Monster Mash Ups

creature chaos: some of the many drawings that have been created for Galdo's Gift

The stuff of our nightmares are rarely under the bed or in the wardrobe (unless you are a fashion stylist perusing inside my wardrobe), they are out there in our everyday world.  As a child these demons surfaced in the form of the school bully, a vindictive teacher or the embodiment of all evil, Brussels sprouts.  Sorry Brussels sprout lovers.

It's something to bear in mind when breathing life into monsters for children's books.  Do you want them to represent these fears?  Oftentimes humans can quite happily fulfill this role anyway.  Additionally, fear of creatures other than ourselves isn't really the noblest of objectives when comes to wonderful world of children's literature.

We also need to avoid creating actual nightmares for our more sensitive readership.  A bad actor in an laughably unconvincing rubber creature costume on Doctor Who could scare the proverbials out of me when I was five years old.  We certainly don't want to cause sleepless nights.

Thankfully, our technique of constructing our creatures out of constituent parts has allowed us to mix and match to find the perfect look for everything from enormous rabid blood-sucking bats to giant screaming snakes. 

Sweet dreams, everyone.

 

 

Defining Moment

So, how to make reading and understanding fun for children...

So, how to make reading and understanding fun for children...

Everybody likes print books.  If you don't, I don't want to be your friend; there I said it.

So we are creating a digital book.

'Whaaa?  I thought you just said...', yes I know, it seems a little back-to-front and we will bring out a print book version in good time, but hear me out.  There is a reason why digital books should have their place among the stories that children enjoy. 

We know what digital books don't offer; their tactile nature, the intimacy of the page to reader experience, the ability to have varying formats; big, small, pop up, cutouts etc.  But they do have the ability to enhance the reading experience in their own way.  We've been speaking to parents and teachers about our ideas for Galdo's Gift and they are very excited by the possibilities it presents.

One of those is the ability to click on any word and find out what it means.  This, to us, seemed like a small thing to begin with.  Hardly setting the world alight, right?  Well, to a child that is reluctant to read because a book has many words that they simply don't understand, it's a game changer.

And the advantages don't stop there, but that's for another day.

The Changing Landscape

a newhorizon... Eleanor's latest paper model of Galdovia

Galdovia is always somewhere we wanted to revisit and truly explore what it has to offer.

Previous visits had always been fleeting.  There was never time to take in it's full potential, we had to push on, quicken the pace, 'no time to linger' barked the uncompromising, yet dashing, Trevor.

Well sometimes it's good to pause, contemplate and revisit; you begin to see what you truly missed the first time around.

Eleanor revisited Galdovia; sighed it's cool fresh air, strolled its winding hill paths and misty valleys and brought the landscape into crystal sharp focus before our eyes...

...and next time, we go together.

The Book Look

A section from our latest Galdo's Gift page backdrop

A section from our latest Galdo's Gift page backdrop

Looking worse for wear...much like the martyrs in the book

One thing that is important to Eleanor and I when making Galdo's Gift is to stay true to, and celebrate, the beauty of books.  This may sound contradictory when you learn that Galdo's Gift will firstly be a digital book;  we don't see it that way.  We want to encapsulate all that we love about print books alongside what a digital book can offer.

The image here is the front cover from a very old book I have inherited from my parents, The Foxes Book of Martyrs (a church copy, listing the stories of many Christian martyrs through history).  It has many of the qualities that have consciously fed into the design of our book.

Obviously a digital book can't be as wonderfully tactile as a print book, but we can draw a lot from it's visual texture, patterns and surface qualities and add all that is good about digital books; animation, sound, informative visual overlays, increased engagement of reluctant readers; the list goes on.

We look forward to sharing that experience with all of you.

 

Discerning Palettes

Our initial palette choice

Our initial palette choice

When we started Galdo's Gift we knew that we had to be strict over the colour choices we made.

All to often, if the decision over what colour palette to use is ignored, the resulting imagery can lack coherence.  We decided early on that we would choose a few images (in our case illustrations) which contained colour combinations we liked and thought would compliment our style. 

That is what you see in the photo above; the three images we picked.  They had some beautiful muted tones and fitted with the colour palettes we had noticed in folk art and the Victorian paper theatres that also inform our work.

Scanning these images into the computer and constructing a project palette within all our graphic software meant we could remain consistent across all the imagery we produced.

Of course rules are there to be broken, so yes, we have strayed in our colour choices from time to time, but we always have the original palette choice to bring us back in line.

Getting the Message

monster message

For a while now we here a Tapocketa have been wondering what we can offer to our subscribers whilst we are still busy building and promoting Galdo's Gift.  The book is going to take a while before it is finished and we are grateful for the following that we are accruing, we want to give something back in the meantime.

