Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor Q&A with the talented illustrator Brian Biggs

Science meets science-fiction in this smart and silly middle-grade series launch from master storyteller Jon Scieszka. 

Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and totally unusual. In Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, after an uneventful experiment in his lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions - the robots Klink and Klank - to life! Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor . . . until Frank’s arch nemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan!

Having yet to read and review this series launch with my class I had a quick flick through to see what we had in store. What I discovered was an abundance of quirky, "sciencey" illustrations that I know the boys in my class will just love! The layout of this book is very similar to the fantastically popular 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' books by Jeff Kinney. 

This week Frank Einstein is on a blog tour stopping here for a Q&A with the ridiculously talented illustrator Brian Biggs. Read on to find out Brian Biggs' 'BIG SECRET' and whether he will be rooting for Team Kink or Team Klank...

Well, we’ll start with who’s your favourite character to draw and why?

Oh gosh it’s definitely Klank, the big goofy robot. He has so much personality and his more-humanoid-tyhan-Klink shape and facial features give me a lot of latitude in expressions and whatnot. I love him on the cover of the book. I was so happy when I nailed that.

What is the process when illustrating a character for the first time?

Normally I have to go through the text and highlight the various concrete physical descriptions of the characters. Then I take this and combine it with my own notes on what I think the character might look like apart from the stuff that the author described. I’ll find various actions in the book and “test” my sketches with the characters in these scenes and see how they work. This is the typical process for a book where I come in after the book is written. In the case of Frank Einstein, Jon and I had been discussing the personalities of the characters for some time before he ever wrote the actual texts. My sketches informed the descriptions and even some of the scenes from the story.
The biggest thing is to make sure that the characters are distinct and visually exemplify the personality that Jon is striving to give them in the text. I want you to look at Frank, for example, and immediately see the brainy, adventurous, curious kid that Jon writes about before you even read about him.

How was it working with Jon?

So here’s the big secret. “Jon Scieszka” is not even a real person. He is a revolving committee of five eleven-year-old kids. Sort of like that band “Menudo” from the 80’s, once they turn 12, they have to leave the committee. This group of kids writes ideas down on small yellow pieces of paper, and then they pass the ideas along, adding things and changing things and eventually, like the proverbial monkey at a typewriter, something amazing comes out of it. Charlie, the editor, sort of ropes these brilliant ideas into something that resembles a connected story. The handsome old man that they hired to be “Jon” at signings and events is an actor from the suburbs of Michigan. He’s a nice guy and all, but kind of weird.

In the end, it’s been the most fun experience of my career.

What was the most elaborate scene to draw in the book?

The scene near the end where the robots are about to get zapped to obvlivion by the huge pink nuclear squirt-gun. This had to get all the characters in place, six of them, show the big CERN-style collider location, and have some semblance of the drama that Jon put into words. It took a lot of sketches to get there.
A close runner-up was the science-fair scene. Drawing the perspectives of the rows of displays and all the activity was a bit like engineering more than illustrating.

 Who was the hardest to get on paper in the world of Frank Einstein?

It was pretty easy, since the story was something I really liked and identified with. But I think the hardest was Frank himself. He’s the lynchpin and he had to be right. I kept sketching him as if he was six years old. 

Are you Team Klink or Team Klank?

Beep beep! Klank!

Check out the rest of the Frank Einstein blog tour at the following stops:

 Rhino Reads

Wondrous Reads

Serendipity Reads

Library Mice

Please check back soon for my full review of
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor!

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