Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Adventures in Artist Hero Worship

One of the biggest perks of my job is working with talented illustrators. Our group here works very hard to select the right illustrators for our books. Often we are searching agencies, artist websites, and promos that are mailed to us to find the perfect match. But sometimes that perfect illustrator comes to you without looking at all.

Such was the case when I began the project for our new middle grade novel series written by Bryan Methods, Master Diplexito and Mr. Scant. Before I even started reading the first title The Thief’s Apprentice (October 2016) I was already conjuring dark alleys, top hats and side glances, cobblestones and dusty libraries full of secrets. Then it was revealed that the plot revolved around a gleaming metal claw hand, brandished by a masked shadow robber—or was he?

As I read this book I began seeing in my mind figures and settings that had the distinct look of the art of the very talented and prolific Richard Sala.  I have long admired Mr. Sala, the author and illustrator of graphic novels such as The Chuckling Whatsit, Black Cat Crossing, Mad Night, Peculia and Cat Burglar Black among others. I find his art style to be a marvelously curious blend of darkness and humor and of distortion and reality. His work can charm you and unnerve you all at the same time. I felt that his style would perfectly capture the complex personalities of Mr. Scant and the young Master Diplexito, who becomes ensnared in a world of dark intrigue. Plus, I would finally get to work with one of my most favorite illustrators of all time!

But it is one thing to envision your perfect match of art and text and quite another to bring it to fruition. Would this amazing artist even be interested in taking direction for a children’s book? I dreaded the possibility of outright rejection. I knew it would send me into an artist search spiral—desperately trying to find someone who could remotely do what he can. Even more fraught with peril: he might say yes. The admiration you feel for your favorite artist can quickly turn south if you find you cannot communicate well. You know what they say: Don’t meet your heroes.

But whoever said that has never met Richard Sala! Within hours of my reaching out to him with the proposal, we were exchanging pleasant emails (Look Ma, I’m talking with Ricahard Sala!!!) Soon he agreed to be the illustrator. My co-workers had to endure my many triumphant fist pumps and happy dances around the office.

Working with Richard Sala has been a dream come true. He sent us detailed sketches capturing Mr. Scant’s churlish personality to a tee and we landed on a cover concept in record time. Every step of the way felt collaborative. Best of all, he completely understood what it meant to be working for a client so he was responsive to our feedback and requests.

As you can see for yourself, the end result is a thrilling and unique blend of old world spy action with a modern graphic twist—perfect for the story, the age level and for Carolrhoda. Check out The Thief’s Apprentice hitting stores October 2016 and see this masterpiece of art and fiction up close.


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