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

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.

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

  1. Keith says:

    Hi Laurie: congrats on the new project – it sounds like you’re having a blast stepping outside the box a bit. wishing you the best…

  2. Christian says:

    I am very to know why you made mars look so upset on the cover of meet the planets… there is now a meme about it. Just wanted to know the thoughts going through your mind at the time… thanks

  3. laurie says:

    Mars isn’t upset – he just looks like a warrior. I tried to make the faces of the planets fit their names/personalities (Venus, for example, is based on Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”), Mars, being named for the God of War. just looks like all the different warrior species found in sci fi – Sontarons, Klingons, Romulans, etc. They all have furrows brows and look angry – even when they are happy. That’s why Mars looks like that – he is really very pleasant. I do like the meme!

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