we added PMS 304, a turquoise-y blue, to add a some punch to our soft pink.
Class, don’t trust your computer monitor! The color you see on your monitor is generated from a luminous mix of RGB (Red, Green, Blue), not CMYK—see below—and the appearance of color varies from one monitor to the next. To select colors with confidence, use a Pantone swatch book. These are expensive, but well-worth the cost. If you can’t afford a swatch book and you’re working with a local printer, stop in and ask to have a peek at theirs.
Printing: Color Basics
Process color (CMYK)
If you’ve ever had to replace ink cartridges for a desktop printer, you understand the mystery of 4-color printing, known as PROCESS color, or PROCESS printing. The full spectrum of standard* colors are created by a mix of CMYK inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. This is The Process. Standard Operating Procedure. Every printer on the planet (and every pre-press operator) is programmed to print in CMYK.
*Special colors like metallics and fluorscents can’t be created from a standard CMYK mix. Those colors have to be added in a separate print run, and are called SPOT COLORS. You’ll find them at the back of your Pantone swatch book. 🙂
Spot Color (1-C, 2-C, 3-C, etc)
Rather than resulting from a CMYK mix, a SPOT color comes from a can; or more likely, an industrial-sized drum. Spot color is pre-mixed ink that is identified by a PMS color number—very similar to the way house paints are organized and presented. A spot color can also be a recipe of multiple inks stirred up into a color cocktail.
In book publishing 2- and 3-C printing is much more rare than CMYK, but spot color images surround us every day on screen-printed textiles and bottles. Imagine a two-color graphic printed on a T-shirt, or Coke’s trademark red and white logo printed on a bottle.
The Story, cont’d…
duopress is a fairly young company. In the spring of 2013, although we were working with a highly excellent printer, our inexperience coupled with a language barrier added layers of confusion to our tech-talk.
My only experience at the time with 2-C printing was from the year I spent managing a full service print shop at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the mid-nineties. Every term, graphic design students were given a 2-C, screen-printed logo assignment. Our shop techs printed those bad boys by hand, dragging goopy Chroma/Tech ink with a squeegy over templates that had been burned onto film—usually multiple times before achieving a perfect print—for every student. (Think T-shirt screening by hand, times a million.) This task kept us busy around the clock for weeks at a time, and it remains etched in my memory.
The Chroma/Tech assignment taught me how to manually set up files for 2-C printing; in other words, how to separate the colors.
Manual Color Separations
The image above is an actual example of the color separation plates that we made for Isabella’s Shoe Studio. I created 2 separate plates in grayscale mode for every image in the book: a pink plate that showed the printer where to put the pink ink, and a black plate for the black ink.
Any gradients or tints of pink had to be converted to a HALFTONE DOTS, just like vintage comics. We converted the pink cheeks for all of the characters in the book, which had been created by smudging charcoal, to halftones—see above. (Halftone How-To: Convert image color mode to BITMAP. Select “halftone screen” on the new menu that pops up, then play with the sliders until you’re happy with the size and density of the resulting dots.)
Isabella’s Shoe Studio’s designer Charla Pettingill created two InDesign documents of the book’s interior to send to the printer: one for the black ink, and one for the pink. She placed any type that would be printed in gray or black in the black document, and pink type was set in the pink document.
This process is great if you want to give your project an authentic retro look, with a bit of off-register color here and there, but be advised: there is a ton of extra work (look up TRAPPING before you make your decision!), and you will have to explain to your printer what you are doing. Modern pre-flight technology is automated, even for 2- and 3- color print jobs. A printer’s RIP (rastor image processor) software creates separation plates automatically. If you submit manually separated plates, you run the risk of throwing everyone into a tizzy.
I write this from experience! We had a a bit of trouble with Isabella’s Shoe Studio‘s printing process—but class, I have to say, in my humble opinion it was all worthwhile. The way those inks rest on that creamy white paper and interact with one another is a joy to behold. Isabella’s Shoe Studio is the kind of tactile experience that causes designers to salivate. The above photo shows 1-C on the inside front cover (PMS 204). The 2-C title page (PMS 196 + black) is reflective of the entire interior of Isabella’s Shoe Studio.
