Another in the series of ‘What Was/Who Was/Where Was’ series of young reader books for Penguin, was “What Was the Chicago Fire?” from early 2016. This was the tenth book in this series that I illustrated the interiors for, and, when it was first proposed to me, I was a bit reluctant. Buildings are not my favorite thing to draw, and I had turned down one assignment the previous fall from the same client for that very reason, but at that particular time I was desperate for work, so I gritted my teeth and said “why not?”.
This one ended up being one of the most challenging of the books, for the aforementioned reason, and also the fact that it was filled with numerous crowd scenes, overhead city scenes (both prior to the disaster, during, and the aftermath). However, for the very same reasons, due to its challenge and complicated nature, I believe this book may have been a turning point in regards to my outlook towards these assignments. I learned an awful lot during the course of this project, both in technique and approach, and I’ve started embracing the pen and ink style, and more importantly, embracing the ‘process’, rather than just enduring it. I think this book was one of the best of the series that I’d done so far (and other difficult ones would follow), and I was informed recently that this book has been nominated for a ‘book of the year’ award by a Chicago area educators society (more news on this as I hear more).
I’ve share a few samples from this book in the past, but this is the first time sharing all 80 or so of the illustrations from the book.