Shana Corey and Red Nose Studio on THE SECRET SUBWAY!

I am thrilled, thrilled, thrilled beyond belief to have the creators of THE SECRET SUBWAY on today! I was first turned on to the topic of a pneumatic subway in New York City when Elon Musk (inventor of Twitter) brought up the idea for California. Articles started popping up about the history of such subways in other cities around the world, including New York City, right in the middle of the corrupt Boss Tweed era. Gads, I was hooked!
      Along came Shana Corey, Red Nose Studio - one of my favorite illustrators, editor Anne Schwartz of Schwartz and Wade Books (RH), and WOW. This book is Stunning, Fabulous, Interesting... I can't give you enough adjectives!
     Lucky us, Shana and Chris (a.k.a. Red Nose) have stopped by to let us eaves drop on a creative conversation about the making of this fantastic picture book. Take it away guys!

Shana:Thank you so much for having us Elizabeth! The Secret Subway, just came out and Red Nose Studio and I are excited to share a peek at the process behind it with you. You can also see the trailer here (click the image to watch in a new window on Youtube):
      I first came across a mention of Alfred Ely Beach-the editor of Scientific American and the changemaker behind NYC's first subway-a block long pneumatic tube he built in 1870 without official permission--when I used to visit the New York Transit Museum with my kids. I initially didn't focus on Beach but wrote a version that was an overview of the entire NYC subway history and that focused much more on building our current system-but I was so intrigued by Beach I wrote a second version that focused entirely on his story, and that's the story I sent to Anne Schwartz at Schwartz and Wade. I have always loved the books Anne edits and was incredibly excited and honored when she took on The Secret Subway.
      Anne shared it with Red Nose Studio, and I was blown away by the art he created-he took it to a whole new level. So for this post, I thought I'd ask Chris Sickles (aka Red Nose Studio) some of the questions I've been curious about.

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Shana: Chris, for the art you create 3 dimensional scenes and then photograph them. Do the scenes always follow the sketches you create or do you rearrange them when needed as you go? And do you ever create pieces you don't end up using in the final?

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Chris: Most everything in my illustrations are built by hand, so I always aim to only build what gets seen. Some images get revised or changed in order to accommodate an edit in the text or the layout, but generally the finals are built to match the sketches which are like an architects blueprints.

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Shana: Did you have rough versions of the Beach puppet you created before you settled on the final?
Chris: I sketched roughly 20 versions of Beach trying to get a character drawing that I felt caught the essence of who he was. Once that was established I then moved forward with sketching out the book. While sketching the book Beach became a little more refined as I drew him from different angles and with different expressions. Only after the book dummy was approved did I start sculpting Beach.

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Shana: How many different expressions did you create for Beach and how did you determine how many to do?
Chris: After the dummy roughs of the book where revised, refined and approved I could look through the pages and see that Beach roughly had five expressions throughout the book. He was excited/happy, relaxed, determined, flabbergasted, and defeated. From those moods, I was able to sculpt five separate heads which could be swapped out depending on the image I was shooting at any given time.

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Shana: What do you do with the pieces when the book is finished?
Chris: Most of the environmental elements (skies, grounds, buildings) get filed so that they can be reused on future projects. The various props get stored as well for future use. The characters/puppets get placed upon shelves and kept together for exhibits and Beach himself travels with me to book events and school talks about the book.

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Shana: Thank you Chris! And thank you again for having us Elizabeth. You can find reviews and other extras (including printables) for the Secret Subway on our websites, and And for your NYC readers, Red Nose Studio has a new poster that's in the subways right now as part of the MTA's Arts & Design Project-so next time you're on the subway you might just be riding with Beach and his subway!


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