Shadows On My Wall

I’ve mentioned Shadows On My Wall in my previous post about They’re Coming! and I’m Looking For A Dinosaur and how they were considered for publication by Random House and sat with my editor for a couple of years. Once I’m Looking For A Dinosaur was cancelled all of my other books under consideration were returned to me.

Six months before that happened I went looking for an agent. I had a couple of book ideas that were not right for Random House and I wanted to get some books out to other publishers. Since I had two books under contract with RH I figured it would be easy to find an agent. I could not have been more wrong. I queried a number of agents who I thought would be a good fit. I got a number of polite turn-downs. I know for a fact that one agent never even looked at what I’d sent. I got very frustrated until an author I knew told me I should contact Ronnie Herman. She represented a number of author/illustrators. I asked my friend if she could arrange a meeting and Ronnie agreed.

One of the spreads from a book I had shown Random House and Ronnie Herman. Ronnie said it was too overworked.
A work-in-progress. A spread from another book. Again, too cartoony, not arty enough.

I went up to Manhattan and met Ronnie in a Pret A Manger (her favorite place for meetings, I learned). We sat and talked for a couple of hours. Going into the meeting I assumed she would like my art and not think too much of my writing. Surprisingly she liked my writing and thought my art was too tight and overly rendered. I had spent many years in animation and the toy industry and that was what I had be doing at that point. She said I needed to loosen up. We finished our coffee and walked over to a bookstore where she pointed out many books and asked if I could work in a looser style like those. She said “If someone is going to pay $17 for a picture book they want it to be a piece of art, not a book based on a television cartoon.” I told her I’d give it a try and send her some samples.

An early test image for author/illustrator Timothy Young's book Shadows On My Wall.
Here is what the first color sketches of Shadows On My Wall looked like. Click the image to see the very first rough dummy I sent to Random House.

One of the books I had shown her was Shadows On My Wall. Although Heidi liked it, Random House had not given me a contract so I wanted Ronnie’s opinion. She did like it and asked me to re-work the boy to look much younger than my original version. She wanted me to also work looser, she liked my pencil sketches better than my inked lines.

One of my attempts at a looser style.
Some more tries at working with my pencil lines.

Ronnie liked where I was going. I started reworking the book. Before meeting with Ronnie I had considered doing the book in three dimensions so I wanted to give it a try. Here is a sculpted model I made. Ronnie thought it might be neat but she still wanted a younger boy.

I used Sculpy for the boy and made a simple foam-core bed and walls. The aliens were added in Photoshop.

The next group of tests are with a different look for the boy but I was also working out different rendering techniques.

Closer but still a bit old.
Here’s a more graphic style.
Ronnie liked where this boy was heading so I refined him further still.

The boy in the above illustration was close, but I simplified him even further. I abandoned the whites in the eyes as I felt that the only bright thing in the room should be the light from the window. Once we got a boy who was close to the right age I began drawing him in different poses.

Some of the blue pencil drawings of the boy. It’s weird, in all this time I have never given the boy a name.

I finished a couple of spreads to show what the final book would look like. Other images where left half finished to show publishers that we were happy to make changes if desired. I mocked up several hand assembled physical dummies that were ready to send out.

An early version of the cover of Shadows On My Wall from author/illustrator Timothy Young
Here is the half finished cover of the physical dummies. You can click on the image to see that version of the book.

Ronnie submitted my books to many publishers. She was also submitting They’re Coming! and a couple of other books including the then-titled Do Not Open The Box, Benny! Over the next 2 years she tried to find homes for my books but with the economy still in the dumps most publishers were not putting out as many books. We got some positive feedback but mostly we heard “It’s not quite what we’re looking for right now.”

Credit where credit is due, Ronnie Herman gave me the idea for adding a how-to-make shadow animals page at the end of the book.

By 2011 I was getting pretty frustrated. I actually started thinking that I would just put my books on the iPad. I even thought of going back to the idea of doing the book with sculpted models. I had made an early app for the iPhone and knew what the parameters were. I was also still coming up with new book concepts.

Here is the more detailed version of the 3D illustrated version. I built a full set and sculpted the bed frame. It’s not a final illustration, some elements like the dresser are missing.

So at this point in the story Shadows On My Wall and They’re Coming! are still not published but in the summer of 2011 I had a book idea pop into my head that would change everything.

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