We've been looking at putting messages into our scenes, something that people would love to share with friends on social media.  So we are building a selection of great quotes that not only have strong associations with our scenes but that would work well when placed out of context on a timeline on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.

We will soon put out a link to a page of these messages that can be shared for free.  We have also been thinking about putting out personalised versions on request if there is interest in doing so.

For now here is one of the first (share by clicking on the paper plane symbol that appears in the top right corner (desktop/laptop: it sometimes only appears when you hover the pointer over the video, mobile: try rotating your phone, as it only seems to appear if the video is of a larger scale on your device)...

Enjoy...

An unexpected quote from a scientist, perhaps, but Einstein relied on the power of his imagination (alongside logic, of course) to expand his theories.

I Need a Hero!

Wait...did he just? Nah, can't be.

Wait...did he just? Nah, can't be.

What a noble specimen of heroics. What a dashing, noble knight.  No wonder they have chosen to immortalise him with such dynamic realism.  Wait a minute, did he just move?  No...maybe not.

As I was saying, he seems just the sort of unflinching, bold hero we need for our tale.  What a fitting tribute to him this very realistic painting is...  no wait, he moved again.  Did nobody see it this time?  I'm not sure whether my mind is playing tricks on me.

Anyway, to get back to what I was saying... no there it is again.  Hang on, this is no painting.  No wonder it is so lifelike; Sir Strompliff is that you?  I'm not sure the hero we need is the sort that has to be his own portrait in his spare time.

Although heroes are pretty rare these days, so you might just have to do.

Animated, Like Clockwork

Do the squirrel rock

Do the squirrel rock

Mesmerising isn't it?  There's something so relaxing about watching a squirrel chomping away over and over again, forever.  

This is just one of the many critters that inhabits Galdovia and many of them lead very repetitive lives, but they don't mind.  They find something comforting in the familiar, even if it is familiar frequently as in the case of old 'scoff chops' here.

If he reminds you of an old Christmas nutcracker toy soldier, then top marks to you.  For those of you dribbling and scratching your head in bemusement, a diagram is in order....

 
 

Essentially a wooden toy for cracking walnuts shells and releasing the tasteless walnutty goodness within.

As good a starting inspiration as any, no?

 

Turning the Tide

Spin cycle

Spin cycle

Well, now I'm all at sea.  Things are not all they seem when you look at them from a different angle.  What was once so substantial now seems wafer-thin.

But that works both ways; small and thin, inconsequential elements can be put together to build something quite substantial.  Unremarkable individual pieces can be constructed to create something to capture the imagination.

Now something that once seemed an unremarkable collection of parts can become a wonderful window into a weird world...

 

A scene from the up and coming digital book, Galdo's Gift: Now meet Master Mustafo and his mariner mates, Manoeuvring their Man O’ War through the Marlin Straits. Mercilessly mashing monsters from the murk. “Muster up a memento, or you’ll drive me berserk!”

Chin tucks and nose jobs

What chin? Who nose?

What chin? Who nose?

So the heroine of our story, Brendara, is not looking herself.

BEFORE

BEFORE

Not sure why, she just seems distant, aloof, not her old self.  Is it the hair?  I don't think so.  Maybe the clothes, a new hat, perhaps?  No, she's always had that hat, she's always had those clothes.

Maybe the chin?  Hmmm, Brendara thinks so, so we are going to try some other chins.  Let's see...

Cue make over music

Cue make over music

So tricky, some make her look too sinister, some make her look too stupid (sorry, Brendara).

However....

Ladies and gentleman, after all the votes have been counted and verified, we have a winner.

Brendara final illustration on white

No that's more like it.

Batty and Squeak

"Who yer calling 'chicken legs?'"

"Who yer calling 'chicken legs?'"

"So no point being a bat if you can't flap around in caves, fly around folks' heads and generally cause a nuisance.

Hmmm...but there's some else missing.  Yeah, how am I going scare people if I can't make a scary noise?  I need to find something that makes a noise I like and make a noise like that.

Ahhh...I remember the old days when evil master Vosperlich used to play ball with me through the caves.  He would throw the ball as far as he could down through the caves and I would chase after it as fast as my little green wings could flap.  Oh happy days! Other bats would say he was just trying to get rid of me for a bit so he could carry on with his evil experiments, but they were just jealous he wanted to play with me.  

Oh, how I remember the ball's squeaks would echo through the cave as it bounced off the walls. I loved that squeaky ball.  That's it!  That's the sound I shall make, how wonderful!  I shall squeak as loud as I can and maybe one day my master will hear the squeaks and come back and play!"

