Drawing in Blue

sketch by M Chodos-Irvine

Yesterday I sent off a revised, “tight” dummy to my editor at Beach Lane Books for Boom Boom. Today is a day of reprieve – I can take a bit of a break before I hear back from her, but it’s too soon for me to start worrying because I haven’t heard from her yet.

So here I am, rearranging the furniture in my brain to focus on writing today’s post.

Since I am fully immersed in illustrating Boom Boom, it’s hard for me to think about much else, so you are going to get another how-to from me today.

When working on final drawings for a picture book, I use a technique I picked up from watching Sylvain Chomet talk about animating The Triplets of Belleville in the video extra that came with the DVD. If you have not yet seen this French animated film, you have missed a witty masterpiece. It’s rated PG-13, (there are some naked ta-tas spinning briefly in the opening sequence, and a bit of implied mob violence), but the film’s rating is deserved most in that its sophisticated, satiric humor isn’t built for young children. If Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is a Three-Musketeers bar, then The Triplets of Belleville is Cuisses de Grenouille. (Really, see the movie).

Anyway, in this “making of…” video, Chomet demonstrates how he first draws his sketches in non-photo blue, and then hones in on the refined outline in black, which is the only color the camera will read. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a copy of that video on line, but I did find something similar in this clip about his animating The Illusionist.

Chomet says finding the right lines is “discovering something” that was already there, like Michelangelo freeing figures in marble. I am in no way trying to imply that I am on the same level as either of these artists, but I always feel like I’m trying to carve out an image when I draw, so this approach struck a chord with me.

This is my humble, homey version of what Chomet and Michelangelo do.

A photocopy of my rough:


A blue line drawing on tracing paper over the photocopy:


The blue line drawing alone:


I haven’t gone to black pencil on the above sketch quite yet. I will do that once I have the editors go-ahead on the full dummy. In the drawing below, I’ve gone halfway using a darker blue pencil, inching my way towards black.


Then I scan my blue line drawings into Photoshop, adjust the gray-scale levels to eliminate some of the lighter blue, and place the images in the dummy lay-out with InDesign. It’s not exactly what the animators do, but it works for me.

BB 6-7 kids

Well, during the time it took me to write this post, I heard back from the editor and have full approval to proceed with the final art. That was a short, but welcome reprieve! Back to work!

6 responses to “Drawing in Blue

  1. Margaret I love watching your illustrations develop. It’s like watching a polaroid photo come into focus (do people still have polaroids?) This is going to be a wonderful book.

  2. Hi MC-I, I loved this process post. I will adapt for my own use. I, too, wait for word back from Beach Lane. Do you work with AJ, AW and LR?

    I adore your work!


  3. Fascinating! Who knew what you could do with blue!

  4. Wonderful post. Enjoyed viewing your process!

  5. Pingback: Boom Boom Arrives | Books Around The Table

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