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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On Bird Hill Blog Tour {guest post & giveaway}

Welcome to Day #8 of the On Bird Hill Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of On Bird Hill by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall (5/10/16), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Jane, Bob, and Brian Sockin (CEO and Publisher of Cornell Lab Publishing Group), plus 10 chances to win a copy of On Bird Hill and a window bird feeder!

The Illustration Process by Bob Marstall
Doodle to Cover Process Sequence
This is the unfinished doodle that Jane made me make a print of before she left my studio on January 5th, 2012 (see first blog). The print was, no doubt, lying on her passenger-side car seat as she drove home humming the tune from “The Green Grass Grows all Around” and writing the story in her mind. I can’t remember if we discussed where the egg-like shape was going, but her first draft – received two hours later – included a hen, an egg and a chick.
After Jane sent me the first draft, I finished the drawing under the gentle influence of her story.
Later I made a few modifications, primarily the furrows that break through the curved line to the left of the egg.
I added color to the drawing using Photoshop CS5. From the start, this vignette was thought of as the cover image. Hans Teensma designed the cover and found the perfect typefaces.
Pages 6-7 Process Sequence
This is my very first thumbnail (7/8” x 2”) for OBH, pages 06-07, done immediately after reading Jane’s draft for the first time. The concept of a child with a dog started here (the text doesn’t mention a dog), but the pair ended up in a very different landscape.
Soon after I completed the thumbnails, I began drawing what turned out to be first-round sketches, half-sized, starting with the thumbnail but soon re-imagining the entire scene.
Because several years passed between the thumbnails and 1st-round sketches and when Jane and I actually got contracts, I felt the need to re-think everything. I drew a full-sized 2nd-round of sketches. At 9”x22”, I could really get in there and wander around, discovering a new land. 
This is the full-size pencil finish for pages 06-07, the one where I really started to understand and visualize the look and feel of Bird Hill. As with all my pencil finishes, I used a mechanical pencil with HB leads and worked on my favorite watercolor paper, Arches 300lb hot press (it has a luscious texture).
This is an early color draft, one of many. I added all the color for the entire book in Photoshop, which may sound easier to some than watercolors or oils, but which probably takes the same amount of time and work as either. For the next book in this series, “On Duck Pond”, I’ve already decided to use watercolors first, then scan and tweak the colors in Photoshop, if needed.
The finished color spread. If I had known how hard it would be to add color in Photoshop to things like the dozens of slender frond leaves, I definitely would have used watercolors first! 
Pages 24-25 Process Sequence
Thumbnail (7/8”x2”) for the p 24-25 spread. This is one thumbnail where the essential idea – foreground egg, nest, limb and stretching chick – changed almost not at all, from the first few lines all the way through to the color finish. The background went through a number of changes but ended up disappearing entirely in the final art. 
Fyi: Thumbnails are the critical first step in developing a visual idea into a finished image. I try to complete each thumbnail very quickly, sometimes in under a minute. The idea is to just get the idea out there quickly – boom! – before the brain starts analyzing it. The best ones usually happen this way. But, if it doesn’t work – hey, it’s easy to quickly do another one with a completely different concept. 
This is one of many versions with the same foreground but wildly different backgrounds (the canyon started out as a path that became a river, then deepened).
Back in 2012, I needed to complete one spread as a sample, and I finally decided on a background.
I added color with Photoshop CS5 and then finally had a sample that, along with the cover, captured the “look and feel” of the book and was used to show to prospective publishers. 
So, suddenly it’s June, 2015 and Jane and I have contracts – and it’s time to re-visit my ideas and drawings from 2012. I read and re-read the now-much-revised story and realized that the nest, egg and chick were resting on a “twig”, not the limb that was “Straight and strong and long and slim” on which I had based the earlier sketches. In re-imagining the twig, I came up with the curvy, spiky, berry-bearing appendages (I was determined to avoid naturalistic leaves). I really liked them and they became a key part of the book (two reviewers referred to them as “Suessian”) – but they were difficult to draw and ultimately color, and in the end there were a lot more of them than I had ever imagined.
At this point I opted for simplicity, feeling that a background, while interesting, distracted from the landscape inside the egg and the exuberant chick.
FYI: The egg is empty because I had drawn it several times and everyone already knew what would be inside. Deadlines do that to a person. 
The pencil finish. At the last moment, I decided that the sticks in the nest were too realistic – what tree did they come from? – and I went with grass-like leaves that echoed the frond-like trees elsewhere.
The color finish for pages 24-25.

