Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Timna, in the recently released story from Lucille Travis, published by Herald Press, is the young wife of Noah's son, Shem.

In the story, readers follow Timna as she endures ridicule and struggles with her faith and uncertainty in the journey which she is about to undertake with Noah, Shem, and the rest of his family on the ark. Two stray dogs, Mangy and Thief, defend her from a couple of bad seeds, and find their way both into her life and onto the craft.

I've developed a nice working relationship with Herald Press, and have had the opportunity to illustrate several of their book covers.

This one is aimed at middle-school children, their parents, and teachers.

Timna is freshly on stands, as of April 2009, but in January, my first task was to read through the story, and glean ideas for a cover direction.

The publisher wanted the scene to focus on Timna, the ark, and her two dogs.

I scoured the 'net for inspiration, finding shots of biblical scenes to get a sense of clothing. I also took the opportunity to research Noah's ark, as well as look for any spark of an idea that would make me sleep easy knowing what I was planning to do.

My next immediate pressing concern was setting up a photo shoot. My sincere thanks to Jessica, my enthusiastic co-worker, who graciously posed as young Timna.

A trusty thrift store dress worked marvelously as her robe.

The head scarf she brought along was a must. It would add a bit of mystery to the face and create some nice flowing movement. Plus, it would be very time-period appropriate.

I like to go into my photo shoots with some idea of general direction, but I leave plenty of room for accidents to happen. As a result, I tend to take hundreds of photos, hoping at least a handful will be above and beyond my greatest expectations.

She patiently posed standing, sitting, and kneeling; petting and feeding her imaginary dogs; looking pensively in many directions, with and without props, while I shot from a multitude of angles.

An hour and a half later came the moment of truth.

Opening Adobe Bridge, I scour the 400+ photos, looking for shots that resonate on a cellular level. Late in the series, my model is kneeling and turning to face the camera, looking down, with a beautiful splash of light catching the left side of her face.

I love these.

Hopefully, they will be the chosen ones.

Now, I have Timna, and I can surely scare up some dogs. What about this ark? How will I include it and its horizontal proportions into my vertical and small format without simply looking like a close-up of lumber?

It must be shown small enough so as to recognize.

How about l put Timna on a hill, so we are looking down on the ark in the distance? That will also give me an expansive landscape to include coming storm clouds, with rays of sunshine peeking through -- further telling the story of uncertainty and hope, and an obvious hinting of the impending storm.


Five color-comps later, I await the client's approval.

Will they like them?

They like them. And, they like my favorite. Except...please place her left hand on the lying dog, open her eyes a bit more, ditch the distant water, and alter the dogs' colors.

A few supplemental photos and one revised comp later, I'm on to the final art.

The sketch phase is where the bulk of the work takes place, in my view. Once all the decisions are made, making the final illustration is the easy part.

The final art was crafted with a combination of acrylic paint on illustration board mixed with Photoshop.

The warm palette helps further bring a sense of optimism to the scene.

I personally like the way the illustration turned out, and would say it is my favorite of the covers I have done for this client.

As always, I'm appreciative for the opportunity and for Herald Press' continued confidence in what I bring to their project.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Friday, April 3, 2009

Jose Reyes of the New York Mets

Jose Reyes of the New York Mets is part of the 2008 MLB Masterpieces series of baseball cards from the Upper Deck Company.

Of those I created for the series, this illustration is one of my favorites.

In addition to the rust and green color palette and active composition -- both of which appeal to me -- the three figures bring an interesting story to the viewing experience.

He seems to be safe, up there.

The original is an acrylic on canvas painting, at a size of 8 inches x 10 inches. Working at a smaller size poses a few challenges. The first, and most important one, becomes rendering a likeness at a diminished size. In this painting, the heads are about 1 inch tall.

Proportions, angles, and value patterns are the key. These are, obviously, important keys when working large, but, when those are lost at a tiny size, it becomes especially hard to sell the likeness.

I also focused on keeping the focal point on Mr. Reyes. You'll find the lightest lights and darkest darks reserved for him, as well as the most detail. The umpire and Mr. Randa are ever so slightly less detailed and toned back. The back wall and crowd become more graphic shapes, with the layering and peeking through of paint creating the illusion of more detail.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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