Cookies in Space - book dummy project

  • I started working on this book dummy project four months ago Getting started on my own book pitch (scary!!) and it rested for a long while while I re-worked the manuscript four times. Now I have decided that the manuscript can stay as it is, while I bring the illustration part forward. I plan to bring this as a book dummy to the NY SCBWI conference in February - and this means that I should not be doing anything else from now on, which is going to be difficult (I know myself).
    Anyhow, there are four characters in the story and last week I worked on the missing three (the robots) and after several dozen thumbs and some more refined sketches, I have a lineup that I think works.
    Your impressions and input would be highly appreciated. I plan to start building the maquettes next week. Here is a couple of keywords:

    • Mary: strong, big, slow, square, clumsy, wants to help but often ends up destroying things.
    • Norbert: precise, focussed, a little manic - can concentrate for a long time but does not always choose the most effective approach to things. For the story, it needs to have a spike and be able to roll.
    • Peter: a pet robot, jumpy, enthusiastic, always in the way. Has lots of tools hidden inside the shell.
      Below are some of the short-listed variations - maybe I did not choose right? At the beginning I wanted each to have a different mean of locomotion, but in the lineup this looked disjointed somehow.
      Happy to hear your thoughts!

    alt text

    alt text

    alt text

    alt text

  • Another question I seem to be stuck on at the moment is whether the main character should be a human boy (who meets alien children at the end and shares his cookies) or an alien child (who meets human children at the end and shares his cookies)

    Here are the two alien variations I had worked on months ago - both would fit in the lineup.

    alt text

  • Impressive stuff. I like your character choices. Great work I always find the preliminary stages the toughest part of the project....always hard to fight the urge to go straight to painting. Do you model all the characters out in Zbrush to help with the turns and lighting? I haven't touched it in months but I was thinking I need to get back into it because I'm having trouble turning a few of my characters. I like the human character better. He's got a great design.

  • @evilrobot Thank you! I actually love preparatory work more than working on final illustration - that is my crutch! I have difficulty to declare than an idea is ready to get born and to accept that it will only exist in one of many possible forms...and all the others will never see the limelight.
    Yes, for work that needs characters or environments to be consistent through several illustrations I almost always use 3D - ZBrush for characters and Sketchup for environments. It costs extra time at the beginning but I find it is more than worth the investment. I do rough turnarounds first (would never pass a concept art quality test, but they are enough to model from!). It is also more than six months since I did my last maquette - time to go back and re-train!

  • How exciting! It goes without saying that your drawing is excellent as always - love the work. And great idea to create a dummy book in time for the conference.

    Some thoughts - Mary is absolutely perfect, wouldn't change a thing. She looks ponderous, clumsy, but appealing too. Love the goldfish! (is that her second brain?). I like your alien but I think the human is probably the best choice for a pitch - then you've got a familiar Earth human amongst all the strange space and fantasy story-stuff. And I like the line-up human sketch best of all.

    Norbert - I'm not sure about the design you've chosen for this one. The metal casing kinda looks like a blanket, and it makes him looks a bit closed off from the world. I actually really like the head and the top half of #8 - he's got an alert, almost snappy look, like a focussed scientist-professor robot. I wonder if you could combine his top half with the bottom half of #1 - I like the bold triangle shape of #1 but his face isn't as appealing. If you fitted them together then he could roll along and be different from the others in his movement.

    Peter the pet robot - I'm assuming he's meant to be inspired by a tortoise but I can't see you actually mention that anywhere. But I was thinking about the tortoise-theme and had some ideas - and they are only ideas - what you've done is great already! ...these are just in case it inspires you or helps push you further in some way. The main one, was I wondered whether Peter could have springs in his legs, since he is meant to be 'jumpy'...that could be a fun thing to illustrate, 'boing boing boing'...etc...and also would help differentiate from the other robots' movements. Then I wondered if more chunky tortoise feet would help with the jumping and landing...

    I also wondered about making the tortoise shell more tortoisey somehow - I love the way their shells have that little lip at the front and wondered if that might work. But I can see you favour a minimalist rounded design so maybe you won't like that idea. But overall I really like him already - including those faded ones where he has all his tools out!


