Making Crab Cake

(to the tune of “making christmas”)

CRAB CAKE had two distinct phases - which are slightly more confusing than simply splitting them into Writing and Illustrating because I write by drawing. I mention this breakdown because sometimes folks ask if the words come first or the pictures? And in the words of the immortal Pillboi:

1) Figuring out the Story:

Some of the many Crab Cake doodles & sketches:


which then progressed to making thumbnails (and sometimes dummies) in consultation with my wonderful editor, Kate O’Sullivan and with the help of my delightful agent, Stephen Barr. Many many drafts of the pencil dummy happened until the story was ready to illustrate (you can see from the first set of thumbs that the layout changed a lot:)


2) Making the Final Illustrations: So the rough pencils were set, the text and rough speech bubble placement were set - and this was the point were I briefly freaked out about drawing rocks. It doesn’t matter what I’m working on - I will find a way to get nervous about coloring something - and underwater scenes presented an interesting challenge. I mean, the light is completely different from dry land, creatures move through the space differently, things in the distance look different, so I started by pulling together a big reference file of fish, reefs, and screenshots from documentaries.


Next step: printing out the rough pencils as light blue lines, then “inking” over them with very dark pencil. I scan these inks and use a Photoshop action to erase the blue and separate out the linework.


When I was sussing out how to get a feeling of transparency with the seaweed, friend & cartoonist Molly Brooks pointed out how I’d used layered outlines in another piece to get the same effect. So: tracing paper:


Next: I scanned in gouache, watercolor, and other marks to use as textures:


Then it was off to the Photoshop races! At this point, my computer suddenly died and my brilliant spouse, Alexander, loaned me his while he took mine apart and rebuilt it.

Color flatting speeds up the coloring later.


And that’s how I finished Crab Cake!

all with the help of the intern, of course:


Big BIG thank you to everyone who helped me with this book: Kate O’Sullivan, Stephen Barr, Andrea Miller, Alexander Rothman, Anna Raff, Molly Brooks, Maëlle Doliveux, Jen Breach, Keith Negley, Nick Bertozzi, Tom Hart, Maia Tsurumi, and Kenan Rubenstein.