Plan B


I’m almost finished with the artwork for TAP TAP BOOM BOOM by Elizabeth Bluemle (Candlewick Press), a poem about a rainy day in the city. The text is lively with sounds of rain and thunder and I wanted the images to be full of sounds too in a way. Raindrops splatter on sidewalks, cars splash through puddles, basketballs bounce and there’s music in the subway station where everyone has found refuge from the storm.

I also had an idea of how I wanted the artwork to look. I wanted to mix in photographs throughout. I thought of using cyanotypes, maybe because the process involved sunlight and water, like a thunderstorm, but most likely because of that deep, deep indigo. I had used cyanotypes in my artwork before (Saving Sweetness, by Diane Stanley) and remember liking the simple process. A negative is sandwiched over a piece of paper that has been coated with two chemicals – Ferric Ammonium Citrate and Potassium Ferricyanide – between glass, exposed to sunlight and then rinsed in water.



I did an illustration to test it out. The publisher liked how it looked so I was ready to go.


Unfortunately the cyanotype process didn’t work for this book — size issues and lack of reliable sunshine, among other reasons. I needed a Plan B but was attached to the idea of those deep blue prints, and was already given a green light from the publisher.

What I ended up doing was to create faux-cyanotypes in Photoshop as duotones to mimic the look I was after. This also also allowed me to change the color more freely. There are different kinds of light in the story – strong sunlight, the light just before and during a thunderstorm, and the fluorescent lighting of the subway. I don’t know if those indigo images would have worked for all the pages so in the end Plan B was a better way to go.





5 Responses to “Plan B”

  1. 1 danacarey1

    I love this artwork– I get a great feel for the city. Thanks for sharing your process.

  2. Really interesting about cyanotypes and PSD duotones come to that. Did you use just cyan and black as one layer in photoshop? Love the light, the different lights coming from these samples too. Love the way you experiment with techniques!

    • I changed the mode from RGB to grayscale and then to duotone. At first I used cyan and black but then started fooling around with other combinations. Once it’s in this mode then all layers are as well.

  3. 5 rbryce

    Thanks for sharing your process! I’ve loved your illustrations since I was introduced to Atlantic when it was a VT Red Clover Book Nominee. Now Lemonade in Winter is a VT Red Clover Book Nominee and I’m excited to study this book with my library students, and share your process. Thanks!

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