When I first got together with writer, Richard C. Mears to develop Saint Nick and the Space Nicks into a children’s book my concept art was much different for the main character of ‘Venick’ than what the final version ended up being. The secondary characters remained the same for the most part. The only major difference was I ’rounded’ the aliens off. I removed claws or beady/cold looking eyes and fattened them up.
The original Venick was skinny with a little pot belly. His hair was long and basically stringy and his face was a bit too narrow with a goatee with no mustache. Oh… and kind of claw-ish hands. How could it miss?
When no publishers picked Space Nicks up I put it to bed as a learning experience and moved on to other projects. After a few years, Richard contacted me about possibly self-publishing, but I wasn’t interested because at that time the quality of self published books just wasn’t that good and I wasn’t interested in creating a vanity project. You know, just so I could point to some book and say, ‘I’m published’! Still even though I did shoot down multiple attempts by Richard to restart the Space Nicks project, I did revisit the idea of recreating the world of the Space Nicks.
Everybody can change their mind…
When the quality of self publishing companies began to rise, I took revisiting Space Nicks more seriously. After researching and finding a company I liked I decided to jump back in.
The first step was to redesign the characters. Venick would get a complete overhaul. While the other characters would be ‘softened’. Fatter, rounder hands; no claws! Livelier eyes and inviting faces. Plus setting the scenes with more dramatic angles. After speaking with Richard C. Mears and agreeing to give this project another go-round. I took a year and a full sketchbook to develop all these characters and illustrations.
Here are a selection of original sketches. Some made it to the book as final illustrations. Others didn’t.
The USS Eagle
In Richard Mears original poem, the USS Eagle played a much bigger part. The spaceship observed all the events and the poem was told through the astronauts eyes. The poem actually opens with the crew of the eagle watching Santa deliver his toys on Christmas Eve. These sketches reflect this version.
Perspective! Perspective! Perspective!
The County Cork
The sketch up above is of Santa seeing a Pink Pie sky by and crash nearby. I liked it and did a finished gouache painting of it, but in the end I had to go in a different direction and didn’t use it for the book. I did use it though for the animation and later it was used for the Storybook App version.
The sketch above did make it as a finished illustration. The only real difference was when I designed where the text placement, I had to adjust where Venicks’s legs actually went.
The three sketches above were other ideas for the Cork crash/meeting Venick section. Check out Venick’s sleigh. My original sketches of his sleigh were drawn to literally look like a slice of pie. I liked it, but unfortunately the general consensus was at certain angles it looked too much like a shark’s face. The final design was made to have it look literally like a full baked pie.
Nice to meet you!
I used this sketch for the book. The biggest difference was I flipped it and made it a vignette.
It turned a knob that was next to its ear and the words that came out were perfectly clear.
Not only did I use this sketch and create a gouache illustration almost exactly like it. It turned out to be the very first illustration completed for the book. I spent about one year developing the concepts in the sketchbook. From this first illustration it took another six months to complete the other illustrations.
This sketch never made it to being a finished gouache painting for the book, but it was completed later as a digital painting for the animation and also the Space Nicks HD storybook App.
This sketch of Venick creating a hologram of his home planet to show Santa never made the book, but was digitally created and used (only) in the animation.
I tripped on a star and traveled near to afar!
Here’s a better view of the original design of Venick’s Sleigh in the above sketch. See the shark fins? Anyway, I only used this concept design for the animation. I created a digital illustration with the ‘full‘ pie sleigh.
Santa told Venick about his good girls and boys
I liked this sketch of Santa reading his ‘good’ list while sitting on a tool so much it barely changed at all as a finished gouache painting. I did take out the boy’s waving hand.
These two sketches didn’t make the book, but were digitally created. Both were used in the animation. Only the one on the left was used in the Storybook app.
