Thursday, 11 February 2010

Spooky beginnings

A Bone-Rattling Adventure - The Cover of the pop-up

Although slightly overshadowed by it's follow-up: "Captain Scurvy's Most Dastardly Pop-Up Pirate Ship", this pop-up haunted castle remains one of my favourite projects to date. Yes, I did spend too much time on it (probably eight months solid work spread over about fourteen months amongst other projects)...but...I was enjoying myself. Nick Denchfield had produced a fantastic 'white' dummy of this and it just caught my imagination instantly. I remember the first meeting at Macmillan with Nick, myself and the editor, which is when I saw it in the 'flesh' for the first time and it just blew me away. I couldn't believe how Nick had made such an intricate model pop-out of a flat book. A particularly neat feature of Nick's meticulous engineering here is the way the main clock tower extends out of the centre of the model and becomes the highest point. (not featured in the photo below as I think Nick was still developing the mechanism for that at this early stage). It really is very, very clever stuff.

A Polaroid of Nick's white dummy

The first thing we established at the design meeting was to work out which parts of the model would represent various rooms of the castle. This was done by applying post-it notes all over the model until every section had been accounted for.

There was an outline for a simple storyline early on but the most important thing at this stage was for me to take away Nick's white dummy and come up with designs of what the finished model might look like.

I decided that due to the much more complex nature of this model in comparison to previous pop-ups, I was going to create some sketches that might give everyone a better idea of how it might look once I was let loose on it.

This was probably one of the biggest challenges of the project as I had to acquaint myself with every single nook and cranny of Nick's model and come up with ideas which would cohesively bring together all the aspects of the model in a meaningful visual way. I wasn't concerned with any figures or creatures that might populate the model at this stage, I was just concerned with the main building and structure itself. I had to pay careful attention to certain shapes and edges of the model which had to stay as Nick had cut them as they were essential to the way the model worked when opening and closing. Many of the other areas I could basically shape how I wanted within reason.

Technically-speaking, this model isn't a book at all. It's called a carousel, and as you open it up and fold the covers or boards back on themselves the model is pushed outwards and upwards to the point where the boards meet back to back and the model is fully extended.


Broken down to it's absolute basics, the model is constructed out of four distinct sections which are joined, back to back.

Anyway, after I had sat there musing on Nick's work, I got out a sheet of A3 paper and started sketching each quadrant in turn. You can see by the time I got to the fourth section I was starting to flag and eager to get on with roughing out the sections of the model itself. I had a much better idea of where I was going with it by then so I felt my time would be better spent working directly on the model itself. The deadline was also a little bit closer...

This was the first section I sketched out - featuring a 'Taxidermist's' with steps going up to it. To the right are various walkways which follow a route around the structure and are part of the game feature.

The next section I tackled features a crypt with steps leading down from a cave mouth. At the bottom in the centre you can see the dungeon area. To the right of that you can see the Taxidermist's which this section backs on to. There is an unfinished section here that was still being decided upon. It eventually became an area where I illustrated some goblin guards eating their supper.

This is part of the project I particularly enjoy. I feel I have the time to experiment and let my imagination have the freedom to shape a little world which I will later get the opportunity to populate with all sorts of creatures. I'm also bearing in mind that with this model there also has to be a game integrated into whatever I choose to illustrate. I decide early on that some kind of stone-flagged path might work quite well.
This section is the graveyard featuring some neat flying-buttresses and a little pop-up tomb which you can open up...

As the covers fold back on themselves and form a solid 'wall', this is the only significantly large surface area of the model that can be illustrated on. I decided to make one side the entrance to a crypt through a cave and the other showed the night sky with a flying-buttress coming down from one of the towers. I had an idea that the flying-buttress might actually stand away from the 'wall' in relief rather than just be illustrated. I was pleased to find out that we could do that without the cost of producing the pop-up increasing significantly.

This last section backs up to the graveyard and had the 'Finish' area of the game. I never quite finished this as I was eager to get on and start roughing out the model sections themselves.

The next spooky post will feature some more of the sketches and finished pieces I produced at the next stage of the project...