Stop by Cracking the Cover tomorrow for Day #9 of the tour! Check out the other blogs below for more chances to win!

Blog Tour Schedule:
June 20th – The O.W.L.
June 21st — The Book Monsters
June 23rd  — MamaPapaBarn
June 24th — Rockin' Book Reviews June 27th — Kristi's Book Nook
June 28th — Books My Kids Read
June 29th — Word Spelunking
June 30th — Cracking the Cover
July 1st — Can You Read Me a Story?

Loosely based on the old cumulative nursery rhyme/song “The Green Grass Grew All Around,” a nursery rhyme first published as a song in 1912. But in this version, it’s a boy and his dog who find the bird in a nest on a hill in a strange valley. Following in the footsteps of Jane’s highly acclaimed Owl Moon, winner of the prestigious Caldecott Award, On Bird Hill is a beautiful picture book with an enchanting story, fancifully illustrated by renowned artist Bob Marstall. On Bird Hill is sure to attract interest from millions of readers and fans of Jane’s popular classics.
About the Author: Jane Yolen has authored more than 350 books, including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon, which every budding young ornithologist owns, You Nest Here With Me, which is a popular new favorite, and the New York Times bestselling series How Do Dinosaurs. Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages and are popular around the world. Janes husband, David Stemple, was both a well known bird recordist and a professor of computer science and he taught the entire family how to identify birds. Many of Jane’s books are about wildlife subjects, especially the winged kind. Jane lives in Easthampton, MA. Visit her online at
About the Illustrator: Bob Marstall is the illustrator of nine nonfiction children’s books, including the The Lady and the Spider, which sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies and was a Reading Rainbow selection. Bob has also been honored with an ALA Notable; an IRA Teachers’ Choice; a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children; and three John Burroughs selections.
In addition, two of Bob’s books are included in the New York Times Parent’s Guide’s “1001 Best Books of the Twentieth Century.” Bob Lives in Easthamton, MA. Visit him online at

About the Cornell Lab: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet.

One (1) winner will receive a copy of On Bird Hill and a Window Bird Feeder ($28.99) to get up close and personal with the birds in your backyard! Great for blends, peanuts and safflower, this durable feeder attaches right to your window pane with suction cups, allowing you to see every bird detail. It's easy to fill and easy to clean.
  • US only
  • ends July 8
  • winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hour
  • Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prize

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Danielle H. said...

My favorite are chickadees and finches. I would love for them to visit me!

Slowsly said...

Jane's books were always a big hit when I taught elementary school. I read them a lot because I enjoyed them as much as the kids. This new book looks wonderful. Since retiring I have found great joy in trying to identify the numerous birds that find their way to my house. I love that you shared the illustrator's steps.

Carl Scott said...

My favorites are the hummingbirds that we get in the summer but I don't think they'd come around that particular feeder. I'd be happy to see any sort of unusual bird drop by. They're always enjoyable to watch.

Sue Hull said...

I have a bunch of trees and a huge pine tree in front of my balcony. I see finches, sparrows and my favorite morning doves. This looks like a very cute book. Thank you for the chance :)

Sue Hull said...

I have a bunch of trees and a huge pine tree in front of my balcony. I see finches, sparrows and my favorite morning doves. This looks like a very cute book. Thank you for the chance :)

♡♥♬ Carolsue ♡♥♬ said...

I'd like to see robins come around the feeder
Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

Deb said...

My elementary library would love this book and bird feeder!