Behind The Spoons Part 2 | Storytelling & The Process

Self portrait painting from high school.

Self portrait painting from high school.

Growing up I was constantly writing stories, or movies, creating narratives, more than I drew. I was probably in high school when I narrowed down my ultimate passion to "storytelling." Movies were my favorite form of storytelling, but like Kurt Vonnegut says, they are the most expensive way to tell a story.

vonnegut2

Even though Clarence was a kid's book, I still wanted it to have a cinematic sensibility. I wanted the illustrations to fill the entire page and the text to really integrate with the images. This was heavily inspired by Maira Kalman, an artist whose picture books feature text that seems to dance across the page.

ABOVE: Spread from Maira Kalman's book "Max Makes a Million" (C) 1990, Viking Penguin. BELOW: Spread from Clarence and The Spoon.

ABOVE: Spread from Maira Kalman's book "Max Makes a Million" (C) 1990, Viking Penguin. BELOW: Spread from Clarence and The Spoon.

jeff_spread1

I worked on the story of Clarence in between classes in 2004, and in the summer of '05 I began sketching layouts in the warehouse made available to art students in the BFA program.

Me in my studio at the BFA Warehouse, FSU, Tallahassee, FL. (Pictured above during winter. Abandoned by most students in the summer).

Me in my studio at the BFA Warehouse, FSU, Tallahassee, FL. (Pictured above during winter. Abandoned by most students in the summer).

The warehouse was literally a giant no-frills sheet metal warehouse. It didn't have air conditioning. It didn't have great security. Following suit it didn't have many students making art there in the summer. For most students, summer means getting out and doing fun things like swimming, traveling, or working. As a crazy person, I chose to sweat it out in a metal oven, making art, which only furthered my brain damage and hence my art.

Page of sketches where I locked on the look of Clarence, circled above. 

Page of sketches where I locked on the look of Clarence, circled above. 

The art making process for Clarence was relatively straightforward. I started with sloppy sketches, working on characters and design elements.

Sloppy sketches.

Sloppy sketches.

Next I sketched pencil layouts for each page, figuring out where the text would fit. These sketches were also mostly indecipherable, and had I died right then and there no one would have ever figured out what I was doing.

LEFT: Rough, mostly indecipherable layout. RIGHT: Finished page.

LEFT: Rough, mostly indecipherable layout. RIGHT: Finished page.

Once I had locked my rough layouts, I would make a final layout drawing. These final drawings were then scanned into the computer where the final text positioning was overlaid in Photoshop.

Final sketch with text overlay.

Final sketch with text overlay.

This process took the entire summer and well into the next semester. At this point Clarence was a thirty six page picture book, and I had been working on it in between classes for over a year. It was a huge investment and something I was determined to finish no matter what. I thought if I could keep up the steady pace I would have the whole thing neatly wrapped up before graduating.

A video response to Jeff thinking the book will be done before he graduates.