John Himmelman's Stories' Stories
Young Christopher Columbus, Discoverer of New Worlds
Written by Eric Carpenter
Illustrated by John Himmelman
Sometime in 1990, I got a call from Paige Gillies at Publishers Graphics, a packager/graphic design firm in CT who had seen my portfolio earlier. In fact, she was the one who pointed out my "slip of the eyes" in Ibis. They hooked me up to be the illustrator for three biographies of famous people when they were young. This guy on the left, George Washington, and a few years later, Thomas Edison.
Biographies weren't exactly in my wheelhouse, but as I stated on an earlier page, when a freelancer is asked if they can do something, the answer is always "yes". And then they figure out how to do it.
I'm quite pleased with how the books came out, though - really pushed myself on them! However, the best part of this was it was my introduction to Troll Publications, and editor Bonnie Brook, with whom I was later to do some pretty nice projects.
I tried a couple different things in this book (and the next). The line work, which is normally solid, was broken up into dots and dashes. This put a bit more responsibility on the color to hold the shapes together. Another thing I tried came from a discussion with Doug Cushman, a fellow illustrator of children's books. He talked about playing with underwashes for his paintings. It sounded like something interesting to try here. I put down a light brown wash of watercolor before painting the other colors. What that does is take away the bright whites in the image. I thought it would give it an older, Columbus era, look.
Here's Columbus meeting the native inhabitants. I had done another painting that wasn't used. It showed ol' Chris with one hand up in greeting and another hidden behind his back. It was just my little way of showing his arrival was not going to go well for the Indians.
I guess its hidden meaning wasn't as hidden as I'd hoped, and it was taken out. Will take some searching to find the orginals - if I do, I'll add it to the page.
Oh, and did you know that no one knows what Columbus really looked like? No portrait of him exists that was painted while he was living.
AAHH! I got Charlotte Cheethamed again! In 2007, they redid the cover with a different artist. That happens with flat fee illustration work. Once you hand in your final art, it's theirs to do with what they will within the context of that book.
I hit a lot of libraries researching the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria and went back as far as I could to find the oldest (yet accurate) references. Illustrations of things like this tend to suffer from telephone game syndrome, where early errors multiply over many retellings. There were also photos of recreations out there, which was even more helpful.