 

To the Bat Cave, Let's Go!

The stage is set for our herione...

'Away inside a distant cliff face, our brave heroine bravely battles away again a colony of fearsome foes...'

What?  What do you mean she's not there?  Your kidding, right?  Don't tell me the fearsome foes are late as well.  What kind of show is this?  They were supposed to be here days ago.  Don't tell me they're stuck in traffic; I won't believe you.  There is no traffic around here.

I suppose all we can do is admire the view until they arrive.

As you can see the cave here is made up of many layers to create a picture book/pop up book feel or perhaps like a stage play set.  Like a stage play, the set is all important in setting the scene.  We need to consider where our actors will be placed, how they will be lit and how their surroundings will compliment this.

Cramming our set with too much detail may detract from the main action on the characters.  Colours need to be carefully considered so that they work alongside the colour of the characters and the lighting.  We are using a lot of fairly saturated colour lighting and this can alter the perceived colour of the set.
 

'So I killed a bit of time there to give them time to show up.  Still not here?  Oh my, maybe tomorrow then.'

 

Setting the Scene

The swamp scene ready for our character's entrance

Now the stage is set for one of our first scenes.  Awaiting the arrival of our brave knight on his shimmering steed.  Oh, and lets not forget the serpents. What's the point of having a brave knight if he just roams the countryside admiring the view and then just trundles home in time for tea with no combat involved?

Might pop a few snails in there for good measure.

This is one of our first virtual sets by Eleanor Long and will be one of the first scenes to be completed for our children's poetry book.

Slime Time

Lettuce eating snail animation.

'Chomp, slurp, crunch, what you looking at?  What a guy can't eat his lettuce in peace now?'

Oh, I'm sorry, I apologise for my 'friend's' rudeness here, it's very difficult to find snails with the manners required for our book.  Most of them just leave slime everywhere and munch on leaves all day.  As time is short I guess he will have to do.

Material World

One of our element sheets that will be populating our scenes.

'Yeah, we all shine on, like the Moon and the stars, and the Sun.' (John Lennon).  How true, but someone has to make them first. 

'Eleanor! How's the Moon, the stars and the Sun coming along?  Our scenery is looking distinctly like it needs some creative illumination,' and Eleanor is the one to provide it.

Eleanor is drawing (pun intended) on her history, set building on films as The Borrowers and tv progs such as the highly acclaimed Graham Norton Show to create the scenic backdrops for our cast of characters.  Although so far she has avoided the oversized objects or glitzy flamboyance of those previous projects.  But then you never know.

Critter Call Thinking

We now have our roll call for various scenes in the book.  All the people are putting on their hats and boots and forming a nice orderly queue, ready to play their part.

Time for the creatures of this world to make an appearance.  How do these move about?  What makes them unique and interesting?  What will they look like when all their parts are put together?

We look forward to finding out with you.

Think Ink

Technology is great.  There's no argument about that.  It's fantastic full stop (or 'period' if you look to the east for your Atlantic view).  It's truly amazing.  Today they have this device which needs no batteries yet keeps it's image clarity for many hundreds of years and it's hardware never becomes obsolete.  Apparently it's called a 'book' and I think it is something we are going to have consider if we are going to make it in the cut-throat world of children's literature.

To that end we had a minor panic that our old-fashioned digital stuff was going to look pants in print.  You know, all pixelly and depressing.  So in an effort to allay our fears we decided to push the pixels to the paper.  Peering nervously through our hands as we hardly dared to look, the results gradually emerged from our Epson Office BX610FW and...

..it's fine. 

Now back to work, people, nothing to see here.

Rough Idea

Storyboard Animatic Door Forest

While we make new acquaintances, new little characters to recruit into our world, we thought we would show you a snippet of our early animatic.   An animatic is the the next step on from the storyboard it helps us see how things will be progressively framed by the camera through the stories various scenes.  Think of it as an animated storyboard if you like.  It is still very much not finished in terms of look but helps us make decisions about what might be added to enhance each scene.

The small snippet above represents this frame from our storyboard:

Through the Swampland

Oh my, I think I've taken a turn for the worse.

Oh my, I think I've taken a turn for the worse.

There seems to be a part of every momentous journey when you are forced to slow down and take stock of your surroundings, and I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing.  Stopping and taking a look around you means you have time to re-evaluate whether you really have taking the right path or perhaps back up a little and take a slightly different route.

We have ended up in swampland and have had to stop and work out why we ended up there.  The development of the inhabitants of the world we are creating have not been very forthcoming and we are now in the process of inviting new ones to our land.  Hopefully they won't be so difficult as the last lot.  Creating cool characters is hard!