The Last Viking Returns


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Evolution of a scene: the rough sketches for ‘Big Trouble’

pg23-rough-vs-final

final rough on the left, finished version on the right

There’s a scene in The Last Viking Returns called ‘Big Trouble’ where Fafnir the dragon is finally revealed in all his terrible glory. The scene went through a lot of changes during development, so I thought I’d share them here.

It’s a lot of pics though so I’ll share them in two parts. This post will show you the roughs, and next week’s post will show how the final illustration was put together.

(And if you haven’t read the book yet, there’s a few SPOILERS below.)

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Character design – choosing colours for the cast

Over the last 3 months I’ve posted my rough sketches for all the characters in the book.

I’ve covered Josh’s family, all the Viking characters and the two villains.

This post gathers all the colour reference versions together so you can see the links between them.

I’ve made some notes on each major group of characters and their colours. Most of the time my colour choices were a matter of gut feeling, and it’s only after the fact that I can figure out why certain combinations seemed to work.

 

First up is Josh’s family.

I didn’t intentionally make Josh’s costume out of primary colours, but it turned out that way – yellowish hair, red helmet and shield, blue shirt. Add a bit of green and you’ve got a bunch of bright happy colours, which all help Josh stand out from whatever moody background he’s in front of.

Wolverine’s colander helmet and collar are the same shade of gold and red found on Josh’s chestplate. This sharing of colour is a simple way to link Josh and Wolverine together.

Josh’s siblings are in blue and red shirts – the same blue and red found in Josh’s costume. Their shorts/skirt are darker shades of the blue and red respectively. All three children have the same colour boots. Again, it’s about linking Josh with his siblings in the eye of the reader using colour.

Nan is the only one in the family to wear a shade of purple. I find it a loud colour for some reason; I don’t wear it a lot, and it seems to clash with a lot of colours I normally use. This fits with Nan’s no-nonsense, outspoken personality. I made it a soft, warm shade of purple though (at least to my slightly colour-blind eyes) as it seemed like a colour a loving, caring (but feisty) Nan might wear. The sneakers have purple trim in the same shade.

Pop is all in shades of grey – warm shades, tinges of brown in there. The dark vest is a strong contrast to the colour of his skin, shirt and pants. His colours seem warm and masculine and strong to me. Bright colours just didn’t seem to suit Pop; he’s silly and child-like, but he’s strong and grounded. I imagine he would give very big bear hugs. His colours make him stand out, not only from his wife but from all the other characters in the family.

character-sheet--family-550px

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Character design – Odin

Between now and the launch of The Last Viking Returns (Sept 1st, 2014), I’m doing a series of posts showing my rough sketches for all the characters in the book.

I’ve covered Josh’s family and some of the Viking characters already.

Today I’ll show you my sketches of Odin.

 

Odin is the head honcho in Norse mythology. Lots of schoolkids get him confused with Zeus, and understandably – both are old men with white beards who live in the sky. (It’s no wonder that the Christian God is sometimes imagined as an old white-bearded man, considering the centuries of similar depictions that came earlier).

This is my character reference sheet for Odin.

Odin

I made a standard colour version of each character too, so that I could keep their colours consistent. Here’s the colour sheet for Odin:

Odin-colour

Next week we’ll look at my sketches for the goddess of love and beauty, Freya.

 


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Merry Christmas, from James and Norm … (and Odin)

Merry Xmas, from Odin

 

I often joke with school kids that Odin looks like a pirate Santa. (You may already know that similarities between depictions of Odin and Santa are not coincidental). Anyway, that running joke led to the drawing above. There could be a story in it; who knows?

On behalf of Fremantle Press, Norman and myself, I want to say thank you for your amazing support since the release of The Last Viking. Can you believe that was 2 and a half years ago?? And it’s now only 10 months until The Last Viking Returns!?

Right now I’m working on final illustrations, but I’ll have more time for behind-the-scenes posts in 2014. Stay tuned. And Merry Christmas!

 

James

 


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The Launch

book launch

(L-R) Norman, James, Kris Williams, our editor Cate Sutherland, and Director of the Children's Literature Centre Lesley Reece

It was a dark and stormy night…

Actually, it was. Norm and I had been watching the weather forecast all week, wondering what the heavens would bring on the Friday night of our launch. By Tyr’s Day, we could see that rain was likely. By Wodin’s Day, rain was certain. Come Freyja’s Day, when the wind didn’t let up all day, we knew a storm was brewing. Thor was angry. The joke going around was that his invite had been lost on it’s way to Asgard. But maybe that was true, and he thought we were snubbing him… and when you snub a Norse god, you get a once-in-10-years weather event. Thirty millimetres of rain fell in 30 minutes- the precise 30 minutes in which our guests were en route to the launch.

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More sneak peeks…

There’s only four weeks to go until the launch!

So here’s four sneak peeks to celebrate.

Here’s Josh meeting the bullies…

pg 15 final colour

Prince Knut and his trusty Wolfhound going a-Viking…

pg21 colour

a proper Viking funeral…

pg22 colour

and Odin, Thor and the Bezerkers preparing for battle.

pg25 colour

My favourite part of this last image is the bottom right-hand corner. I put in a bird poo for a joke. At the time I didn’t realise that when people were going to turn this page, that’s exactly where they would have to put their thumb.