Welcome to Robot Town is the follow up to my first-ever children’s book, Welcome to Monster Town. When I originally pitched both book ideas to my editor, Christy Ottaviano, she was so enthusiastic about the simplistic concept of the books (monsters/robots living in their own worlds, doing various jobs suited to their characteristics) that she signed them both at the same time. I was thrilled that I would get to do TWO books on my favorite subjects: monsters AND robots. Since I was a kid, I have been under the spell of all things science fiction and horror, and I never quite grew out of it.
I started with Welcome to Monster Town, as I wanted to ease myself into my first book. The ideas for Welcome to Monster Town were clearly defined in my head: various monster’s attributes naturally led to their career choices (vampire bats working in a blood bank, Frankenstein as an electrician, etc.). However, when it came time to do the robot book, I had to be much more inventive. It was a matter of creating the robot to fit the job, which was the reverse of the monster book. Over the course of a year or so, the rough concepts began to take shape, and Robot Town took on a life of its own.
First of all, we needed a guide to show us around Robot Town… so I set to work creating, or rather building, a robot friend for the reader. I had a very clear idea of what he would look like from the start, so after a few costume variations, he was finalized (choice C in the sketches below). As I worked up the main character, I also assembled a collection of inspirational images for the rest of the art, which included pictures clipped out of old electronics catalogs (below, right). Wind up toys were also a big source of inspiration for my robots.
With all of the art in the book, there were four distinct steps involved in getting it to the printed page. I have chosen the cover design as an example below:
STEP 1 (below): Rough Sketches. These were very small, loose idea drawings, used to show my editor Christy what I had in mind for the artwork. It is customary to show your editor numerous sketch ideas for one final piece of art, so that she/he can guide you towards the strongest result, based on her/his knowledge of publishing. In this case, we both agreed on the middle option as the most exciting and attention-grabbing of the ideas for the cover.
STEP 2 (below, left): Line Art. After the rough concept was agreed upon, it was up to me to tighten up the drawing and make it into an image that was clean, concise, and understandable. This was particularly important for the cover image, which hopefully interests the potential reader. At this stage, all the basic design choices were made, revised, and improved upon until both Christy and I were happy with the results.
STEP 3 (above, right): Rough Color Study. To make sure I understood what I was going to paint for the final art, I executed tiny color paintings (known as “studies”). I could make smaller mistakes that were easy to fix at this stage, rather than painting a whole piece of final art only to have to change large areas if I was dissatisfied with any or all parts of the painting. I guess this would be like the dress rehearsal before the curtain goes up!
STEP 4 (below): Final Artwork. Once all the details were worked out, I painted each piece at full size. Final adjustments were made at this stage, as some problems in the art became apparent when I blew up the line art to the larger size.
After following these steps about seventeen times, the artwork for the book was completed (piece of cake, right?). It was a ton of fun (and work) to create this book, and I hope kids of all ages will be inspired to create their own robot world after visiting Robot Town.
Welcome to Robot Town by Ryan Heshka is available now!
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