IMPORTANT NOTE: People in general and printers specifically prefer not to be thrown into tizzies. If you are using spot color, even if you have tons of experience, ask your printer to provide a file set-up guide. There are multiple accepted methods, and preferences vary. Copy and paste this sentence into an e-mail: “Please send your pre-flight requirements for spot color printing.”
At duopress, we’ve produced several beautiful books that include 1-, 2-, and 3-C elements since paving the way with Isabella’s Shoe Studio, all with much less stress. Here’s how we currently set up 1-C spot color files:
Prepping Images for 1-C (spot color) printing
Open the art files in Photoshop. If necessary, convert to grayscale (Image –> Mode –> Grayscale). If you file is not in grayscale mode, Photoshop refuses to allow you to convert it to monotone mode, which is your end game.
Adjust levels (Command + L) until you have a true black and white image. Open the info menu (Window –> Info). Hover your cursor over the image and check the color mixes in the info panel: in black areas, the K on the left should read 100%; in white areas, it should be 0%.
With your PMS color number in hand (Class: swatch book!), change your image’s color mode to DUOTONE. (Mode –> duotone.) Note: Eventually your file will be a MONOTONE, but for some reason this is not given as an option in the drop-down menu. Do not panic, just keep reading.
When you select the duotone option, a “Duotone Options” menu appears.
Set MONOTONE as your file TYPE. Click on the color box next to “Ink 1” to reveal a color-selection menu and corresponding eye-dropper tool.
Select “Color Libraries” to reveal yet another menu—this one is a list of the world’s color systems.
Scroll to select your printer’s preference. If you’re unsure, ask! At duopress we use PANTONE solid coated, which is pretty standard.
Scroll to find your color number, or type the number and its swatch will appear at the top of the list. (Note: type fast! pauses between numbers cause Photoshop to get confused.) Photoshop requires that you enter a name for the color into the field next to the swatch.
Voila! Your grayscale image is now a monotone. It may look slightly different than your color chip but don’t worry, that’s why you invested in that swatch book! The ink will match the printed color swatch, not the color you see on your monitor.
Monotone files can’t be saved as a TIF. Save the art as a .psd file (.eps works, too), and place it in your layout.
Pantone colors can be imported into InDesign’s swatch palette, for any lettering or graphic elements created in InDesign that are to be printed in the spot color.
In InDesign, click the arrow in the top right corner of the SWATCHES menu, then select “New Color Swatch” at the top of the list. Select your color mode, and import the chosen spot color into your palette.
Violet Lemay, the author of this post, is an illustrator, and is also the art director at duopress. Credit for all duopress book concepts goes to the publisher, Mauricio Velázquez de León. Click here to see all of duopress’s books.
This fall my favorite publisher duopress is rolling out a cool new project: PARK: A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons. PARK is an oversized book with an accordian-fold interior that extends to almost five feet in length.
duopress’s goal for PARK was twofold: 1) Celebrate the beauty of Central Park, which represents city parks in general, and 2) Take full advantage of the uniqueness of the fold-out.
We envisioned an abstracted, exploded view of the Central Park stretching across the five-foot spread, with the seasons evolving from left to right to show the passage of time—something that couldn’t be done as fluidly in a traditional book. Additionally, we decided to fill the park with characters whose stories develop as the seasons evolve. For example, we meet a pair of hipsters in the spring on the left. As we see them in the summer and fall their beards are longer and longer until, in their final appearance in winter on the far right of the book, they actually come alive.
The next challenge was finding the perfect illustrator and designer for the job.
In early 2014, riding waves of success from his blog-turned-book All The Buildings in New York (Universe Publishing/2013), James Gulliver Hancock signed on to illustrate PARK. James, a globetrotting Aussie and part-time resident of Brooklyn, NY, created all of the art from his home in Sydney.
PARK was a dream project for me! To draw Central Park, an icon of New York City, and play with a whole bunch of quirky characters through the seasons would be so much fun. I also loved that duopress was up for doing a different kind of production in the form of the fold out and the large scale.
The drawing on the back cover of the kid on the bicycle showing how big the book is really sums up the playfulness that I loved about the project from the beginning. And which kid didn’t love Where’s Waldo? it was a dream to be able to make my own take on that style of project. Also having lived in New York through the seasons, it was so fun to represent some of my experiences through the seasons—because the weather in each season is so graphic and obvious in the northern hemisphere.
