Thursday, 18 December 2014

How to Sketch People: Starting on the Text


At last! This week I have finally started properly writing my book.

I don't need a massive amount of text per spread. I am typically writing 200-300 words of general text on each spread and then the rest is explanation and teaching points attached to specific sketches. That's why the sketch-selection is so important.


The tagging system John devised is working really well. At the touch of a button, it shortlists each category for me, pulling from a pool of over 430 sketches we photographed last week (very glad that job is over), which makes it SO much easier for me to pick the 3 or 4 images I need for each spread.

I don't have to start from the beginning and work my way through chronologically as, for the most part, sections stand alone. My editor explained that, for this kind of publication, people rarely read from start to finish anyway: they tend to dip in and out all over the place. She suggested I begin where I feel most confident. 

So I started with a chapter called Drawing Strangers is Scary. I find that sketchers are very inhibited by the thought that they might be 'caught in the act' while drawing someone, so I have written about tricks for keeping a low profile, but also what happens when you are discovered. The chapter then goes on to look at how you choose people to sketch, thinking about different locations and activities and how easy or tricky they typically are. I couldn't go through every possible option of course, so narrowed it down to 10, which are either recommendations or which have unexpected advantages of disadvantages. This is the chapter where the spread we did for the presentation, about drawing on the train, will go.


Meanwhile, my publisher has sent out a call to various urban sketchers, asking for examples of people-sketches. We won't need many more guest contributors, as I have already selected quite a few, as I mentioned previously, but they say it's good to do, as the perfect image for one of my teaching points may drop into our lap.

These are all sketches which have made the grade into that initial chapter, as far as I am concerned at least (but of course everything still has to be run by my editor and set by my designer - I am not even thinking about layout).


By the way, if you missed the beginning of this project and want to follow the progress of this book from the start, just use the Sketching People label on the right hand panel and scroll down. There have been 10 posts so far.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Next Stage: Tagging all my Sketches




Now that the basic structure of my sketching book is sorted, I have to go back to all the piles of sketchbooks which John and I waded through when I first got started on the project in the summer. Of course, there are a few new ones now too.


Back then, I had a rough idea of the categories I was trying to illustrate, and used colour-coded bookmarks to help with that. Now the book's structure has been fine-tuned, I'm ready to make the selections, but I have to find a way of shortlisting from the hundreds of possible sketches, buried in nearly 90 books. 


The plan we hatched was to work through the images we bookmarked last time, taking quick snaps on my phone, so I can see them all together. I used post-it notes to tag drawings against the sections of the book I had in mind. Trouble is, the tags needed transferring to the photos I'd taken, or I'd just end up with a bucketful of meaningless snaps, which wouldn't be much better than the piles of sketchbooks! Then there was the complication that most sketches could potentially work in various sections of the book. Oh dear...

There were so many images in play, I had to find a system that would be efficient, without being too time-consuming. John came to the rescue and downloaded Picasa: photo-album software, which lets you tag your images. 


I have been working through the sketchbooks, numbering each sketch as I photograph it and logging it in a book, along with the number of the sketchbook (so we can find the sketch again when it comes to scanning), and any tags which might apply. The photos are then uploaded to the computer in batches and quickly renamed with the two reference numbers. 

While I am snapping the next batch and scribbling in my book, poor John has the unenviable task of adding all the tags in Picasa. I'm still using the post-it notes, to speed up finding specific sketches if they make the grade and we need to scan them in:


The system is not as time-consuming as it sounds and we did the lot in a few days (though an emergency-dash to Staples had to be made half way through, for more post-its).

The tagging system is brilliant, as I can now pull together all the sketches of noses, or contour-drawing, or speed-sketching at the touch of a button. It's going to make the next stage much, much easier. Phew.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Meeting my Publisher and Choosing Guests


As you can see, I have been sketching stuffed animals:


But more of that later...

It's been a week since my trip to see the publisher of my latest project, the 'Sketching People' book. I have been pretty full-on with it ever since.

The meeting went really well. Everyone in the team was very friendly and easy to get on with. It was good to finally meet the designer, who I worked with on all the presentation spreads. Five of us sat round a table with proper coffee and very nice chocolate biscuits (their regular treat for author visits) and my editor sat me at the head of the table: I felt very important.



Once we got down to business, we really hammered away at the project. They were great at listening to my take on things and good at explaining what I needed to know, so all very positive. 

I love that my editor is a straight-talker, like myself, so we got loads sorted in just a couple of hours. There were some tweakings needed to the flat plan and synopsis I had created, but luckily it was basically sound: the changes were mainly a structuring issue that I hadn't realised and a bit of streamlining, all of which was a great improvement.



A new flat plan has been created out of the meeting, although it is apparently still very fluid: the idea is that the structure is there to hang all my work on, but it can adjust to accommodate more or less space needed in the different sections, as I go along.



After the meeting, I had a few hours to kill before my train home. It was bitterly cold and no good for sketching outside unfortunately, so I took myself and my sketchbook to the warmth of Natural History Museum, as I enjoyed it so much the last time. Which is where our stuffed friends above come in.

The rest of last week was mostly spent choosing guest contributors for various sections of the book. We have to do that early on, to give plenty of time for people to sign the paperwork and get their artwork scanned. I need guests because there are some aspects of sketching people which I am pretty rubbish at - crowd scenes for one - so I have collected examples from people like Caroline Johnson, who are great at it:


It's good to have a variety of approaches in other sections too, so I had my head in Flickr and Pinterest for days, searching people out, and got quite bug-eyed!

I have tried to mix it up a bit: some well-known Urban Sketchers correspondents, whose work often appears in similar publications, but also some less known sketchers, as the book seems a great way to showcase talent. I sent a list of possibilities to the publisher today, and am waiting to hear what they think. Keep you posted!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Getting Started on my Sketching Book: the Flat Plan


Now I have the go-ahead for my Urban Sketching book on sketching people, the next job has been to convert the detailed synopsis I created earlier, into what's called a 'flat plan'. This is a way of ensuring that the chapter sections divide appropriately into the amount of pages I have at my disposal, and that the flow of the book works properly.


My editor sent me this template to work on. The idea is to fill it in with section-headings for each page and colour-coding for the chapters, to give a complete over-view of the book, at a glance.

It's been a really interesting process. It immediately pointed up certain problems with the plan as I had it, mostly because, as with picture books, you have to be very aware of how your material works as spreads and of course can't have random single pages. So, I have been re-jigging things, nipping and tucking my content. I did a rough flat plan with coloured pencils first then, once it was working properly, did a posh version in Photoshop:




Today, I am going down to London, where I will meet the rest of the team for the first time. Together we will go through my flat plan and make any changes necessary to fit with what they think will work best. As ever, although I am the author, a book is a team project. I might have a lot of experience in designing children's books, but this is a very different kind of project, so I am happy to be educated as we go along. 

I'm excited to meet my editor and keen to get started! I'll let you know how it goes.