Monday, March 3, 2008

Brian Lies -- Knee Deep in the Swamp

Yikes! As I step forward, my knee-high clamming boot sinks effortlessly into the tidal mud, right up over the top. No resistance whatsoever. I feel a jolt of reptilian-brain panic, and back up hastily into safer ankle-deep mud. I’ve just missed being swallowed up by a tidal marsh!

On the grassy shore twenty feet away, four people laugh. This has all been captured on film by a film crew from Scholastic Book Fairs, shooting a segment for this spring’s author interview DVD. A Charlesbridge book I illustrated, Donna M. Bateman’s Deep in the Swamp, is one of this spring’s featured books. The DVD will go to every school in the country hosting a Scholastic Book Fair.

It had seemed like a good idea to film an introduction with me standing knee-deep in a saltwater marsh a few miles from my house. The producer wanted me to wade through the water, beckon with an arm to the camera and call out, “Come on! Let’s go deep in the swamp!” But when the crew arrives for the filming, we find that the tide is at dead low. There’s nothing but a narrow serpent of water lying in the middle of a sea of mud.

After the close call, we shoot a few more takes of me tromping around in mud, but my on-camera confidence flags. I’m no longer sure I’ll get out of this without a call to the fire department to haul me out with a ladder truck, and embarrassing photos in our local paper.

After the outdoor filming, we drive back to my home studio. Glaringly bright lights go up in my studio. Will the circuits blow? We tape an interview, and I try to act natural. I do a sketch of a mother alligator from Deep in the Swamp, while a camera looms over my shoulder. I’ve seen animators and other illustrators drawing on TV, and they all seem so talented and sure—drawing with quick, beautiful strokes. This drawing looks scratchy and rough to me. Are those other illustrators really as confident as they seem on camera?

It all seems to go quickly, but it’s been several hours. It’s dark outside now. The bright lights are turned off, and my office feels shockingly dim. I work in this light? The film crew packs up the cameras and lights, packs them in the van, and drives off into the night. It’s been a lot of fun—but I won’t be wandering out onto tidal mud again anytime soon!

Posted by illustrator Brian Lies, illustrator of
Deep in the Swamp.