Albert Einstein said his first ideas about relativity came from looking in the mirror as a teenager and wondering what it would be like to travel on a beam of light. This is the story of that journey... Journey by Starlight follows an imaginary recreation of Albert Einstein, and his traveling companion through space and time as they travel on a beam of light from a star over 3,000 light years away to Earth. Along the way, Einstein explains the science behind everything from the origins of the universe to the meaning of life, relativity, black holes, quantum mechanics (for beginners), climate change, evolution vs. intelligent design, and how the brain works, all delivered in fun, easy-to-understand, bite-sized chunks. Based on the popular blog of the same name, Journey By Starlight has been given the graphic novel treatment, pairing the narrative with fantastic, whimsical artwork to assist in simplifying what can be difficult-to-understand ideas.
Most illustration commissions go through a series of steps; 1. ideation/thumbs; 2. tight sketch; and 3. final artwork. Below I've put together a brief case study of an interior editorial job I did with College of Charleston Magazine, Art Director (AD) Alfred Hall. Of course not all jobs are handled in the exact same manner, but for the purpose of showing a little bit of my process I tried to pick a job that is 'typical'... if there is such a thing.
The AD sends me an email with an attached PDF containing a rough layout. Usually the layouts include the article (I can work with less) and some designated space that the AD is hoping will be filled with my illustration. If the job goes forward (a result of reaching an agreement between the AD and myself) I'll start working on a few thumbnails to get the ball rolling visually.
For most editorial jobs I'll go through the text and pick out the main themes and tone of the article and begin brainstorming ideas that would, well, illustrate those main themes and tones. For this job, the article discusses the missing legacy of Sir Walter Scott in the annals of literary history. But in time, the article continues, his legacy will one day be returned to a place of honor once the modern critics reappraise his work- imagine Forgot About Dre but with Sir Walter Scott...
After talking with the AD we decided to develop the 7th thumbnail. At this point I like to lay my sketch into the layout to see how it interacts with the design. Originally, the layout called for an illustration with borders but after seeing it relative to the double-page spread it was decided to make a border-less illustration. With approval from the AD I then go to final.
Now that the sketch has been approved, I go to final... and at this point I know, and the publication knows, what to expect; what my illustration will look like, what the content will be and how much space it will occupy. I just have to add color and give it some TLC to make sure it has a final polish that the sketches do not. It's donkeywork at this point, really. There shouldn't be any surprises at this point, but just in case, every job comes with a revision of the final if need be.