Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cracking Paint and City Streets

Inspiration strikes in the most unlikely places.

As I was working on the new book, Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, I was trying to come up with a street grid—a city plan—for the city of Chandara. But I had wasted a whole afternoon making tentative scribbles like this one.

I had studied maps of some of the greatest cities, like Paris and Amsterdam, and there was some elusive quality of design to each one that appealed to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

That evening, Jeanette and I went out for Chinese food. As we waited for the Moo Goo Gai Pan, the door of the Jade Palace Restaurant caught my eye.

I was intrigued by the pattern of cracking paint. The big diagonal cracks reminded me of avenues, and the smaller cracks looked like a maze of hidden alleyways, or "snickleways" as they call them in York, England.

I was down on my hands and knees staring closer and closer at the door. People walking by thought I had completely lost my mind.

Every city, in its old medieval section, has a pattern of streets that includes broad, straight avenues and little winding side streets. There is some deep law of nature at play in the cracking paint that also governs the layout of cities. I would like to live in such a city.

This was the breakthrough! The design of Chandara fell right into place. I went home and drew the map.

My fortune cookie said some trite nonsense, like “You will meet an interesting friend.” But what it should have said was “Stay open to possibilities.”


MManzieri said...

Yesterday my copy of "Journey to Chandara " landed on my desk in Italy. Simply gorgeous.

Unfolding all the pages... slowly... one by one... while reading this Blog gives indeed to the reader a double and interactive pleasure. It brings me to think that all this behind-the-scene material would deserve to be immortalized in a CD or DVD alleged to a future Deluxe Edition of the Dinotopia series!!!

Wonderful idea!
We feel part of the Tour!

Maurizio Manzieri

K_tigress said...

You could always live in Dubrovnik?
Beautiful place, been there my self and it has all the places you describe plus small island getaways you can get to by fiery.

As for inspiration from nature, one time my father brought home a pile of wood for the fire place and there were many pieces of rotted wood some of which were former ant homes.
I managed to save an interesting piece, which was in the shape of a pyramid. It really looked like a small city or a large castle. Really cool. I'll have to illustrated it into something sometime. Maybe I'll show a photo of it on the net too.

Kactiguy said...

I love that this is where you got your idea. Inspiration strikes!

Michael Damboldt said...

wow. That is so awesome. I've been reading the new book and I am completely astounded at the creativity inside of it! I feel like a little kid thumbing through the pages. So very awesome!

Anonymous said...

Your Chandara map reminds me of the elaborate maps we used to create as kids... except more accomplished of course!

We'd carefully draft it out in pencil, and then 'age' it by rubbing it in dirt. Then we'd burn the edges for an authentic pirate look!