Archive for the ‘Meet the Planets’ Category

Meet the Planets – Who’s Who & What’s What – The Inner Planets

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

They’re solid. They’re rocky. They’re close to the sun. Here come the inner planets.”

So now the competition really gets underway, with the 4 planets closest to the Sun making their group debut.  This particular page probably has the least amount of Who & What background explanation, but that doesn’t mean i skimped on the thought or research process. Even as simple as it looks, i still managed to stick in a little subliminal information, specifically in terms of the Asteroid Belt.

The Inner Planets are the rock-based ones. Not only closest to the Sun (which, naturally takes up the bulk of the spread. I must confess, i am particularly fond of the sunglasses) but also located inside the Asteroid Belt so, of course, the asteroids needed to be featured. And since they were in the illustration and had to be colored, i decided i would render them based on their unique chemical/physical composition.

I should note – in reality (in Space) i doubt that you would actually see any color distinction, and even if you did it probably wouldn’t be as obvious as i made it, but it was important to convey that all asteroids are not the same. In fact, there are three different types and each are made up of different materials/substances so i attempted to communicate that information through color.

The 3 types of Asteroids are: M-Type, S-Type, and C-Type.

M-Type is made up of nickel and iron, so i colored those asteroids in silver and grey.

S-Type is made up of a rocky material, so those are colored in reddish brown.

C-Type is made up of carbon, so those are represented in black.

It’s a small thing – but it was the kind of artistic choice i found myself constantly aware of when doing the illustrations for this book.  My goal was to find fun and interesting ways of sharing all the cool and fascinating things i had learned through my research. Creating all the little touches that i hoped (hope) ignited some curiosity.

If only one child asked, “Why did the illustrator color those rocks like that?” this picture was a success!


Meet the Planets – Who’s Who & What’s What – Introduction

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

As i always say, to anyone who will listen, there is always more going on in an illustration than you might realize, but Meet the Planets takes that concept to a whole new level of multi-layered obsessive/compulsive craziness.  Bottom line – i had so much fun researching the book, and found such a wealth of unexpected information and fascinating links and connections, i had to find a way to squish it all into the book.  The down side to that compulsion, however, is – i’m the only one who knows why all this stuff is here. In fact i recently discovered that even close friends, who know me and know the story, were unaware of all the miscellaneous identifications and meanings (and they all got autographed copies of the book, with the link to the section on my web site that explains everything).  Clearly something needed to be done.  Besides – i couldn’t resist an opportunity to go back and explore it all – again. So grab a cold beverage, get comfy, and let’s meet everyone, and everything, in Meet the Planets.  Starting with the very first spread – the Introduction.

Being the Favorite Planet Competition there obviously needs to be an audience.  Originally i planned to just do the crowd in shadow and silhouette, then i thought perhaps i’d tuck in a few faces of people i knew, but after i started finding all this wonderful information ad all these amazing people (and things) from history and science i realized i had the perfect audience.

NOTE: In terms of the illustration design, i decided i would represent everyone in the technique or medium in which i found them in my research – whether it be a sculpture or a fresco or a lithograph or an old photograph – so that explains the wide range of styles (not to mention made it a blast to draw!!!!)..

Starting at the top and working left to right:

JELLYFISH: one of the 1st primitive animals to appear on Earth 600 million years ago (originally i had a dinosaur here, but wound up using him later on.  Besides, i wanted to go back even farther into the primordial stew for this first page).

PTOLEMY: (100 – 178) Alexandrian Greek philosopher & astronomer. He thought the Earth was the center of the universe (and i suspect some folks still do).

HYPATIA: (415) Alexandria female astronomer, astrologer & mathematician. Her portrait is based on a fresco (to my shame i initially forgot her, even tho she was mentioned often in my research. Then i remembered how much Carl Sagan admired her – and i LOVE Carl Sagan – so quickly put her in her rightful place).

BENJAMIN BANNEKER: (1731 – 1806) 1st African American astronomer, mathematician & scientist. He calculated the astronomical tables and predicted an eclipse.

