Earlier this year I had the honor of working with the publisher William Sadlier on some illustrations for their religious curriculum. They commissioned several double-page spreads of Bible scenes.
These spreads were tricky because they had to work in two different books, and the two books had different layouts. One was square and folded in the middle; the other was wide and folded about three-fourths to the left of the illustration. But the same illustration had to work in both layouts. Basically, I had to worry about two gutters and two different crops for each illustration.
For this scene, the art director, Steve Flanagan, asked to see Jesus surrounded by a crowd of people and Zaccheus in the tree. The requests for the emotions in the scene were very specific: Jesus should be telling Zaccheus to come down from the tree in a warm and friendly way; Zaccheus should be surprised, and the crowd should be interested, astonished, amused or mocking.
This was the first rough I sent to Sadlier. As you can see, I tried to leave space for the gutters in the center of the image (the tree trunk), and on the left (the staircase). The feedback was that the crowd needed to be bigger; there was too much empty space here. They also wanted to see Zaccheus' face.
Here is the much improved second draft. The feedback on this was to add another child to the crowd, to make Jesus stand out more, and to add another branch to the tree that Zaccheus could wrap his arm around. They also asked me, oddly, to "fan Jesus' hair out more." But otherwise I was good to go to final.
In the layout above, the book folds on the far left, between the man with the green tunic and the woman with the purple headscarf.
In this other layout, the book folds right in the middle, between the two children.
It's definitely a challenge to have a single illustration work smoothly for two different layouts without seeming contrived or forced.
Looking back on this piece reminds me fondly of Kimberly Kincaid, who used to generously call me "The Queen of Crowd Scenes." She was always so encouraging of my Bible illustrations, and it meant a lot of me.