When I’m developing an idea for an illustration I have the text to suggest the direction, the mood and the content of the image. My first step is usually to find a point of view, which is also suggested in the text. By point of view I mean not only the eye level of the viewer but the attitude or emotional context. If a visual idea begins to form itself in my mind I draw it in my sketchbook so I can see it and get feedback from it. I move on to another sketch, playing the “what if” game. (What if I move in a little closer on the subject? What if I change to a lower perspective? What if I change the composition?)
After drawing a number of different versions of the idea, I have something to choose from. If I can find a sketch that satisfies me I use it as a basis for the finished image and if not I keep working on more sketches. If I need references for images or something to look at to draw, I turn to my filing cabinet of clipped images or the internet or I take photos of things, or I may even use a mirror (with a little work I can alter things to make amazing improvements).
I use the chosen sketch as a reference and I lay out some light pencil lines on the paper to indicate the composition, and then begin to draw the image directly on paper with pen and ink. I pause now and then to get a fresh look at what I’m doing. Looking at the drawing in a mirror helps because I can see things in the mirror as if I’m looking at the drawing for the first time.
Besides the drawings I’ve created for the book, I created a wood engraving, which is reproduced opposite the title page and on the dust jacket. If I’m working on a wood engraving my next step, after choosing the sketch, is to draw the image on a block of end grain wood. Then I engrave the image by removing the wood where I want white lines or white shapes. This process is time consuming and at various points I stop engraving and print the block to see what has developed. The resulting print is the reverse of the image on the block and “proofing” needs to be done to insure that I don’t remove too much wood.