So the Bellevue library is where a new project is born for me. As you can see it is a treasure trove of research materials! As much as I try to limit myself to the amount of books I will check out I always end with a pile about two feet high. As the illustrator working on a historical project images will come to mind when reading the manuscript but there are many gaps that my research helps to fill. My new book is about a girl and her family traveling across the Oregon Trail in the 1860's. It is a fictional family but based on the experiences of thousands of pioneers that made the real journey. The story takes place in northeastern Nebraska and Wyoming. Reading a story raises more questions for an illustrator than it answers. What does the landscape look like? How do I depict Fort Laramie? How do I accurately paint a Sioux Chief of that era? So many questions but luckily existing non-fiction children's books are a treasure trove of old photographs and paintings. I get a little jolt of excitement when I finally stumble across that elusive image I was looking for. If I can I will travel to the area the story takes place as I did for my book "Survival in the Snow" set at Donner Lake California, but that's not always possible. I also have lots of existing photos I have taken of places like Boston or Philadelphia that have helped me illustrate stories set during the American Revolution. For my current project though I will have to satisfy myself with what's discovered through arm chair travel.
The next step for me is to go through the books at home and scan the images that will be most helpful to me, then print out the pages and pages of images so I can begin sketching. I am always a bit nervous, is that illegal, scanning from books? But I figure it just serves the greater purpose of making my paintings more historically accurate. If there are still any holes to fill after all this research there is always Google images. Time to start scanning!