Friday 14 August 2020

Ride the Wind by Nicola Davies & Salvatore Rubbino - Guest Illustrator Post

We are delighted to invite Salvatore Rubbino onto the Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of his new picture book, Ride the Wind. You can now read the full post below!

“In this beautifully told and emotive picturebook, a motherless boy breaks rules for the sake of an injured albatross and is reconciled with his harsh father. Salvatore Rubbino’s clear, colourful draughtsmanship is deft at evoking the story’s South American setting.” – ‘Watch Out For’, The Sunday Times

Guest Illustrator Post - Salvatore Rubbino

Making a book can sometimes feel like sending a message in a bottle.

During the making of a book, I am saturated with the story, live with the characters and feel their emotions keenly. After an intense period of painting and drawing, the book (with some relief) reaches a conclusion. Then all goes quiet for about a year! 

I move on to other projects and new challenges and almost forget about the hopes I have for the book.

The book is sent off for printing and in the meantime, the wonderful marketeers at Walker Books find a home for the story with bookshops and other distributors. When the book arrives back, it’s the first time I will have seen it in its printed and bound form. The book and its story message is at last ready to meet its readers and continue its journey.

 When the first copies arrive it’s like an old friend I haven’t seen for a long time. There’s a little hesitation too! Did I do a good job? Are the characters believable? Have I managed to communicate the essence of the story after all? Of course, each book is like a stepping stone, a chance to experience and try something new and develop my picture-making a little further.

(character sketches, Tomas the ‘strict’ dad, kind uncle Filipe and Javier, the boy)

I’d certainly never drawn an albatross before I was invited to illustrate Nicola Davies’s wonderful story, ‘Ride the Wind’, set in a small fishing village along the coast of Chile.

I begin a new illustration project with a careful reading of the text then I try to let the story sink in. Before making pictures for the book I try to find tangible examples that resonate with the characters and setting to look at and draw. Most albatrosses, however, live in the Southern Hemisphere, beyond my reach from East London and a trip to Chile just wasn’t practical.

There are fortunately taxidermy examples in museums that helped give a sense of their majestic wingspan and scale, although ‘my’ bird doesn’t open its wings until the end of the story. I was worried that the albatross might look like a large goose so needed other distinguishing features and discovered that they also have large hook-shaped beaks and strong-looking necks. I drew the albatross until I felt I knew it and also other sea birds from museum specimens and gulls whenever I walked along the Thames. 

(early drawings for the albatross and other sea birds)

(practice pictures for the albatross)

I wanted to experience sea weather and salt spray. So, I took the train to Hastings rather than South America, to the ‘Old Town’ where the boats are launched from the beach and winched back in. It meant I could walk in between the boats, observe them closely and also experience something of the daily rhythm of hardy fishing people. Maintaining nets, making repairs, gutting fish, whilst all around, piles of floats, impressive anchors, weathered fishing huts and even a local museum with a model of an albatross which I took as a good sign. 

(location drawings at Hastings)

(the fishing boat arrives back to the village with Javier and the albatross, from the book)

I see characters everywhere! On the London Underground, on the street, in the supermarket queue. I’ve never met a person I haven’t found interesting and we all come with a story. The characters in the book are a composite of relatives from Southern Italy I remembered from my childhood, farmers this time who had also been shaped by the weather and tough physical work. I borrowed attributes from different people; there’s a little of me in the dad and a little of my son in the boy too.

 (sketches for Tomas and Filipe, and Javier with the albatross)

(Javier smuggles the albatross home to help nurse it well again)

I’d found ‘my’ albatross and ‘my’ village and could now begin to populate it and make the story come to life!

 As I write I’m still awaiting the first copies of the book; I look forward to meeting my ‘old friend’ again.

- Salvatore Rubbino

A special thanks to our guest illustrator this week, Salvatore Rubbino!

Ride the Wind is now available to buy from all good booksellers.