THE MAYANS: Represented here because they built an observatory in 1000 (not to mention created that cool calendar).

BACKGROUND CROWD: Crowds are always something of a pain to do but this one was easier because it was inspired by a fun reference – a 1490 engraving of the Ptolemaic Universe (and yes, for those of sharp eye, that is a certain Jedi Master sitting there as well).

ABD AL-RAHMAN AL-SUFI: (964) Persian astronomer, he compiled “The Book of Fixed Stars“. Also, according to some historians, Persian astronomers invented the astrolabe in 4001.

RAMESES THE GREAT: (1,200 BC) The earliest known almanac was created during the reign of this Egyptian pharaoh.

THALES: (585 BC) Greek astronomer who also predicted the solar eclipse.

CHINESE ASTRONOMERS: Built observatories in 2,300BC and made the earliest known observation of a comet in 2,296 BC.

WIND CHERUB: A popular way of depicting wind in Western art and maps.

NEOLITHIC GRAVESTONE/BURIAL CHAMBER (the swirly rock):  Newgrange, Ireland (3,200 BC) is aligned so that on the day of the Winter Solstice sunlight illuminates the rear wall of the chamber making it one of the first solar observatories.

TALIESiN (in front of the Newgrange gravestone): was a Celtic poet (done here in the style of the Medieval “Book of Kells“) representing ancient Celtic mythology (and because Taliesin was mentioned in a poem about the cosmos and the “music of the spheres” and because he just fascinates me).

4-EYED ALIEN: Just for fun.

COMET: 65 million years ago a comet or asteroid struck the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula causing the end of the dinosaurs and paving the way for mammals to flourish (and eventually illustrate books about the planets).

LEO: A constellation, Zodiac icon, and solar/Sun sign.

NERDY, SCIENCE GEEK: A person obsessively enthusiastic about science.  And Time.

METEORITE FRAGMENT: No story really, i just needed to fill the space.

ROBOT/PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARD: Because where would we be without ’em?

PLUTO:  Our Master of Ceremonies (i love that John got him into the book).  I discovered all the planets have a symbol so that is what is on the paper in Pluto’s hand (his symbol is on his tie).  Each symbol is also hidden on the page of its respective planet throughout the book – if you want to go on a little hunt.

STONEHENGE: (2,900 – 1,600 BC)  Being a ceremony i figured we needed a stage set and instantly thought of Stonehenge.  There were other ancient observatories i could have used, but some were pretty obscure, and others – like the Pyramids – were more closely aligned with tombs than space.  Stonehenge is an ancient megalithic monument easily recognizable no matter what the age, and wonderfully mysterious and enigmatic. It’s placement suggests astronomical connections and was possibly used to predict solar and lunar eclipses, making it the 1st astronomical calculator. Not to mention – a great stage set.

SPIRAL GALAXY:  I should clarify  – OUR spiral galaxy.  Spiraling out from the center, left to right, we have the Centaurus Arm, the Sagittarius Arm, the Orion Arm, the Perseus Arm, and the Cygnus Arm.

And that dot within a circle, located in the Orion Arm, is the sign for the Sun – OUR SUN.

Now as the lights dim and the audience grows quiet,  the first notes of the Music of the Spheres  begins to play. First up – the Inner Planets.

Meet the Planets – Research and Development (And A Crazy Statue)

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

So, when i first started the blog about doing the illustrations for “Meet the Planets” i fully intended to write small excerpts describing the step-by-step process of each phase as i was going through them. I wrote three.

