Inside the Studio with Gilbert Ford, Illustrator of Soldier Song: A True Story of the Civil War
The Children’s Book Review | February 8, 2016
Inside Gilbert Ford’s Studio
I work from the third bedroom in my Brooklyn apartment that I like to call my studio. Inside my studio are two large, heavy, Steel Case desks, a Formica dinner table, a flat file system, some drying racks, and an old light table. Resting on three of the tables are my computer, Wacom, scanner, and two printers. I also have shelves that line my walls holding models I’ve made for photographing. Resting on some of the shelves and crowding my closet are cameras, light stands and lights for when I must shoot a model. As far as decoration, I have an old Polish movie poster of men flapping their arms inside a cage. It was created behind the iron curtain in the 60’s. It sometimes reminds me of myself when I’m in my studio. If I feel stuck on an idea, the poster reminds me to leave my cage and go for a walk in the park.
Gilbert Ford’s Creative Process
My process is very different per book. For The Marvelous Thing That Came From A Spring, I created diorama illustrations and hired a photographer to shoot them in my dining room. However, due to budget constraints, I am learning to take my own photos. Here’s a link on how I did it: http://www.simonandschuster.com/videos/MARVELOUS-THING-THAT-CAME-FROM-A-SPRING-Process/U8kgcv5Wsw1h
For Soldier Song (by Debbie Levy), on top of a lot of visual research on the Civil War, I wanted to create a silkscreen and woodblock print effect for the entire eighty pages of the book. So I studied my favorite print makers’ work and used my Wacom Cintiq, some brush extensions, and some found textures I scanned to create digital “prints.” I also studied conflict propaganda posters to find appropriate symbols of war without showing actual gore. This book also needed to be really emotional, due to the heavy burden of war and the uplifting spirit of music. I woke up at 5 AM and sketched it for a few months, soaking up folk songs by Joanna Newsom and Leonard Cohen, so I could attain some emotional depth without disturbance.
For the new science picture book called ITCH (by Anita Sanchez), I’m combining digital/hand-painted illustration, with photos of science-related ephemera–like magnifying glasses, petri dishes, and old frames. Once again, I’m experimenting with a method I have not tried, so wish me luck every one!
Written by Debbie Levy
Illustrated by Gilbert Ford
Publisher’s Synopsis: Amid the fearsome battles of the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers were urged onward by song.
There were songs to wake them up and songs to call them to bed,
Songs to ready them for battle and to signal their retreat,
Songs to tell them that their side was right, and the other wrong . . .
And there was one song that reminded them all of what they hoped to return to after the war.
Defeated in the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, the Union soldiers retreated across the river. There, a new battle emerged as both armies volleyed competing songs back and forth. With the Christmas season upon them, however, Federals and Confederates longed for the same thing. As the notes of “Home, Sweet Home” rose up from both sides, they found common ground for one night.
Interwoven with soldiers’ letters and journal entries, this is a true story of duty and heartbreak, of loyalty and enemies, and of the uniting power of music. Debbie Levy’s moving text and Gilbert Ford’s vibrant, layered illustrations come together to create an unforgettable tale of American history.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | February 7, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1484725986
About Gilbert Ford
Gilbert Ford has lived half his life in The South and half his life in The North. He has illustrated covers for many books for young readers, such as Three Times Lucky and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and is the illustrator for The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch, as well as a number of picture books, including the award-winning Mr. Ferris and His Wheel. Gilbert currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Visit him online at gilbertford.com.
Discover more books like “Soldier Song: A True Story of the Civil War,” written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Gilbert Ford, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our articles tagged with American History, Civil War Books, Debbie Levy, Gilbert Ford, and Non-Fiction. And be sure to check out more authors and illustrators featured in our Inside the Studio column.