BEHIND THE BOOK: BUT THE BEAR CAME BACK Illustrated by Dan Taylor
last updated 11 June 2018
Bright artist Dan Taylor teamed up with bestselling author Tammi Sauer to bring the story of an unlikely friendship to life in But The Bear Came Back, published by Sterling Publishing.
Dan is a master of combining traditional media with digital methods, so we were curious about the evolution of his illustrations from early sketches to final spreads. He was kind enough to give us a behind-the-scenes look at this process, his studio, and the various places from which he draws inspiration.
Where do you do your best work? What does your workspace look like nowadays?
I work from home, My studio is a room at the back of my house. It overlooks the garden so I can watch the birds and squirrels. It’s not the biggest of spaces so I have to keep it fairly tidy, this photo was taken on a tidy day! :-) The large black monitor in the photo is a Wacom Cintiq which connects to my computer and allows me to draw on the screen directly into photoshop. One day I’d like a studio space at the end of the garden, I love nature and it would be nice to be a bit closer to it.
‘But The Bear Came Back’ combines traditional and digital media. Can you give us a peek into your artistic process?
I tend to start very loosely roughing out the page layouts in small squares to begin with, but usually I abandon this and just start drawing into full size page layouts in photoshop. The good thing about this is you can easily scale things up and move things around in layers. Then once I’m happy with how it’s all flowing, I draw up the roughs a bit neater. I think I possibly make my roughs too detailed, but it does make the final art stage a bit easier having all that information! Once the roughs are approved by the art director I begin to apply the colour over the top of the roughs. I usually map in all the block colours and then add the shading in afterward with custom photoshop brushes. I also like to use real paint and watercolour to make textures which I scan in and overlay in photoshop over the flat colour artwork. It just adds a bit of interest and it worked quite well on the Bear, giving him a subtle fuzzy texture. Here is an example below of the roughs and the final artwork.
Reviewers took note of the retro feeling that your illustrations evoked. Who are your design and illustration heroes from earlier eras? Any books or other influences in particular that inspired you created the artwork for ‘Bear’?
I have a lot of design and illustration heroes- I love the artwork of Mary Blair, M. Sasek, Abner Graboff and the design work of Charles and Ray Eames and Alexander Girard. They are all very inspirational to me, although I’m not sure I can see any direct influence from them in the artwork in But the Bear Came Back.
You’re an avid furniture collector and enthusiast as well. Did this interest find its way into the environments in the book?
I have an interest in furniture and design - particularly 1950’s and mid century modern. The little boy’s house in the book is a bit of a mixture of this look, mixed with some elements of my own house! There are a few objects and pieces of furniture that crept there way into the book that are actually in my home. I guess when you hardly leave the house, you have to find your inspiration from somewhere!?
How did the book’s (only) two main characters change from early sketches to final book and what did the art direction process look like for this book?
The Bear changed a bit more than the boy. I went through all manner of shapes and finally settled on a pear shape, I wanted the Bear to look very cuddly and loveable but quite large and clumsy! The boy looks a lot like my youngest nephew who I think subconsciously influenced me.
How did your agent on this project, Anne Moore Armstrong, help you and what kind of new projects are coming up next for you?
Anne was kind enough to pitch my work for the job and introduce me to Sterling who published the book. I had lots of helpful, positive comments from her during the different stages of the book! As a result, I am currently working on another picture book with Sterling, written by the same author, Tammi Sauer, about a very silly chicken!
See the rest of Dan’s portfolio here!