Now here we are – two years and two new books later – and i am only now getting around to writing installment #4.  Ah, procrastination thy name is Laurie!  Needless to say, the whole step-by-step, real time, follow the process idea has gone by the wayside, but that does not mean i no longer have tales to tell.  Oh no, no, no.  “Meet the Planets” still has a number of background stories very near and dear to my heart  that i want to share and i am going to continue plugging away at them as time and inspiration and creative literary muse permits (all while also starting a new blog series about “Solar System Forecast”, the book that came out September 2012; and continuing additional installments of another new blog series about “Balloon Trees”, the book that comes out any day).  There are only so many hours in a day, and a good portion of those hours inexplicably disappear into some space-time Black Hole also know as my art room, but given that a meteorite just hit Russia the other day, i really need to stop putting this off.

So to get us back into the swing of Planet things i thought i’d describe the research materials that went into making the art.  Or at least just list the variety of books and magazines, flotsam and jetsam, gimcracks and gewgaws that inspired the illustrations – because there was a lot of stuff!

Books: 15

Comet – Carl Sagan,  Cosmos – Carl Sagan,  DK Eyewitness Books: Astronomy, Universe,  Gardner’s Art Through the Ages – 6th Edition,  History of Renaissance Art – Creighton Gilbert,  The Illustrated  A Brief History of Time/The Universe In A Nutshell –  Stephen Hawking,  The Illustrated Timeline of the Universe – Richard H. Sanderson & Phillip S. Harrington,  My First Book of Space – Rosanna Hansen & Robert A. Bell,  Murmurs of Earth – Carl Sagan,  Stars & Planets – David H. Levy,  Stars & Planets – Exploring Our Galaxy and Beyond – Igloo Books LTD,  Star Wars Where Science Meets Imagination – National Geographic/Lucas Books/Museum of Science, Boston,  Time Life Student Library – The Universe,   The Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia – Science & Technology

Magazines: 13

Astronomy (Collectors Edition) – Cosmos, Before There Was Light;  Discover – A Field Guide to the New Solar System;  Discover – Special Einstein Issue;  Discover Presents – The Whole Universe;  Kids Discover: Astronauts, Space Exploration, Galaxies, Solar System, Planets. Sun, Mars, Earth, Moon

CDs: 3

Holst – The Planets – Orchestre symphonique de Montreal, Charles Dutoit;  The Songs of Distant Earth – Mike Oldfield (inspired by the book of the same title written by Arthur C. Clarke);  Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (inspired by the book written by… oh you know who wrote it).

I literally used every book and magazine listed above, listened to the cds while i drew, and also made tons of random on-line searches looking up additional information, but one of the singular most important influences actually came about by accident.

When i first got the manuscript for “Meet the Planets” i had some trouble deciding how to physically portray each of the planet participants.  Should they be human- (or alien-) esque figures, clothed in some sort of costume that represented the planet (like Jane Jetson, when she entered the Miss Galaxy competition representing Earth)?  Or should they be bobble-head type beings – big planetary face on top of a smaller, costumed body?

I was still undecided when i went to visit my daughter who was in college, in New York.  She had to go to an architecture lecture at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine  (the talk was about gothic architecture, of which St. Johns is a lovely example) and i was allowed to tag along.  We had just gotten off the subway, and were walking across the street to the church when i saw the most amazing statue in the park beside the cathedral. The Fountain of Peace.

Talk about your divine inspiration.  A giant planet head (actually there are two, there’s another one on the other side) supporting battling giraffes, giant crabs and angels. It was so crazy and surreal, and had the added benefit of reminding me of something you’d see on Doctor Who ( i am a huge fan.  More Doctor Who influences will be discussed in future posts)  so that just made the decision all the easier.  The planets would be done as big round “heads”.  Essentially just as they are found in space – colorful spheres, only with facial features. And appendages (to hold whatever accessories they might need in the competition).

You just never know where inspiration will come from so you have to be open to anything.  This is why i love research!

Meet the Planets – Who’s Who & What’s What – Starting with the Cover

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

There is always more going on in an illustration than you might realize.  Every drawing tells a story, sometimes more than one, beyond the actual words written on the page.  Before pencil ever touches paper there is research – lots of it.  Or at least that’s how i approach drawing.  Whether it’s a book, a wall mural, a piece of spot art, or a concept sketch i like to have as much reference material as possible, even if the end result is a simple cartoon.   I have learned over the course of many years wielding pencil and brush that models or photo references or additional information helps make a picture that much more engaging and entertaining. As well as accurate.

