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.
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