Behind the Scenes with Tom Lichtenheld

ThisIsAMooseRemember Moose and his motley crew? He’s hard to forget with that superhuman (supermoosian?) determination and antlers tuned toward mischief. Let me turn the reigns over to Tom Lichtenheld himself, so he can give you a look at his process, sketches, and creative problem solving. It’s a fascinating look at how an illustrator responds to an author’s manuscript, and a glimpse at the evolution of a picture book.

Welcome back, Tom! breaker This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldWhen I receive a manuscript and like it, the first thing I do is start doodling. That initial moment of inspiration only comes once, so I try to capture the first images that pop into my head. When I receive a manuscript and like it, the first thing I do is start doodling. That initial moment of inspiration only comes once, so I try to capture the first images that pop into my head. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldThen I start refining and exploring options. Then I start refining and exploring options. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldThe director was initially a raccoon, but a duck felt more manic. The director was initially a raccoon, but a duck felt more manic. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldI spent a lot of time on film sets during my career in advertising, so I know it’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. I spent a lot of time on film sets during my career in advertising, so I know it’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldNo, giraffe don’t live in the woods, but I like to draw them, so a giraffe it is. No, giraffe don’t live in the woods, but I like to draw them, so a giraffe it is. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldLots of gags get left on the cutting-room floor, but it’s all part of the process. Lots of gags get left on the cutting-room floor, but it’s all part of the process. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldBoom! Boom! This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldAn idea revealing that the movie was actually made, which makes no sense. An idea revealing that the movie was actually made, which makes no sense. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldFirst crack at a title page.  First crack at a title page.  This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld (click to enlarge)

First version of the opening scene. The narrator was a monkey, and part of the scene. We quickly realized that the director had to be “off-camera” until the end. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom LichtenheldFirst version of the spread where Director Duck realizes none of the animals are playing by the rules. I liked the simplicity of having only his eyes move, but it was a bit too subtle, so I changed it to his entire head looking from side to side. First version of the spread where Director Duck realizes none of the animals are playing by the rules. I liked the simplicity of having only his eyes move, but it was a bit too subtle, so I changed it to his entire head looking from side to side. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld (click to enlarge)

The Moosenest 

Turning this marvelously manic manuscript into a logical sequence of pictures required complete immersion, so I made a foamcore enclosure around my desk, with only Moose material within my sight lines, and dubbed it The Moosenest. It sounds like a joke, but there’s a point in sketching out a book where you need to have the entire book suspended in your mind at once, so you can mentally move the pieces around without losing sight of any elements. It’s challenging, but one of my favorite parts of the process and I don’t think I could have done it for This Is A Moose without The Moosenest.

breaker A marvelously manic manuscript with mayhem in the pictures. Thanks for letting us in to The Moosenest, Tom!

(I love that moose-like alien. I’m glad he got his day here.)

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11 Comments

  • Posted June 16, 2014 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    I love Tom Lichtenheld’s work, both as author and illustrator. And, I enjoy his process. Moose is just another creative example. Fun book!

  • Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    This is fabulous,Carter. Also, if any of your readers ever have the chance to hear Tom Lichtenheld speak, I urge them to take it! He is just as direct and articulate in person.

  • Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Tom Lichtenheld.

  • Posted June 16, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    This book is hilarious and I can’t say enough about the spot-on illustrations! I just love seeing the behind-the-scenes sketches and thought process through development. What I’m surprised to see, Tom, is that your desk is completely flat! No angle at all! Is it because you don’t like your pencils/pens to roll? 😀

  • Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    RE: Flat desk. I work at a desk for all my initial sketching because it’s an active, messy process and I can spread out all the materials at my desk. Working at a desk is less about drawing and more about thinking, which is what I’m really doing at this stage. I have a drawing board where all the finished drawing and painting is done. That said, I often prefer my initial sketches over the finished work. Go figure.

  • Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Hi, Tom :) Thanks for clarifying that! I, too, often prefer the initial sketches and once, when having portfolio review I mentioned that and the art director’s response basically stated it’s typical! How unfortunate, right? Anyway, I love your work! 😀

  • Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I love the Moosenest, but I must confess I love it on false grounds, as a superlative, not as a noun. I thought, how nice that word is, the way it captures and then caps your progress: the pictures began, mooseny enought, but grew moosener and moosener as you worked until — ta-dah!

    … the moosenest book ever.

  • Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    The moose seems to be saying, “I am a moose and I am proud of it!”. My brother and I read books, Mostly at night. I think I am more crazy about reading, though. One time, I started reading at around 7:30 or 8:00 in the night, and I stopped reading at around 12:00 or 12:00 in the morning! Books are interesting. :)

  • Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I meant around 12:00 or 12:30 in the morning. :)

  • Posted June 23, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I checked this book out after reading your post and it is so much fun!!!

  • Posted June 25, 2014 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    This book sounds awesome :0) Love the chosen animals.