Now i’m not the type of illustrator who insists that everything i draw HAS to be educational or teach some great truth or impart some deep meaning – that can get awfully ponderous and stuffy – however i have learned that quite often the information unearthed during the research and reference hunt process takes the drawing in a direction i may not have originally considered.  When i was doing the research for the animals featured in “Little Skink’s Tail”, for example, i discovered a wonderful photograph of a skunk literally doing a handstand as one of it’s defensive displays.  It never would have dawned on me to draw a skunk in that position, particularly in a realistic setting, but the minute i learned this was a natural behavior i had to include it in the book.  It was simply too funny an image to ignore and subsequently made for a delightfully whimsical illustration that also happened to be correct – so the illustration works on two levels: educational and entertaining.

“Meet the Planets” posed a greater challenge because the story concerned space and the cosmos, subject matter just a tad beyond my purview.  Granted, the central characters, the planets of our solar system, were intended to be anthropomorphic   which gave me a great deal of flexibility and latitude, (as mentioned in an earlier “Meet the Planets” blog post) but i still wanted as much scientific accuracy as possible.  So, i hit the books …

Planets Cover  art(copy)114

… and wound up having more information than i knew what to do with.  Or, to be more precise, wound up with more information than i expected.  I mean, obviously, i anticipated my research to lead me deeply into the realms of General Science and Astronomy; what i did not expect was to find links to every other art and discipline imaginable.  Astrology, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math, Philosophy, Literature, History, Mythology, Fine Arts, Pop Culture, Science Fiction, and Music ALL have a connection to the planets in some way.  I’m really rather ashamed to admit how much that took me by surprise, but once discovered it had to be shared and i had an absolutely wonderful time finding ways to squish all this amazing information into every page of the book.

Scientific concepts, mathematical equations, mythological figures, space technologies, works of art, musical compositions, chemical elements,  famous scientists and people from history all found a place in the illustrations.  Some are described by the story itself  but for those that are not there is now a link on the home page of my web site that explains who and what everyone and everything is.  And over the course of however long it takes me to post them, i also plan to describe every page in the long and rambling style these blog entries are known for.  All the characters are dear to my heart and have stories to tell and i want to share them.  So…


… you have met the planets, now meet all the things going on behind the planets.

Meet the Planets: Giant Characters, Teeny Tiny Thumbnail Sketches

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Okay, so the “best laid plans” as they say (tho why Mice and Men both have plans that often go awry still escapes me).  I fully intended to write about the “Meet the Planet” illustration process – AS I DID IT – but here i am, nearly finished with the pencil rough sketches and not a written word to be seen since the initial intro.  Actually i think this step was kind of addressed in an early chapter of “Fur and Feathers” – i always seem to be juggling numerous projects simultaneously so free time is at a premium and finding time to sit and write often difficult.  And, i’ll be honest, sometimes – after drawing all day – i really just don’t want to tax my brain any more with creative musing and the last thing i want to to do is try and wring out any more creative juices in the form of literary analysis.  However, things are zipping right along and i don’t want to get any farther behind.   So, by way of quick recap…

I got the new manuscript on February 11, with pencil roughs due April 9, and immediately ran off to the bookstore scooping up everything i could find on planets, astronomy, the universe, galaxies, and space.  I already have a fair number of reference things at home (Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” – book and DVD, “Comet” and “Murmurs of Earth”, a Time/Life series on natural history and the universe, a stack of Kids Discover and Scientific America magazines, an eclectic Star Wars and Dr. Who collection) so after adding to the library coffers i simply spent the next several weeks reading and absorbing and musing.  I got so caught up in all the wonderful extraneous details and information in fact i kind of lost track of time and suddenly realized it was the first week of March and i had yet to put pencil to paper.  But my mind was at least full of possibilities!