It was definitely an ambitious project for me, but like most I started in the begging and worked to the end. 🙂
It was fun to do really rough sketches at the beginning, basically just circles for placement, then build that up to a second sketch and then take it all the way to final. I had to draw quite large to get all the detail in there, so there was quite a lot of collaging together of drawings to make the huge final. It was always a matter of zooming in and out to get a sense for it on the computer as it came together, but there was nothing like the moment when I saw it produced in all it’s finished glory!
From her studio in Toronto, free-lancer Beatriz Juarez joined the team to design the book, including the title type treatment, which she created by hand.
I start with a blank page and sketch the title in as many styles as possible with markers. For Park I tried many styles, with letters that were totally script and fluid, until I got to a more cartoonish style. When I think I can get more organic options to a a particular style, I switch to my brushes. I probably filled a whole notebook with 250 pages trying different styles. When I chose the 4 characters I was happy with, I put them together in Photoshop. Retraced them and clean them up.
LAUNCH: Book Expo America
In early June, team duopress met in Central Park’s hometown of NYC to debut an advance copy of PARK at Book Expo America. All new book projects are a roll of the dice, especially for small indie publishers like duopress, but PARK: A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons was extremely well received, and publisher Mauricio Velázquez de León (seen above with James Gulliver Hancock) is optimistic:
At duopress we focus in publishing books that can’t translate too easy into the digital world. All the hand-held devices and high-tech tablets in the world can’t really compete with the size of a fold-out or a board book. I believe fold-out books are making a comeback. I see more an more coming into the market (That’s great news for Park!) It seems that Fold-Out books are becoming what pop-up books have been for years; a real competition against a world saturated with screens.
Since its inception in 2006, duopress—a small indie book publisher currently based in Baltimore—has been producing award-winning, innovative books and gifts for curious children.
duopress specializes in city-specific books and puzzles that reflect the company’s love for kids in a contemporary cosmopolitan style. Visit any US metropolis and you’re bound to see Cool Counting books, Doodle Books, Local Baby books, Foodie books, and puzzles produced by duopress. See them at the publisher’s website, here.
Violet Lemay joined the duopress team as an illustrator in 2010 and since then has collaborated on more than twenty duopress projects, eventually becoming the art director in May of 2013. See Violet’s portfolio site, here.
This past spring I was invited to participate in Mail Me Art: Short and Sweet, a gigantic group show that travelled to three London galleries over the summer: The Framers Gallery, Factoryroad, and Croft Wingates. The events, all for charity, were organized by my friends Darren and Jane Di Lieto.
The following description, written by Darren, was taken from Mail Me Art‘s website:
Mail Me Art is a fun little project that was created by Darren Di Lieto of The Little Chimp Society in late 2006. He was looking for a way to connect on a real world level with all of the brilliant and talented illustrators who had become part of his community and network. Mail art was the perfect way to accomplish this task. The Mail Me Art project has held exhibitions up and down the UK, and was published as a very nice book by HOW Books. It has also been featured or mentioned by Digital Arts, Computer Arts, Design Week and The Telegraph over the years. Mail Me Art is still going strong to this day and there seems to be no stopping it!
When I got the call, time was in short supply. I was up to my eyeballs in work, rushing against no less than five book deadlines at once for duopress: Doodle America, Yummy Food Doodles, San Francisco Baby, Let’s Doodle Around Baltimore (a special project for the Baltimore school system), and Isabella’s Shoe Studio.
I couldn’t say no. Darren has helped me out many times in the past, sharing his knowledge with illustration students in my classroom live from the UK via Skype—despite a rather hefty time difference, and his own busy schedule. We are friends.
Also, I have taught self-promotion classes for many years, and I try very hard to practice what I preach. I would advise a student in a similar situation to just DO IT! Short-term pain, long-term gain. And anyway, Mail Me Art was a charity event, so I wasn’t going to turn it down.
From the moment I accepted the challenge, I knew that I would paint a wing-tip shoe on a manila envelope. Thanks to overlapping deadlines, I was swimming in a sea of shoes! Happily exhausted, other ideas were not exactly floating to the surface in abundance.
When my art made it across the pond, Darren asked, “Why a Shoe?”
