This September brings the release of The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme. We received the advance copy and were delighted to see this crazily complicated production with our very eyes at long last. This was an epic book project, so I'm relieved I can finally reveal this to the world. I'd highly encourage you to click this link to go to the TheMonsterologist.com, an amazing website that the great team at Sterling put together for the book.
Not sure where to begin describing this project other than a couple of years ago I got a call from Scott Piehl, then at Sterling, to illustrate a group of poems with the idea that they were a scrapbook collection written by a retired scientist who's life work was studying monsters. Scott imagined me illustrating it like my sketchbook work, and also wanted to have my wife Cynthia Wigginton design it. The three of us had worked together on a previous book, "Oh No, Not Ghosts!" by Richard Michelson.
I had to figure out the first few spreads in order to get a grasp on how I was going to do this book, so I centered on the endpapers, credit/title pages because they would set up the mood and look of the rest of the book. The stamp concept came up out of a narrative idea to sew a few of the different poems together, so they were created almost a year before the rest of the book was made. I ended up using some of the stamps as elements in the art of various spreads. The yellowed "stamps" and perforations behind the graphics were actual stamps from the collection which I inherited from my great grandmother; some other stamps from this collection made it into other pieces within the book as well. The collection at one time included the famous "Inverted Jenny" stamp, which apparently my great grandmother sold to buy a fur coat!
Here's the title page, which features the unopened letter from Count Dracula. I also created a pattern of bats that I used here and there in various guises, and which I saved in the classic postal colors of red and blue. On the left, I was delighted to work in an old doodle from a sketchbook of a one-eyed beastie constructed with the help of a french curve.
A main inspiration for the feel of this project came from an antique Victorian book I have written about here on Drawger, "Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms". The cover I did is a straight-up reinterpretation of Hill's book, and I co-dedicated Monsterologist to Hill's author, Thomas Edie Hill. Hill was apparently the beacon of quintessential Victorian etiquette, and his book provided endless fuel for me in imagining the life of this Monsterologist character.
Sterling's editor extraordinaire Meredith Wasinger went the extra mile at every turn to fight for production bonuses such as the debossed leatherette cover, die-cuts and gate-fold spreads. In the design work, Cynthia had a crazy time combining all of the fonts, production technicalities and whatnot, and was constantly adding great ideas to the narrative and art concepts. In this gatefold spread, when opened you see Beowulf through a hole in the page, which opens to reveal a recipe written by Grendel's mother. From the next spread, this hole becomes the eye of the Golem.
I found myself "painting" with new images, old images, sketchbooks, ephemera of all ilks. It felt entirely free making this book. I drew these deep sea critters as I watched the ballgame on tv at night and scanned them in the next day as an element of a spread about The Kraken.
Pencils were making me happy on this project too, so direct. I need to get back into more straight up pencil work.
At a garage sale I scored a copy of Grey's Anatomy and used it as reference for some drawings for Frankenstein's monster. I got a lot better at Photoshop too; for instance, here somehow I was able to turn my crummy gym sock into a Sock-Eating amoeba-beast!!
As the book neared it's final stages, the page count revealed the need for a few extra pages. I was able to indulge in a final spread that had only artwork, so I utilized this sketchbook drawing that I made in Santorini during our honeymoon in 2006. Somehow, it seemed the perfect setting for the Monsterologist's meeting with a representative for Zargon Nine, so I drew a little spaceship and popped it in.
This is a travel sticker I made, which Cynthia then put on her old steamer trunk and then photographed it for the final page of the book. You'll have to pick up a copy to see the final result!
For more shots of the book, the iSpot put up a nice post about it.
Below is one of the two book trailers I made for the book. I've been enjoying making these trailers. The music is by Bermuda Triangle Service, in which I play drums with Cynthia (here playing the musical saw) and our dear pal Robert Malta.