Per a pattern that was established with the very first book i did for Sylvan Dell (“If A Dolphin Were A Fish”) i began with small thumbnail sketches of each page, to make sure SD was comfortable with the direction i intended to take.   This book is quite the departure from the nature-based animal books i’ve done in the past and the sky (or the cosmos) really was the limit in terms of stylistic direction.  This is the kind of project i just go crazed over – a seemingly simple little, self-contained topic that winds up embracing everything from history and literature, to invention and philosophy, to mythology  and art, to several branches of science and classical music.  And don’t even get me started on pop culture possibilities.

I finally started roughing out the thumbnail sketches the first Friday in March (3/ 5) and got into such a groove i finished them up that following Wednesday (3/10). The small rough drawings gave a pretty fair idea of what the finished full-size pages would/will ultimately look like, but there was so many other little details involved i wound up including a little explanatory note for each page.  And those, more than anything, best describe the process.

Per the attached note that accompanied the sketches:

Thumbnails: Pages 1 - 6

Thumbnails: Pages 1 - 6

*I’m using Stonehenge as a backdrop/stage for the “Competition”.  I wanted to bring the “History of Astronomy” element, and while there is some debate about what the standing stones mean, most people seem to agree they were erected to record certain celestial events and it’s instantly recognizable as such.  It’s something of an iconic monument (better known than the Chomsung Dae Observatory in Korea for example).

*I’m still developing the actual look/personalities of the planets – but i’m pretty much leaning toward keeping them actual “planets” (as opposed to some sort of human incarnation), with unique expressions and simple appendages.

As for specific visual features of each page (that may need some explaining):

Page 1 – Intro to the Competition:  The audience will be largely in shadow and silhouette but comprised of personified moons, comets, as well as historical figures and icons affiliated with space, astronomy, science fact and fiction, etc. Our spiral galaxy (Milky Way) is in the corner.

Page 2 – Intro of the Inner Planets:  All 4 – in their respective garb/persona. Big sun (wearing sun glasses).  Asteroid belt in distance.

Page 3 – Mercury:  In classic pose of statue of Mercury (with winged helmet and boots).  Huge sun behind massive stones – to emphasize he’s small.  Followed by the “Messenger” space probe (which goes into orbit around the planet in 2011).

Page 4 – Venus:  Play on Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” with Voyager, Venera, and Mariner space probes playing the part of the three surrounding angels.  Venus stands on a representation of her flat planetary volcanoes (rather than a clam shell).

Page 5 – Earth:  “Mother Earth” wears a crown of daisies and carries flowers (or something “natural”).  She is surrounded by the different atmospheric layers (light blue to black – or real dark blue).  North Star (Polaris) and circumpolar stars.constellations shown.  Moon applauds.

Page 6 – Mars:  In Roman warrior attire standing on “Sojourner” rover chariot.  Towering standing stones to help make him look smaller than Earth and Venus.  In audience: Schiaparelli and Lowell (who drew the canals), the two lumpy moons, H. G. Wells (reading “War of the Worlds”), some aliens/Martians, and robots.  Again Polaris and constellation where Mars might be best located (in 2010-2011 – if possible.  Otherwise it will be an historic reference).

Thumbnails: Pages 7 - 12

Thumbnails: Pages 7 - 12

Page 7 – Intro of the Outer Planets:  Similar idea as the intro of the Inner Planets – only with the Sun (and the rest of the solar system) far away.  Some comets circle around.

Page 8 – Jupiter:  Dressed as a Roman god (or Caesar). One foot on Stonehenge it buckles under his weight.  In the audience are the 4 biggest “Gallean” moons (discovered by Galileo, who is also in the audience).  Sitting beside Galileo is Magellan who discovered the Magellanic clouds (and navigated by them) – which are in the background behind Jupiter.

NOTE:  With the Outer Planets i’m trying to introduce different discoveries and observations way out in the cosmos (such as the Magellanic clouds).

