The demands are the same as for writing or illustrating a book: Something must come to life every time a reader turns a page. Except with a pop-up book, it really has to come to life. By definition. Things move, swing and unfold — hopefully with some grace and more than a few surprises. Like life.
It’s done with scissors and scotch tape — and the benign wizardry that comes from years of conjuring castles and creatures and dances from paper.
Bruce Foster received clues to his career’s direction back as a painting and graphic design major at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville – though he didn’t know it then. What he did know is that he liked gluing objects on to his canvases — to bring textures and dimension to his art pieces. He cut holes in them for the same reason.
“I was going 3-D in a flat paint school,” he says. “My work was more akin to sculpture and as a matter of fact, my best art school friends were actually sculptors. I’m not sure what the painting professors totally thought of it.”
Years later as an art director for a Houston ad agency, he received his first pop-up assignment — a Hi-C fruit juice carton that would blossom out from a grocery store mailer as one opened it. This was the campaign that introduced the first kids’ juice cartons to the consuming world. “This is three dimensional-thinking,” Bruce remembers saying to himself as he worked up the ad. “I love this.”
It led to more pop up gigs– for books, public relations and ad agencies, cards, more books, museums, a graphic novel, more books and eventually Hollywood! In addition to Disney and Dreamworks, clients and creative partners have included some of the world’s major CGI and digital animation studios, New York City fashion designers, a Top Chef pastry chef and the national park service. His 40 books to date are associated with such name authors and illustrators as Mo Willems, Wil Eisner, Charles Schultz, Charles Dickens and Chuck Fischer.
One example of Bruce’s Hollywood assignments was creating the pop up castle that appears in the opening credits of the Disney movie “Enchanted.” To watch Bruce discuss his work with the movies and CGI animators, visit the Illustration Course blog.
And now J.K. Rowling. On November 16, three days before the release of the”Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!” movie, the official pop-up book celebrating all of the movies from Warner Bros “Harry Potter” series will hit the stores wherever books are sold.
So be on the lookout next month for Harry Potter- A Popup Book with illustrations by Andrew Williamson, lead concept artist for all of the movies, text by Lucy Kee and paper engineering by Bruce Foster.
“It may be a cliché, but this really was a labor of love,” Bruce writes on his website. “My own daughters grew up with Harry as we spent countless nights enjoying the developing epic while I read aloud to them.”
A ‘White Dummy’
Paper engineers work with card stock and scissors to make a white dummy.
Here’s a really good video from a Smithsonian Institution exhibit on the art and science of pop-up books, Fold, Pull, Pop and Turn that runs through October of next year.
The video features Foster and another well known pop-up book artist Chuck Fischer working together on Fischer’s book Angels — and gives a great insight into the labor and thought-intensive process of creating a pop-up work — from earliest thumbnails to the assemblies of the printed books.
“Whenever I make presentations or do school visits, kids and their teachers too are amazed to learn that pop-up books are a hand made craft and not manufactured by machines,” Bruce says.
“Every time there’s a spot of glue joining two pieces of paper, that’s been done by hand. These are very delicate and special things.”
But getting to that point requires a “combination of pencil scribbling and sculpting with scissors,” Foster says. “When I get to the point where I like what’s happening, I make all the marks on the paper. I retrace the shapes and put in dotted lines where [the assemblers] cut and blue lines where they fold.”
Before those puzzle pieces are printed and put together, an illustrator must paint them all.
“When Chuck Fischer and I collaborated on his book Christmas Around the World, he would send me a sketch and I would look at it and start sculpting it. I’d work with scissors and tape right on the light table. That means I cut out my shapes from the sketches as I go, really fast – right over the light table.”
“It’s sort of like the paper and I work together and it emerges,” Foster says.
“Like the house that Jack built. It’s how you tell a story in three dimensions.”
Pop-Ups on the iPad?
When can we expect to see pop-up features on an i-Pad book?
Foster is actually working with a client on one now. “There are a lot of iPad book and reader applications happening right now. Mostly they’re things moving around on the screen. Flat.”
The challenge for digital animators and CGI folks, he says, is simulating the push of real paper against paper and the ‘ feel’ and proper timing of paper springing from flatness.
It’s hard for programmers to imitate the real thing — pictures invading our space with that “theater in the round” experience that good pop-up books convey.
He looks forward to the day when pop-up books transcend the digital screen to interact with us in holographic form.
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Links to visit: Bruce Foster website
and a cool PDF history of pop-up books that you can download.
Discover the Movable Book Society
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An Austin SCBWI “Picture Perfect” Boot Camp Workshop
- Lisa Wheeler has written 17 books for children. Her most recent picture book for Atheneum is the hilarious Castaway Cats, illustrated by Ponder Gombel.
- Sarah Sullivan has written three picture books. Her latest, Passing Music Down, published by Candlewick is forthcoming very soon. Learn more about Sarah on her website at www.sarahsullivanbooks.com.
- Stephanie Greene is a master of the series chapter book.She has earned Horn Book’s coveted starred review for her latest…Happy Birthday Sophie Hartley. Learn more about Stephanie at www.stephaniegreenebooks.com.
- Don Tate’s illustrations grace the newly released picture book by Audrey Vernick She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story
- Laura Jennings is an illustrator and gamer artist in Austin, Texas.
- Debbie Gonzales is regional advisor of the Austin chapter of SCBWI.
- Carmen Oliver is assistant regional advisor of the Austin SCBWI.
- Bethany Hegedus is the author “Trouble with a Capital T” and other books for middle grade readers.
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Article on Bruce Foster by Mark Mitchell. Children’s book author and illustrator Mark Mitchell hosts the How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator blog.
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See more videos from Mark’s interview with pop up book engineer Bruce Foster at the Illustration Course blog.