    Hope you don't mind me playing around with the design...just ideas, and what you've done is great already. Will be great to see where you go next!

  • @Dulcie Wow, thank you! Excellent ideas! I love the feet and legs you designed for Peter - i am definitely going to adopt that! You are right, I like the idea of the spherical or spheroid-like shell - although the tortoise idea looks also cool. It was not inspired by any particular animal - I was trying to capture the idea of "pet-ness" and in the thumbnails I used several different animals, including fishes. I think the legs you put on your last idea are a great change - they give him an even stronger sense of goofiness and familiarity, which is excellent. Thanks a lot for that!
    Norbert is a real difficult one so far...I have swapped him out several times as everything seemed to clash with the rest of the lineup. I will definitely try your idea - I have also just realised that I may need him to have hands...
    Thank you so much for the great input!

  • I like the idea of a human child meeting aliens. To my mind, this would be the most engaging/relatable for children.
    I also think your design of the human child is superior to the aliens (which are great, don't get me wrong).

    Love the different robots. You definitely have a lot of variety going here.

  • I am loving these characters! Especially the little boy you posted earlier.
    I agree with @Dulcie adding legs to Peter will make him more animated through the story.
    Best of luck! Can't wait to see more of this.

  • @smceccarelli Awesome as usual! - I vote for human boy, Norbert #5, and Peter #4 - they are all good though 🙂 I agree with Dulcie that Mary is perfect.

  • Very impressive! I like @Dulcie's suggestion for Peter's legs. I also vote for human boy sharing cookies with alien kids. Norbert is the only character that doesn't seem to fit his personality. He looks shy with his face half hiding in the cylindrical body. I like #1 the best. But really, they are all great!

  • Snap! I love these designs!
    I think this would be a great design for a first book!
    The silhouettes are strong on most of the characters and I could definitely see this as animated series or comic or something.

  • First pass at the maquette for the little kid. Needs to work more on the hands and ears and general refinement.


  • @smceccarelli Very nice! What 3d app are you using for this? Zbrush?

  • @natiwata Yes, my old friend ZBrush - had not used it for 6 moths and I feel so clunky....

  • @Dulcie This is a collaborative design - I incorporated your suggestion for the legs as well as another colleague's suggestion to include kitchen-apparel-like elements (the story is about baking on a spaceship). I though you would like to see this - I love how ZBrush and Keyshot make designs come to life in the real world - it makes the artist's work feel so real and tangible for me!

    0_1478782611775_Screen Shot 2016-11-10 at 13.52.17.png

  • @smceccarelli That looks great! - so real! - and I can definitely see the kitchen implements inspiration in the design. I think the springs in the legs match well with that idea, and I can see why that would fit with the baking concept 🙂 Glad you are making progress, will be great to see the next steps 🙂

  • This looks totally awesome. I love the work flow of using zbrush to make a digital marquette too, great idea. I have been debating whether or not to buy zbrush, but the learning curve is quite steep from what I have heard. Have you found this to be the case?

  • @RobinSlee I would say about 3-4 months full immersion - I had a whole course on that during 15 weeks, plus a bunch of tutorials (Digital Tutors) and I still occasionally have to look up specific things. The interface is so different from any other software and not intuitive. Once you know your way around it though, everything clicks into place. It is much much easier than Maya (which they say takes about 3 years to master - I scared out of it very fast...).

  • And finished with the maquettes! I wanted to do some environment modelling, but I think I will just skip that and try a more design-driven approach to environment.
    I ended up keeping Norbert as in the original lineup - I tried several other alternatives but nothing worked. It seems like the lineup needed a simpler design to counterbalance the complexity of the other characters. I have swapped around roles in the story so that Norbert does not need hands - but his cookie-cutter feet will turn out handy! Each robot now includes also some subtle elements of kitchen apparel - let me know if you think it comes across (or not!).
    I am quite happy with the designs - and funnily I am picking up some likes from Japanese artists on social media - which I think is really interesting!


  • They look amazing - I'm sure this is going to work out really well. I can see a spoon, an oven dial, and the various springs remind me of whisks...oh, and a piping tube thing! I think Norbert looks better in the maquette version because his eyes pop out more...will be interesting to see how he does everything without arms 🙂