NOTE:  As with the Inner Planets i’m also attempting to have the North Star and a reference to a significant constellation (either where the planet can be found in 2010/2011, or where it was discovered originally) in each illustration.  In Jupiter’s case – one of his moons, Callisto, is named for the woman Jupiter/Zeus turned into Ursa Major (along with her son, who became Ursa Minor).

Page 9 – Saturn:  He’s suave, touching the “brim” of his ring as if he were tipping his hat.  He’s floating above Stonehenge (being the lightest of the planets).  Behind him are the different types of galaxies, as discovered by Hubble (who is in the audience).  Also in the audience – 3 or 4 of Saturn’s distinctive moons, as well as Christian Huygens – who discovered the rings (he’s holding a copy of the sketches he made).

Page 10 – Uranus:  He is tripping over Stonehenge – to account for orbiting on his side.  His odd moon, Miranda, is hiding her eyes (it was thought she was broken apart and fused back together by gravity – thus explaining her fractured appearance.  Or maybe because Uranus fell on her).  We are getting into deep space now so the Voyager probe as well as a binary code message are in the background.  In the audience are Herschel (who discovered Uranus) and his sister (who was an astronomer in her own right, and also helped Herschel.  She supposedly fed  him sandwiches while he worked so she’ll have a plate in hand).  With the Herschels is Carl Sagan, holding the gold video disc that is carried by Voyager.  The disc looks like a record and Herschel was also a musician – so i couldn’t help but make the connection.  Herschel also discovered Uranus in the constellation Gemini – so that’s in the sky somewhere as well.

Page 11 – Neptune:  Brooding and stormy (tho handsome) Neptune is standing on Stonehenge staring out into the cosmos – reflecting on what is beyond.  Above him, in the distance, Voyager leaves the solar system heading to various galaxies, nebula, quasars, and black holes.  Triton, the biggest moon, is going backwards.  In the audience LeVerrie and Adams (who both, separately, discovered Neptune mathematically) are working out the equation on a chalkboard, while Galle (who took their computations and found the planet visually) looks thru a telescope.

NOTE:  Neptune – moving so slowly – can be found in the constellation Aquarius until 2012.  He also completes his first orbit around the Sun in 2011 (since being discovered!) so if i can figure out a way to illustrate that i’ll include it.

Page 12 – You Choose:  This one is pretty obvious.  Kind of a mirror of the first page with Pluto and the audience all looking at the reader.   The audience will be filled with planets and aliens and historic/scientific  figures, and all the planets will be “on stage” together.

On March 10 i received an e-mail from Sylvan Dell:  I love where you are going with this!  I think you are having fun…

And the fun continues………….

I Have A New Book!! Prepare to “Meet the Planets”

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

PRELUDE:  I know i blather on far too long with these entries, making them a bit daunting to read.  My letters tend to get the same way (a dear friend finally just burned out trying to slog through them and gave up replying).  Can’t say i blame her, as i too tend to by-pass anything over two or three paragraphs (and shy away from recipes with more than a few ingredients or instructions).  Still i can’t quite seem to refrain from personally going on at [great] length when i write, particularly when the topic, and the creative writing spirit, moves me.  As James Michener said (at least according to the little “Muse of Writing” fairy that hangs by my computer) – “I love writing.  I love the swirl & swing of words as they tangle with human emotions“.  That describes my feelings exactly.  I don’t write  for a living – but i do write for fun, i love the feel and flow of words and when i get on a roll…  Welllll,  the fun just doesn’t stop!  All that being said, however, i tend to think THIS particular series may be a bit more manageable because i plan to write in “real time”  as the illustration process unfolds.  And since i really need to spend more time drawing than writing i probably can’t get too wordy.  Guess we’ll see.

It started in February (11th to be exact) when i received an e-mail with the subject heading: new book? The enquiry went on to ask,  “How do you feel about doing a non-animal book?”  and briefly outlined the story – a sort of game show to see which planet is the best, with Pluto as the MC.  The editor thought of me because she felt i “could give the planets a good anthropomorphic feel”.   Needless to say, she had me with new book?




