John Rocco's BLACKOUT

I am thrilled to host one of my favorite picture book creators today - John Rocco. I have two of his previous books in my collection, which I study relentlessly: MOONPOWDER and WOLF! WOLF! His latest creation is just as impressive: BLACKOUT. I had the great pleasure of asking John about it...

Welcome to John!
Thanks Elizabeth! Glad to be "here".

Q. What was the inspiration for the story in BLACKOUT? Better yet, what was the inspiration for the artwork. Am I seeing some influence from "Starry night" by Van Gogh?
A. Yes, Starry Night is definitely in there. I wanted the moment they saw the stars to be magical and that famous painting is certainly full of magic. The main influence for the style of artwork was definitely Sendak's In the Night Kitchen. The panels, speech bubbles and the flat perspectives were definitely derived from that wonderful book. In some of the night scenes there are some influences from old noir films. The light and shadow played a large part in this books design.

Q. How challenging was it to work with a color palette that had to relay a little or no light situation?
A. I certainly wanted to go even darker at first. I was thinking the pages would be completely black and you would only see what was in the cone of light from the flashlights, but after trying that approach it was difficult to keep the story together. I knew that when the lights went out I wanted to switch the palette from full color to a very monochromatic black and white (or dark blue and white) and gradually add the color back in as the family discovered the magic of being without electricity. As far as the printing goes, the team at Disney always spends a great deal of effort making sure the color prints spot on. Because I work digitally I provide them with approved color prints of every page so they can match it precisely. I was extremely pleased at how the color reproduced in this book.

Q. I've always been impressed by how well designed your books are. How do you approach that aspect of your projects?
A. The design of the book is always something I try to spend a great deal of time with. It is important not only aesthetically, but as a storytelling tool. If you notice at the beginning of the book the family are all shown in separate windows in their apartment, but on the very last page you see them together in one window. That was something I had in mind from the very beginning. When I was working on this book I ended doing about eight different book dummies trying to get it to work as a wordless book first. Then I was able to sprinkle words in as I needed them. Once in a while I would show my dummies to my pal Brian Floca and he would make suggestions here and there that really helped. And of course my editor, Stephanie Lurie, was very helpful in keeping me on track with the main story.

Q. What is your illustration method?
A. I create a full tonal pencil drawing, and then I paint it digitally in photoshop.

Q. Do you consider yourself more writer or illustrator - or have the two merged completely at this point? (And if not, how do they get along?)
A. Because I do much more illustration work than writing, I definitely consider myself more of an illustrator. But I am also thrilled to be a writer. To have that tool in my toolbox allows me a ton of freedom when creating books. The two skills merge together and then I become a storyteller.

Q. And lastly, do you ever plan to make it down to Georgia so your southern fans might meet you in person?
A. If the devil went down to Georgia, so can I. Seriously, I would love to get down there. My wife has always wanted to go to Savannah. I will let you know when it will happen.

Thank you!
Thanks so much! e
Be sure to check out BLACKOUT:


Joanna McDonald said...

I love the covers of his books!
That alone would be a great selling
tool for just about anyone! He is

Robyn Hood Black said...

Great interview with such a talented creator - thanks to you both! I love sharing WOLF! WOLF! in my wolfy school presentations.