Weekly newsletter of Robert Thibeault - Issue #3





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Tea Bow Studios Newsletter - Robert Thibeault
Tea Bow Studios Newsletter - Robert Thibeault
Dear Person, Who Opens My Newsletter,
This week we move to another part of the studio. Another aspect of my job as an illustrator and designer is book cover design. Today I share an interview with Tom M. Franklin, author of the upcoming steampunk novel, THE PTERRIBLE PTERANODON, A POWERS BEYOND THEIR STEAM STORY. We will cover process, inspiration, and mechanical animals!

Finding the right font is crucial to the design of a book cover.
Finding the right font is crucial to the design of a book cover.
Tom: How did you decide on the scene you used for the cover illustration?
Me: It was quite easy. I knew right off that I wanted the fire-breathing pteranodon with all the main characters and you wrote the perfect scene where all that happened. The laboratory scene was the best since it contained all the characters, Pterrence, Dr. Delby, Ib, Bentley, and of course cute little Sophie on the back cover.
A preliminary Sketch of the cover.
A preliminary Sketch of the cover.
Tom: How much research did you do for each of the characters?
Me: For the characters I always try to get a feel through the writing of course, but I wanted to know what the writer’s vision was, so having a couple meetings to talk them through was helpful. For instance, my Dr. Delby was kind of goofy and Disney-esque at first and not at all how you envisioned him. Delby was not forgetful, quirky, or silly. He was a man with deep thoughts and amazed by science, a genius inventor! The dry expressionless features of the butler, Bentley had several revisions and Ib going from a clean-cut schoolboy to an orphan of the streets took several passes as well.
Character and cover development sketches
Character and cover development sketches
Tom: Were there any challenges with any of the characters?
Me: All the characters took several passes. It’s expected. It was the collaboration we did that helped to fine-tune them to where you wanted them. The clothing took the most research but I love to do it. Authenticity is crucial. I wanted the characters to fit the period. Bentley’s butler suit was based on outfits from the period and not difficult to find. I made Dr. Delby rather dapper and sharp-dressed, with striped pants and pointy shoes with spats. His hair was always wild to show his uniqueness and wild untamed genius. Ib’s clothing went from clean-cut schoolboy to an orphan of the streets. His attire consisted of hand-me-downs from Delby’s wardrobe and other places, so his clothes needed to be loose-fitting, but not too baggy.
Tom: What was your approach to creating the artwork for Pterrence?
Me: Well, I combed the internet for a pteranodon that was the most accurate. Having a mechanical drawing background helped me to imagine the parts and mechanisms that would be incorporated into a form to make it believable. Gears and pulleys, with an actual potbelly to produce steam. The most authentic feature was Pterrance’s beak. It needed to look like it could scoop up water when flying low over the Thames river. Hopefully, that comes through.
Tom: What was your approach in creating Sophie?
Me: Not sure why I thought of a sparrow, but I did. You wrote Sophie to be this cute delicate creation with intricate watch-work machinery inside her. I wanted to give her a classic brass metal shine with man-made feathers that had a red-brown sheen. I knew she needed to be distinct so I placed a feather on her head and gave her a round glass belly to show the gears whirring inside. The red eyes were from the book. Sophie has red eyes just like Pterrance to show they are tied together with their creator, Dr. Delby. 
The final Cover
The final Cover
Tom: We worked together to fine-tune the appearances of Ib, Delby, and Bentley. You were making changes on the fly as we discussed the characters. Is this something you’ve done before? Is this how you typically work with clients?
Me:  Not always. Many times an illustrator is hired and left alone to come up with something. They rely solely on the text to envision the characters and world, but this project was unique. You were receptive to my offer to sit and talk while I sketch things out. I love to know what the writers are thinking, to listen, and sketch to create images that resonate with them. This sort of close-knit collaboration is fun with the right person. I can see it leading to many revisions and an extended amount of time, but to be able to extract something from the writer’s mind and have it come to life for them is quite exciting for me whether there is a close collaboration or not.
I want to thank the author Tom M. Franklin for organizing this interview and I hope you enjoyed reading about my creative process. Look for Tom’s book coming out soon wherever books are sold.
If you enjoyed this please subscribe to my other newsletters today!
Robert Thibeault
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Author/Illustrator/Book Design/Covers/Logos - Clients include Scholastic, ABC, Houghton Mifflin, Verizon, Stephen Colbert

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