Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Gold Rush Girl!

I had two concerns before starting this cover:

This was one of those books where I so enjoyed reading the manuscript I was worried about getting too close to it all, and not being able to do it justice.

Second, it had to have ships on the cover. SHIPS. Accurately-drawn, historical ships (a ketch and a brig, to be precise).

I can barely get your average domesticated animal right (unless they need to be deliberately wonky) so this was a bother. However, with the constant feedback of art director Matt at Candlewick Press, the process, although a challenge and a learning curve, was nowhere near as as much of a struggle as I thought it might be.

But this is the kind of stuff I had to study, printed out on many sheets of A3 paper!


Set in San Francisco in 1848, the book tells the story of Tori, aka Victoria, who stows away on an arduous sea journey against her father's advice to the new lands where he's looking for gold. She leaves behind a safe, comfortable family home, but pines for adventure; what follows is a richly-detailed story of the real peril, physical hardship and unpredictable adventure she experiences.

The children's clothes had to be pretty bang-on too, so reference was required for those. Thank the lord for Adobe Stock and the internet at large!


Aside from the ships - which are really central to the story - details like the never ending rain; the mud, the pathetic tent the family is forced to live in, Tori's big plait, the roaring sea, and building sense of community within the prospectors all needed capturing for the cover. Not to mention the threatening aura of the ship in the background.

All of this was set against what needed to be a faithful representation - as best we could get it, allowing for SOME artistic licence - of the shores of San Fran in the mid 1800s. Check out these detailed images of the camps and areas where the gold prospectors set up their new, and hopefully temporary, homes:


The sketching was all done on A2 cartridge paper in pencil, with initial roughs created in my sketchbook. Several ideas were explored:


The cover had had a treatment designed already, but it wasn't hitting the mark for its intended middle grade (8-12) audience; a little too serious. The robust characters were key, and I was delighted to be creating all three of them, suggesting different assemblies and poses.

Eventually a sketch was chosen:

We fiddled about a bit with whether Tori should be standing, or sitting and pointing:


before going ahead with the process of refining, and colouring it all in:

Perhaps the easiest way to show you THAT bit is to play you the time-lapse! 

Created entirely from this point in Procreate with Apple Pencil and my iPad Pro, here's the full process. Total time was...many hours, spread over a few days:

And here's the finished book, complete with its gold-foiled title! (the hand belongs to art director Matt Roeser, who directed the project) - thanks Matt!)

The book is published on Tuesday March 10th, 2020, and you can get a copy here if you're in the USA, and here if you're in the UK, where it's published a little later, in May.

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