I have a fondness for cranky obsolete tools like circle templates, Speedball pens, and parallel rules. I love the feeling of stuffing sticky beeswax into a Lectrostik waxer. My pulse quickens at the smell of Higgins Eternal ink. I can still dimly remember how to construct a pentagon with nothing but a compass.
But I also appreciate the quicksilver speed and convenience of the computer. When it came to creating Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, I gave a lot of thought to what steps to do by hand and what to do digitally.
For the first time I designed and wrote the book in Adobe InDesign. In the past I designed the Dinotopia books by typing out galleys on paper and sticking them down with hot beeswax onto cardboard paste-up sheets.
This time I had low-res digital image files shot from the original art, and I dropped them into an InDesign template. Then I inserted temporary "greeked" columns of type to match the storyboard. With just a few months to go before press time, I wrote the text and captions to fit into the layout. In this way I could juggle around all the page elements, trimming here and expanding there to carefully control the column length and page breaks.
During this design/comp stage I used two custom digital fonts that were made to simulate my own 19th Century-style hand lettering. These digital fonts appear in the final layouts of my second book, The World Beneath.
The digital fonts were fine for the comprehensive stage, but they never look like real handwriting. I’m getting a bit tired of looking at digital letterforms masquerading as real hand lettering. When it came to the final appearance of the new Chandara book, I wanted everything to be as authentically handmade as possible.
So I dug in the back of my studio drawers and found my old friends, the steel pen nibs by the name of Gillott and Speedball and Brause. They were rusty and so was I, but I got into the swing of it after a while.
I drew all the maps with ruling pens, circle templates, and dip pens. The captions were lettered with an oblique nib holder and a Gillott 170. The lettering didn’t take that long, and it was fun to put on a fancy flourish here and there.
Let me take this opportunity to thank my editor, Dorothy O’Brien at Andrews McMeel Publishing, for her patience and faith in this unusual process, and to Tim, Holly, Mackenzie, and the whole team at AMP for their incredible job of putting the elements into final design and production.