Preliminary notes for Meet the Planets illustrations

Preliminary notes for Meet the Planets illustrations


While admittedly my portfolio is a bit shy on drawings of the universe and space-related things, anthropomorphizing is right up my alley and i am a huge Sci Fi geek.  The final frontier!  Galaxies far, far away!  Five year missions to boldly go where no man has gone before!  Nice night for a walk, Dave!  Billions and billions of stars!  Time Lords from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation Kasterborous!  Allons-y Alphonso, just hand me a pencil!  Or a pen, since before i actually do any drawing i have to go on a reference hunt and like to jot down all my various thoughts and notes and inspirations on a legal pad.   Putting in word form what i will eventually depict visually.

So after e-mailing back my restrained reply (“Oo!  Oo! Oo!  A New Book!!!!!  Yipee!!!!!!  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!! “)  i was off to the bookstore, because every new project needs new resource material.  Or at least the excuse for new resource material (given that i actually already have a fair number of books about the cosmos and a slew of Kids Discover magazines on the topic due to past obsessions).  Several new books later – the children’s section, by the way, is the very best place for reference books – i was jotting ideas and notes like mad.  Not really drawing anything yet, beyond a few tiny little scribbles, because i’m still in the “Thinking” part of the project.  What i recently read the writer Russell T. Davies calls the “Maybe”.  I think that’s a wonderful way to describe it.  A lot of just thinking and pulling images and ideas together in your mind – all the “maybes” and possible ways the pictures can go –  before actually putting anything – be it words or sketches – on paper.

That’s not to say i don’t have some pretty strong visual ideas – some graphic “maybes” – pinging around in my mind.  While i have not entirely decided if i want the planets to be a kind of bobble-head figure (big round planet-shaped head with a face and some sort of body.  It’s the body i’m still in conflict about) i do have some notes on their personalities – as gleaned from John McGranaghan’s delightful manuscript.

Pluto- jovial, gregarious, very awards show host -like (and isn’t it clever that he gets to be the MC, so still in the book, given that he was bumped back to Dwarf Planet status).  Mercury – fast, wiry.  Venus – elegant, sexy.  Possibly base her facial expression on the Venus de Milo.  Earth – motherly, cozy.  Mars – a fighter.  Warrior-like.  Jupiter – big, hulking.  Not fat or flabby but impressive (he is named after the king of the gods after all.  I see a Viking – tho i can’t really explain why).  Saturn – sexiest planet alive idea, handsome (with that devilish twinkle).  Uranus – tipped on his side i can’t quite decide if he’s kind of charmingly dopey/goofy or just clumsy.  Maybe puppy-ish.  Neptune – small, blue, stormy.  It’s not much, but it’s a start.  Getting it all out on the drawing table is the next step.

My drawing table at the start of the Meet the Planets illustration process

My drawing table at the start of the Meet the Planets illustration process

Other random thoughts (spurred by the jumble that is my drawing table at this beginning phase of the illustration process) that may or may not find their way into a picture:  Using the symbol for each planet somewhere on their respective pages.  Stonehenge as the stage.  In the audience, besides moons and satellites and possibly some “classic” aliens and robots, have modern and historic astronomers and scientists – Galileo, Copernicus, Huygens, Kepler, Sagan, etc.  Somewhere show the binary-digital “message” that was sent out into space and/or the Voyager record.  Have the North Star as a fixed point  in the background with the respective constellations where each planet can be found spinning around it when each new planet is introduced.

Still a lot of Maybes and possibilities to sift through and visual questions to answer… but the actual character studies come next – and soon – because i can’t really figure out the picture layouts until i know what the characters are going to look like.  Interestingly enough, even tho i don’t have a clear image down on paper yet i can almost see the finished illustrations, in color, in my mind.  The trick is wrestling them out of the ether on to the page.  Ah, but that’s the next entry.