He asked several of us to write about the inspirations behind our envelopes, for possible inclusion in the book that would accompany the exhibit. I was more than happy to oblige. From the moment I accepted the written challenge, I knew I’d be talking about Isabella’s Shoe Studio, because that was my honest answer. My contribution to Mail Me Art: Short and Sweet was a shoe, and the reason was Isabella’s Shoe Studio.
The exhibit has come and gone, but the book Mail Me Art: Short and Sweet lives on, and is available at amazon.co.uk. It is beautiful and I am honored to be included. Please click the link, have a look, and take a few minutes to write a review. Darren and I would both be grateful.
Isabella is in there—she seems to be everywhere that I go, lately.
As a bonus, there are a bunch of photos in the final pages of the book (contributed by Yours Truly) of my envelope beginning it’s journey here in Saratoga Springs.
The moral of the story, Class, is cross-promotion: promoting others and self simultaneously, and all (in this case, anyway) for the greater good.
Last February I was busy making art for several duopress books, including Yummy Food Doodles, which, at long last, is available in bookstores. Hooray!
This is an exciting announcement deserving of fancy hoopla, but all I have to offer is a blog post—so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a little about me, my association with my favorite publisher duopress, and this project’s history—in celebration, and just for fun.
first, a bit about me
My husband, who is extremely witty, likes to compare me to a ficus.
He hugs me and says, “My ficus.” Sweet, right?
Don’t be fooled. A ficus is lovely, for sure, but aesthetics factor only slightly in his analogy. As a rule, the ficus is so delicate that its leaves pop off whenever you move its pot. The ficus is super-sensitive, and that is his point.
We’ve been together for nineteen years, so I can’t exactly argue. To know me is to love me, and he loves me very much, despite my finicky nature. My skin is sensitive—I can’t be anywhere near poison ivy, oak or sumac without breaking out in a rash. It’s true, I don’t even have to touch it. Poof! Rash. My eyes are sensitive—no bad art, please; it keeps me up at night. And my stomach—my poor, poor stomach. About my gut, I could write a book.
Technically I have I.B.S., a title I avoid because it connotes all manner of disgusting imagery. Frankly, I feel that is nobody’s business. (If you want our friendship to continue, don’t make that into a pun.) After years of trying to come up with a better descriptive for my bad digestion, “sensitive” is the only word that sticks. There are entire groups of food that I have to avoid, and I don’t eat much of anything in a single sitting. I can’t, because I have a sensitive stomach. That’s all anyone needs to know. It’s annoying, and maybe even a little sad, but as far as medical issues go, at least it can be easily managed. And unlike most of my peers, I don’t have to worry about cholesterol. As a result of my health problem, I am actually super healthy! Kind of ironic, don’t you think?
and now, about the food books
Here’s another dose of irony: The girl with a sensitive stomach is developing a habit of making art for books about food. (Another topic about which I could write a book: God’s sense of humor.)
This is a still shot of me trying to make a video promo for My Foodie ABC, the first book that I illustrated for duopress. (By the way, I hired a film student to help with that project. After months of struggling he wasn’t able to deliver, which made my stomach lurch and gave me an opportunity to practice forgiveness.)
and, the author!
My Foodie ABC was written by Puck, who is actually Mauricio Velázquez de León. Puck writes specifically for kids, but Mauricio writes specially about food for Saveur magazine, the late Gourmet magazine, and the food sections for many Lonely Planet books (including the upcoming The World’s Best Spicy Food). Yum!
My Foodie ABC is charming, educational, and will definitely make you hungry. I made the art and also laid out the colors, textures, patterns and scans on every spread. Whenever I open it, my sensitive eyes are delighted. We did a great job with that book.
Next came My Foodie ABC Placemats, also penned by Puck. The placemats book was equally beautiful; as a bonus, it was interactive. Recently My Foodie ABC Placemats went out of print, which is sad, but it paved the way for duopress’s hugely successful DOODLE book series. duopress has produced eight DOODLE books, with more on the way.
So, that about brings us up to date.
Yummy Food Doodles
As I mentioned earlier, last winter, we made Yummy Food Doodles: words by Puck, art by me, and design by Charla Pettingill. We’ve been promoting it for a while because the book debuted at Book Expo America in NYC last spring and has been available on-line ever since, but it is now available in bookstores—an announcement worthy of hoopla, indeed!
Click here to get a copy for your favorite foodie today, or, better yet, order it from your local bookstore! And… bon appétit!