FOSSIL Blog Tour & Special Guest Post with Bill Thomson

At the beginning of November, I had a chance to meet up with the amazing, Bill Thomson in person.  He emailed me to say he would be in town and did I want to get together.  Well, I didn't need to think about it.  Of course, I wanted to meet up.  I picked Bill up at a local artist's studio and we headed over to Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena.   It's a great space to hang and I wanted to introduce Bill to one of the staff at the museum.  As we walked around the museum, we talked about Bill's newest book, FOSSIL and about children and imagination and science and more.

After leaving Kidspace, we headed over to Montrose and stopped by Once Upon a Time Bookstore.  We were lucky that owner Maureen Palacios was in and I had a chance to introduce Bill to her.  I must have done a pretty fabulous job book talking Gris Grimly's Frankenstein because Bill picked up a copy while we were there.

We then headed to a small barbeque place for dinner where we managed to talk books and creative process for a couple more hours.

Here's a few things you need to learn about me...I will never make a great reporter.  I managed to not take a single picture or take notes throughout my whole time with Bill.  It just felt wrong somehow.  It would have completely messed up the tone of the afternoon/evening.  Another thing about me, I was plotting the whole time about how I might be able to create several events around Bill and his books.  Did you notice that I was taking him to places that could be potential event spots? *smile*

Now, here is the fun stuff.  During our dinner, Bill was talking to me about how he sometimes makes creative decisions with his art so that it will work better for children who are viewing his books.  I was fascinated with what he was sharing.  He then offered to share some images with the readers of my blog.  If you haven't figured this out yet, Bill is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and I am very blessed to have had the chance to spend so much time with him.  

This is what Bill shared with the readers of my blog about creating the Pteranodon in the book.

From Bill - Here are the steps used to create the illustration:

My initial thumbnail sketch establishes the basic idea.

Then I take the reference photos so I can make the details looks as convincing as possible. I shot photos from higher vantage point matching my thumbnail sketch, but I thought a lower perspective worked better. I shot over 10,000 reference photos for this book, and usually take multiple vantages for each illustration to see what works best. I have a very skinny nephew named Sam and used his back as the basis for my pteranodon. The pteranodon was a mix of a figure that I painted, Sam’s back, lizard photos, ptranodon research, and stuff I made up. I was originally going to make him brownish, but then opted for a reddish color so he would stand out from the other colored fossils and also to add more color to the book.

Looking at the reference photos, I make a tight pencil drawing.

Then I paint a light coat of yellow acrylic paint over my entire pencil drawing, and add black acrylic paint on top to establish the darkest areas.

I paint over the entire illustration with a light coat of purple oil paint and remove the areas of sunlight with an eraser. This creates a yellow and purple under painting, establishing base colors for light and shadow.

I always paint backgrounds first. The flat blue color of the sky was painted with an airbrush to keep it smooth, and the ground painted with a sponge to create texture. Many of the illustrations in the book had actual rock mixed in with the paint, but the ground in this illustration was from a farther vantage point.

Then I create a tight acrylic painting on top of the under painting. This is the most time consuming part of the process.  And finally, I go over the entire illustration with colored pencil to refine the illustration. This final step is also quite time consuming, but brings the illustration to life with subtle details and textures.

Other illustrations with closer views of the ground included actual volcanic rock in the paint:

To create texture in ground on the closer scenes, I mixed rock in with my paint and dabbed it on with a sea sponge.

While the printing process can’t reproduce the three dimensional aspects of the rock, it does capture how the paint reacts to it. I liked including actual rocks in the paint for the illustrations of a book about fossils.

And then you have this amazing book trailer:

For more information about Bill Thomson:

Bill Thomson has been called “a master at visual storytelling.” He is the illustrator of several children’s books, including Chalk (Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2010), which received many accolades. Thomson is also Professor of Illustration at the University of Hartford. He lives with his family in Connecticut. Visit Bill at

To download a copy of the educator guide or student activity guide click on the images:

To check out all of the stops for the FOSSIL Blog Tour:

Sat, Nov 9
Booking Mama
Mon, Nov 11
NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Nov 12
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Nov 13
There's a Book
Thurs, Nov 14
Fri, Nov 15
Kid Lit Frenzy
Mon, Nov 18
Once Upon a Story
Tues, Nov 19
The Children's Book Review
Wed, Nov 20
5 Minutes for Books
Thurs, Nov 21
Geo Librarian
Fri, Nov 22
Growing with Science

For a chance to win a copy of FOSSIL, complete the form below.  Winner must be 13 or older and have a US mailing address.

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