Polarity Bear


I am finally living up to my New Years resolution to post a diary of sorts on my website. Being that I am in the process of launching a new children’s book… a self publish collaboration between the author Sue De Cuevas and myself… I thought it would be a great segue to describe the development, birth and delivery of our project.

Just over 2 years ago I was introduced to Sue by a mutual friend. Sue had written a story almost 40 years ago about a polar bear in the Central Park Zoo but had never found anyone to help develop a book and thus it sat. Our mutual friend Penelope knows my passion and background in illustrating animals, put two and two together and put the two of US together. I read the manuscript, loved it and the end result after two years of work and collaboration is the birth of Polarity Bear Tours the Zoo.

While reading the manuscript I already had visions of Polarity dancing in my head. Many times though I think I know what something looks like until I start sketching it and then realize I DON’T. With my need-to get-the anatomy-correct biology background gnawing at me, I began researching everything I could find on polar bears then went to the zoo to sketch and take photos. Now I felt ready to start sketching polar bears from all angles.

Rough Sketches of Polarity Bear #1Rough Sketches of Polarity Bear #2Rough Sketches of Polarity Bear #3

Rough Sketches of Polarity Bear #4

Once I compiled all of my research, I started laying out and designing the book, relying on the experience from all the years I spent as an art director. Since the copy is written in rhyme, there had to be specific copy on each page. I made up my usual folded mini-copy and scribbled what should go where until it worked to a reasonable page count, in this case 36. This was the first big step.

Next I roughed out a visual that I thought would work with the copy on each page, still at the thumbnail size and very rough.

Roughing Out Polarity Bear - Thumb Sketches

I then had to decide whether the art would bleed, be a 2- page spread or be spot illustrations… lots of decisions. After choosing a typeface and size for the copy, I moved to a full size comp, put in the copy and roughed in my visuals with pencil.

I showed this to Sue and once she and I agreed on the basic layout, the refinement started and it was time for Polarity to become a real entity. After pages of polar bear sketches I had to create her personality so I started working on expressions… how did I want the viewer to feel when they saw her? I saw Polarity as a bear who sees life as a glass half full… even when sad, she pulls herself out of her funk by creating an adventure. I also saw her as a bit sassy.
Polarity Bear SassyPolarity Bear Smile

After more sketching and tweaking, she suddenly emerged from my page and actually became real to me.

When I had refined all of the pencil sketches I then booked up a copy and sent it to Sue for her critique. We revised a few things then I was ready to go and I transferred all of the sketches onto already stretched 300 lb. D’Arches hot press watercolor paper. I still made some adjustments to the sketches at this point but then started laying down color. On some pages I did a quick color break on a scrap of paper so I knew where I was going but on many I just started painting. My technique is to take my illustrations to about 75% finish with watercolor then scan it into the computer and work on it in photoshop.I fought this for years, being the traditionalist that I am, but now my Photoshop paintbrush is just another tool in my toolbox and the colors are just another medium.


Polarity Bear Final RoughPolarity Bear Pre-finishPolarity Bear Finish

This phase of the project was the longest and as I was working on other deadlines at the same time, it took about a year… a true luxury for me as it enabled me to come back at intervals and view the illustrations with a fresh eye… it’s amazing how things jump out at you when you walk away for a bit. When the illustrations were finished and on my computer, I had Michael Newman who works with me in design and production, assemble everything digitally. I printed out one final set of color copies, booked it up and sent it to Sue for the final OK. We ended up changing the cover a few times until we all agreed on a design, then the files were sent to the printer.

Polarity Bear Assembly Pg.3Polarity Bear Assembly Pg.16Polarity Bear Assembly Pg.11Polarity Bear Assembly Pg.14

We chose the color for the end sheets, checked color proofs, made some final corrections and off to press it went. A character had been born and a book had been created!

Polarity Bear Book Cover

The story of Polarity and ordering information can be found at polaritybearbooks.com.

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  • Welcome to my website. As an illustrator with an educational background in biology and art and a career background as an art director in advertising, my work has evolved into a number of facets. This website includes all of my areas of specialization and although there are some crossovers, I have separated each into their respective galleries. I have found that having a 'liberal arts' type format actually adds dimension to all areas of my work. Also, my background as an art director, virtually being on the 'other side', has afforded me a sharper insight as to what my clients are looking for in their projects.

    Please peruse the gallery suited to your needs but feel free to peek into my other work…you never know what may spark an idea.