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The Process

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I keep a sketchbook handy. They’re all over the place. I keep one by the bed and I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and scribbled something nearly unintelligible down because I’ve learned if I don’t — no matter how much I think I’ll remember that great idea — it’s gone when I wake up. Or at least, it’s not as convincing as it was at 3am.

I’ve largely transitioned to digital for creating, because, frankly I find it more forgiving and more convenient. When all I had to do was pack a tablet to the Natural History museum instead of  pad, satchel full of pens and erasers — it was that much easier and the results were no less satisfying:

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With that pencil sketch I’ll move to either the Paper on the iPad, Autodesk Sketchbook, Photoshop or Mischief on Mac OS X. I haven’t really settled on a favorite except I like using illustrator for the final step.

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From that sketch I refine the lines once or twice and then move into inking. process1

Once the major forms are worked out, then I usually start adding background detail:

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Then I start adding the shading via cross hatching — which is either medatative or tedious, depending on the mood I’m in. Usually if it’s the latter I take a break and do something else, because I can always tell when I’m rushing it.

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Plate 5

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Little Zō had followed Mama and Papa Zō all his life, and he had places he liked to visit. Walking through one of his favorite spots in the bamboo, everything seemed different. He heard the chi-chi-chi chattering of things around him and noticed the sunlight swimming through the stalks. The colors were everywhere, twisting around the bamboo, chasing after the waves of sun. He spent a great while looking at the colors up close, because each one was different. One had curly hair, another was really tiny. One sprouted two heads and another he thought was sleeping because it hadn’t opened its eye yet. One smelled like fresh fruits, another like the rain. Pointing with his nose, he spoke softly to each one as he tried to choose a favorite.

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Chapter 1

The Book

You’ll probably notice the writing isn’t really for “little kids”. I suppose when this all started it was just the lyrics to the song Zōsan, which were much more simple:

Elephant, elephant,
You have a very long nose
Yes, my mama has a long nose too.

When I wrote, I found myself writing detailed descriptions — imagining sounds, and putting myself inside the head of a little elephant. It ended up being more in the in the spirit of E.B. White, Holling C. Holling, or Lewis Carroll. (If  I may be so bold.)

So it’s not a book for wee ones to read, but one that you can read to them. When I read to Eliot, I ham it up, make of characters voices to characters (hence the audiobook version). But that’s how my book was written.

The illustrations are a nod to some of my favorite artists — Maurice Sendak, Robert McCloskey, Edward Gorey — black and white only. I thought about color, but decided I wanted to focus on this pen-and-ink hatching style because it leaves the color to the mind’s eye.

The audiobook was brought about by how I read to Eliot & Marcel, but also by all the books-on-tape I listened to as a kid — most notably those made by a company that called themselves Jabberwocky.   I still have a few of those, among them is my favorite, a double-sided cassette of “Alice in Wonderland”.

I also have one tape I cherish read by Jack Nicholson and performed by Bobby McFerrin of two Rudyard Kipling stories. Since I heard these, it’s always been in the back of my mind to do them myself – with other voice actors.

Sample – Chapter 1

But enough chat. Here’s a draft sample of the first chapter, which sets the stage for the rest of Zochi’s adventure.

You can also hear the first chapter if you like!

Chapter 1

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