Tuesday 3 April 2012

A walk with Salvatore Rubbino...

Salvatore Rubbino takes us for a walk through the making of his new book, A Walk in London, in an exclusive guest blog post for Picture Book Picnic...

A Walk in London charts a real route through the city with the possibility that a family might walk this together, should they feel like an adventure, or as a read to be enjoyed at home as a virtual tour of London. The reader follows a mother and a daughter and their experience of landmarks, monuments and life at street level. 

As a Londoner I felt incredibly excited about making a book about my city but the challenge was to see London with fresh eyes. Drawing on location has always underpinned my work and helped me to understand things so I began exploring the city by drawing what I saw.

Londoners can sometimes take their city for granted, in fact I had never witnessed the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace until I started research for the book. When I joined hundreds of visitors for the spectacle of precision marching and brass bands, it was so thrilling I wondered in the end why I had waited so long; the queen even made an appearance. It was this experience that helped to form the ‘spot the royal family’ game I play with the reader through the book.

Collecting visual research was very enjoyable and I auditioned many places around London for a role in the book. Here are a few from my sketchbooks:
Trafalgar Square:

Lions at Trafalgar Square:

Houses of Parliament

The ‘Gherkin’ in the City of London:


 The Lloyds Building:

I could have happily carried on exploring and drawing but eventually decisions had to be made; decisions about what to include, what to say about London and how to organize everything into a coherent whole.

This sheet of small quick drawings records conversations between me and my publisher at an early stage of the book making process. Different ideas and a sense of structure is slowing taking place but there are still lots of gaps!

I wanted to show the things that excite me about living in London, the way that very old and very new buildings stand alongside each other, the way that traditions are still followed, the oasis offered by parks teeming with wildlife even in the centre of London and how it always seems to rain at the most inconvenient times. In fact London is full of wonderful contrasts if you look for them. The initial pictures for each page can vary a great deal from the final coloured artwork. Characters, themes and ideas evolve and it might take several attempts before I find the right solution. Here's
an initial idea and the first page as it appears in the book. The characters are in the foreground on the right and have just arrived by bus.

An early version of St James’ Park together with the final artwork:


Rain descends on London and Londoners:

St Paul’s Cathedral and the interior:


I try to leave room for my imagination to play. Pictures can look very different between initial drawings and the final artwork. If I can continue to discover things and remain excited then hopefully some of that enthusiasm will come across and who knows, may even encourage the reader to go for a walk in London.

Can you find your way through the maze of London? 

Have a go at this fun activity sheet!

A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbino is available to buy here.