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Wednesday, July 31 – Spill Zone

Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to the Thalia Kids’ Book Club Camp blog! We had an absolutely wonderful Wednesday with Spill Zone and Scott Westerfeld – read on to hear all about it!

The campers warmed up with some improv games in the theater, and then Scott joined us for a morning visit! Scott shared his inspirations for Spill Zone with us, and discussed the process of scripting a graphic novel, in a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look. After working with an illustrator on his prior Leviathan trilogy, Scott was interested in doing a full graphic novel, and started with interesting imagery from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He was especially interested in the imagery of abandoned places and showed us photos from Chernobyl over the course of years, slowly breaking down and getting overgrown with plant life. A lot of those images – and colors! – ended up in Spill Zone. Scott shared a lot about coloring, which is super critical in Spill Zone to illustrate the “otherworldliness” of the Zone. Some fun trivia we learned during the visit: Scott initially visualized the “real world” of Spill Zone as black-and-white, and only the area of the Zone would be in color, but the colorist for the series recommended a contrast between muted colors in the real world, and brighter neons and pastels in the Zone. (As someone who really loves the use of color in the series, this was really cool to learn!)

We learned a lot about the collaboration between Scott, illustrator Alex Puvilland, and colorist Hilary Sycamore, how they were constantly communicating and going back-and-forth on character design, panel layout, colors, and everything in between. Scott described the changes in his scripts between books, how as he got to know Alex better throughout the process, his scripts got looser, which allowed Alex to direct the story more, in contrast to the more detailed scripts he had written for the first book. Overall, it was a really fascinating look into the process that created these books, and made me love the books even more!

We then enjoyed a lovely lunch in the park, and returned to visit with fantasy illustrator Felix Ortiz! Felix creates fantasy scenes and book covers. It was really cool to hear about the book cover creation process from an illustrator after hearing about it from authors, and to hear about Felix’s specific experience of collaborating with indie authors on their covers. He showed us samples from his portfolio: book covers, fanart, and process art, showing different phases of a piece, which was super cool.

We also got some insight on Felix’s process when he sketched out a piece right in front of us! He created a scene of a stand-off between a hero and a dragon-like spiked demon, inspired by a suggestion from our campers. He showed us all the different elements that go onto making a rough outline, like composition, coloring, scale, and lighting. It was amazing what he created in the short time he drew for us! It was both gorgeous and terrifying (so, essentially, super awesome). See below for some process shots!

Overall, we got a great sense of both creative spheres that contribute to a graphic novel – both the script-writing and the illustration that brings that script to life. It was another fantastic day at camp, and we’re looking forward to another great day tomorrow! We have a great trip awaiting us tomorrow, and then, a visit from Jennifer Donnelly dedicated to her novel Revolution! Watch this space for all the latest – thanks for reading!

-Maggie

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