Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome interiors

Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome is the second book in the Ranger in Time series, and it contains 15 interior illustrations by yours truly. I'm going to show you the process behind a few of them.

This blog post is going to contain both pride and embarrassment for me.

Pride, because I consider these illustrations to be some of my best work. Seriously, I put so much time and love into this book. I wish I could show you all the illustrations, but I'm probably not supposed to post them all online. Just go and buy the book!

Embarrassment because I'm about to show you some very silly photos of me posing.

The main character of Danger in Ancient Rome is Marcus, an orphan who is enslaved at the gladiator school. Naturally, he's a pretty serious kid. For the first image in the book, I showed a closeup of Marcus so we could see his serious and determined nature. To get the foreshortening of the arm and the twisting of the body, I took a reference photo.

I once again transformed myself into Marcus as I defended myself from a lion underneath the Colosseum.

And again, when the other character, Quintus, is facing off against a gladiator for the very first time. (I'm really getting my money's worth out of this toy sword.)

It feels kind of like a superpower, being able to transform myself into anyone, anywhere, anytime.

But in one illustration, my superpowers met their match.

The chapter called for a scene of slaves turning a contraption underneath the Colosseum floor. I wanted to show some big guys with beefy arms pushing this thing around. So I took this reference photo.

I tried drawing myself as a guy with broad shoulders and muscles, real muscles, not these weak little things that barely keep my arms from falling off the sides of my body. But it was just too much of a stretch. The drawing looked very weird.

I remembered that my friend and fellow artist Young Kim said that he had been working out lately. Young looks exactly like this:

I asked him if he could please take a photo reference for me, showing him the pose. And boy did he deliver!

Finally I could draw my slave guys:

You know someone is a true friend when they allow you to turn them into a slave. Thanks a bunch, Young!

While working on these drawings I had the Gladiator movie or soundtrack running in the background almost continuously. When I sent these finished drawings to the Scholastic art director, I wrote in the email "Are you not entertained???" She wrote back, "Not only am I entertained, I am impressed!" So....I'm not sure she got the reference.

Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome is available on June 30th!


  1. These are pretty amazing interiors. Very details. Curious...How do you capture the photos? And how long do you spend setting up/preparing/doing it etc?

    Personally I would find it very hard to get good photo reference of myself...even if someone else was taking the picture. (too many subtleties lost in going back and forth...without me actually being the one seeing the model and taking the actual picture at the same time.)

    1. Mike - honestly I'm super lazy about it. If possible I just set the camera on top of a piece of furniture and set the timer. If I need a tricky angle I get my husband to take the photo.
      Even if the photo reference is not exactly what I want to draw, I'm usually able to gather a few helpful things from it. But the closer you can get to what you actually want to draw, the easier the drawing will be. However, it's also possible to become too attached to the photo. Basically it's different for every artist.

  2. These look amazing! The lighting is gorgeous and they are so dramatic!

    I too have a lot of embarrassing reference photos (lazily taken in the quickest and easiest possible way) lurking on my computer/ipad. I have to make sure I delete any of the especially embarrassing ones (like last night's effort, which was my bum from a bizarre angle, so I could see where to put the folds in some jeans) because people DO insist on swiping my ipad and looking through ALL of the photos! Noooo! =P


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