This blog is a celebration of novel, novel characters!

I love reading novels, and as an artist I know a great exercise to stretch one's illustration skills is to portray characters from a description in a book. This blog is a challenge to myself to do just that so I'll be posting illustrations from whatever book I'm currently reading. Feel free to add comments and send me your fan art for these great titles too!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hunter & Billy from "Fair Play" by Deeanne Gist

I’d been thinking about Deeanne this week, and then saw on her Facebook page that her father passed away.  It would seem sometimes there’s a reason why someone is on your mind.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that last year I worked with her on a special project with characters from “It Happened at the Fair” and “Fair Play.”   The Interactive Video Adventure, which I pretty much couldn’t shut up about!  It was while I was working on this project with her that my own father passed away and I’ll never forget how kind she was to me.  My thoughts and prayers are with her!
My mom & I got to meet Deeanne in April

I’ve been planning to share more about the production of the video adventure, so I’ll sneak in a bit more now as I write about Deeanne’s latest book “Fair Play.”  First off, you should know I’m completely biased.  Having worked on a project using her characters I feel connected to them.  I loved “Fair Play,” it was fun, sincere, and full of wonderful details about the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago where the book takes place.

The story follows Hunter Scott, a Texas Ranger working as a guard at the Women’s building during the Exposition and Billy Jack Tate, a lady Doctor, also working at the Women’s building.  These are the same characters from the e-short released last year, “Tempest in the White City.”  I liked that while the event from “Tempest” is included in “Fair Play,” you’re not reading the same exact text.  The stories complement each other so if you haven’t already, once you’ve read “Fair Play” you can read “Tempest” to get an embellished version of one of the funniest situations in the book.
As with any story, the characters are my favorite part.  Billy is determined to handle everything herself, and Hunter equally likes to be in control.  They make for a unique pair- the manly man and the working woman.  It wouldn’t seem odd now, but for 1893 the role of women was a big deal, and it was hard for Hunter to think about marriage to a woman who earned wages, their romance was no easy feat!

Through most of the story Billy and Hunter find themselves championing the case for play grounds in the city, after a surprising discovery brings them to the slums where they see how poorly conditions are for the children who live there.  As they get to know each other, they work together to build the community’s first playground.

Their cameo in the video adventure takes place at the Women’s building.  I got to add in Billy, Hunter, and even Derry (a Newsboy who works outside the women’s building and lives in the slums).  Hunter doesn’t like wearing his hat, and flat out refuses to attach the pompom meant to go on top of it.

For each scene in the video adventure I worked under Deeanne’s direction to make all the backgrounds as historically accurate as possible.  Sometimes I even traced photos (partially to save time, partially for accuracy)!

Before I drew the characters in the video, I played around with some rough designs.  Deeanne told me that she got some character inspiration from Ryan Gosling for Hunter and Gwyneth Paltrow for Billy so I referred to some photos as a starting point.

I worked on the video adventure while Deeanne was still writing “Fair Play” so I obviously hadn’t read any of it at the time.  Reading through the book after creating character designs just made me want to draw them more.  I couldn’t resist drawing the following romantic scene of Hunter and Billy on the swings.  I can’t remember if Hunter was wearing his uniform at this point or not but I wanted to draw him wearing it because it was unique to the fair, and it’s rather Princely, too don’t you think?

So, have I convinced you to read the book yet?  I have one more secret about it to share with you... flip to the back Author’s Note section and you’ll find a special drawing by me of Cullen & Della from the “It Happened at the Fair!"  Sneaky Deeanne put it in there without telling me, and it of course made my day when I discovered it!

I hope you enjoy watching the video adventure and reading “Fair Play !"  Thanks to Deeanne for making me a completely biased reviewer for this one.  God bless you!