“Merry Christmas, me buckos, an’ a Happy New Yaaargghhhh!”
Those aren’t my words above (although they’re my sentiments, certainly.) They are the closing lines of “A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas”, the new children’s picture book by Philip Yates and Sebastia Serra (Sterling Press.)
I’ve never done a “two-parter” on a children’s book before, but this is a special occasion.
First, it’s so close to Christmas and this book is a quintessential Christmas greeting, as told by one scabrous seadog to another.
Second, the wonderful illustrator Sebastia Serra who lives just outside Barcelona, Spain, just finished a deadline.
And so he was able, just this morning to share with us some words about how he created his magical pictures for this brand new “Christmas classic.” (We heard from author Philip Yates, who lives in Austin, Texas and is part of our amazing Austin SCBWI chapter in the previous post.)
Serra says, “For me, A Pirates Night before Christmas is a very special book.
” The subject of the pirates has always been of interest for me but I never had the opportunity of illustrating it before. For this reason, I felt very much like doing it. Moreover, the text of Philip Yates is just wonderful and enormously inspiring for an illustrator. It is absolutely full of suggestive images and close characters.
“My working process always starts with a very thorough documentation work. I try to look for the atmosphere of the book in order to make it “breathing” like the text. For this reason I had to do a deep immersion in the pirates’ world: engravings, books, films, websites, etc.
“For the characters’ process I use plenty of paper. There are many attempts and sketches before I find the character that fits the text.
“I often create some characters in 3D and in this way it is easier to draw them from all viewpoints. This time I was lucky to find an 18th century scale model ship that was very helpful to develop the different settings in a coherent way.
“The design of the scenes is always very intuitive. I usually have the image in my mind before starting to draw. Most of the images start forming in my mind from the first reading of the text.
“From here on, the work with the computer starts. The whole of the process is digital. I add different textures like wood, ink stains, papers, etc. For this book of pirates, that has an atmosphere of old sailors’ song, I used papers of the 18th century which I scanned from the back of documents I found in a museum in the city where I live.
“I am really proud of this book. On one hand due to the greatness of Yates’ text, and on the other, because I have the feeling that this time my work as illustrator has brought more to the whole of the text,” Serra says.
For more images by Sebastia Serra from “A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas” see the previous post and interview with author- poet Philip Yates below.
Mark Mitchell, who wrote this post, teaches the online course in children’s book illustration, Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks! See Mark’s free video series about the best secret to better drawing.