More rapid than light, they sped through the night
This sketch above remained almost the same as a final illustration except it because a text page. I lost Santa’s sleigh and pushed the remaining elements to the corners. In the final version of Richard’s poem this page ended up having the only mention of the USS Eagle. Although the poem was better for the changes, I was disappointed because I spent quite a few pages in my sketchbook developing this spaceship and I loved the design I created. Oh well…
Above is the original sketch, below is the original gouache painting of Santa and Venick over Venus
Then in a twinkle of the great Northern Star, All the Space Nicks came from near and far.
This finished illustration of Santa Over Venus (above) might be my favorite of all the gouache paintings. The colors are vibrant and the characters are playful and cute. Surprisingly close to the original sketch.
Above is the original sketch, below is the original gouache painting of Santa and Venick on Venus meeting all the Space Nicks
Saint Nicholas was amazed and astonished to see, So many creatures dressed exactly as he
During the first go-round with Space Nicks I did another version of this illustration. Fairly soon after it was done and I put the project on the shelf I grew to really dislike that version. I knew I could do better. Once I restarted the project and finished this 2nd version I was so much more satisfied with it I ceremoniously cut the original into small pieces. True story. I still have most of them in my flat files.
The Space Nicks worked quickly in Venus’s short night, And Christmas shined wondrously before morning’s bright light
In the sketchbook I spent a lot of time developing Space Nick ‘toys’. Aside from a vignette illustration of a ‘Moondoll, Boondoll and a Hopo from Space’ the finished gouache painting based on the sketch above was the only place I had the toys. Wait… I used the toy vignette on the TITLE PAGE for the book too.
And when they departed and said their goodbyes, There were hugs of goodness and tears in their eyes
The sketch on the left never got used, but the one on the right with the waving hands did. It was a vignette gouache painting on a text page with the toy vignette.
A part of space fell through our ozone fence
I created a gouache painting based on the ozone hole sketch, but scrapped it in the end. After completing the elf holding on to the north pole gouache painting I scrapped that too and then combined the two and created a Elf Holding on to the pole double page spread painting with the moon poking its head through an ozone hole in the corner. Much better
Above is the original sketch, below is the original gouache painting of the big storm on the North Pole
The wind and the sea blew all that night, The raging storm was a terrible fright.
The finished gouache painting above is the right panel. The left panel was designed as a text page. I did two versions of this in gouache.
Everything was ruined or blown out of sight, Nothing good happened and nothing was right
Look to the sky, to the heavens above, there are billions of stars hat sparkle with love!
Then from out of the heavens and into the night, came thousands of Space Nicks via space flight
The sketch above is loose and was quickly done, but it was the inspiration for the finished gouache illustration. All I had to do was make room for the text.
They brought all their toys and candies delight, And delivered the joys of Christmas that night
Here’s the original sketch of the finished gouache painting I did go with. I fought for this one. Richard Mears thought the tentacle of the alien Space Nick coming from the chimney and trimming the tree was ‘too scary’ for kids. My argument was ‘It’s trimming a Christmas Tree not strangling a puppy!’ – (technically that was my point, not my literal argument).
It was Venick from Venus in a whirl of ‘Go’ light, And the Space Nicks together who lit up the night.
Playing with ideas for the final page of the book.
They sang in the heavens in voices of gold, As star dust settled in words to behold.
In the end the final finished gouache illustration was very similar to the above sketch. Of course this version still had the ‘slice of pie’ sleigh for Venick. The final version became a two page illustration with the text reserved for the left hand page.
I hope you enjoyed looking at these concept sketches of my children’s book ‘Saint Nick and the Space Nicks’. If you’re looking for an ‘Out of this World’ spin on a Christmas adventure check out Space Nicks.
Follow this link for the book and all its colorful illustrations:
or Check Out the Storybook App version I created for iPad, iPhone and Kindle Fire
iPad – Saint Nick and the Space Nicks HD
iPhone – Saint Nick and the Space Nicks – An Intergalactic Christmas Tale
Kindle Fire – Saint Nick and the Space Nicks HD