Friday, August 06, 2010

At Press with Hope for Haiti

Thanks to Susan Kochan, editor for this book, and Cecilia Yung, art director, we have a visual treat to share with you. Here are photos of the printing of the book. When I come to your school or library, I can share the entire process more specifically, but for now, take a look at a simple run through of the printing process.

This printing is done using a four color process. My original art is scanned on a big drum scanner that gets a very high resolution file of the art. Then the printer separates the file into the four colors, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. CMYK. (As opposed to the RGB, or Red, Green, Blue, that you find on your monitor. We can get into a delightful conversation about the difference between the two types of color during a workshop sometime. But for now, suffice to say that the printed page is usually done with the CMYK process.)

Then "plates" are created that will be the point of contact between the inks and the paper. They are fastened onto a roller where the paper will pass by and collect the four colors from each plate.

Here we have the Cyan plate:

and the Magenta plate:

and the Yellow plate:

and the Black plate:

Ink is distributed to the specific plate:

The paper is fed into the press, and the fun begins. These machines crank a lot of paper, very quickly. The rolls weigh more than my car:

Each page in the book has been run through each of the four color inks, until the combination of these inks create the full color image you see on the paper:

The covers go through a wrapping machine that wraps the printed cover over the hard surface underneath. The endpapers are also glued to the cover board:

The pages are folded, the bindings are stitched:

Some really cool stuff goes on in there... (maybe that is where they give it the coating of awesomeness, I am not sure.)

And as the copies begin flying from the end of the press, the spectacular art director of the book is there, in person, to ensure the color exactly matches that of the artwork. Bless her heart:

I have been on press a few times and it is a nerve wracking thing. You feel like you have to hurry up with your color correcting because the press is roaring away, and people are all standing around kind of quietly willing you to decide already, and bins are filling by the second with printed paper. My art director, Cecilia Yung, thankfully, is not the type to get intimidated. She kept at it until the skin tones were rich, the shadows full, and the whites sparkling. Here she is with the press supervisor, color correcting:

Cecilia really knows her stuff. She has overseen and directed some of the best picture books in print. Here she is employing a secret trick of the trade. She checks color upside down. That way the person trying to match colors is not distracted by the subject matter, or the familiarity with the piece that comes from months of working with the images. Also, you can notice mistakes or questionable elements very quickly upside down. (Or in the mirror.) Try it out sometime if you are wondering what to do to finish off your piece of art. You may notice you still have work to do if you take a peek upside down.

Once the art director gives her thumbs up, the press steams ahead until the books are printed:

I would love to give a big thank you to Putnam (Penguin) for the rush printing on this project. They made it possible for the book to come out much faster than most books ever do, and ensured its message and purpose would be effective in its timeliness. The book, in fact, is something of a miracle baby. Usually picture books take up to two years, pen to product. But this book will be complete, from first spark of idea to finished book, in less than nine months.

Thanks to Rubin Pfeffer, my admirable agent and friend. When I told him I was the fastest painter in the west, he told me I may just have to prove that someday. After we signed Hope for Haiti, he reminded me that this was that very time. Right around two months later, the entire book was painted, cover and all.

Thanks to Cecilia Yung for her eagle eye for color and the way she carefully birthed this book into existence, from written word, to final product. And, a special thanks to Susan Kochan, for her editing acumen, her out of the box thinking, and her trigger finger camera skills in documenting this part of the process of Hope for Haiti.

October, here we come.