Released in September, Little Melba and her Big Trombone, is the story of Melba Liston, a little-known but trailblazing jazz musician who broke racial and gender barriers to become a famed trombonist and arranger. We asked illustrator Frank Morrison to take us behind the scenes for creating the art work used in Little Melba and her Big Trombone.
- After reading the manuscript for Little Melba and her Big Trombone, I immediately searched for references that could help me bring the story to life. This included clothing from the time period and a trombone, which I have never painted before. I was fortunate enough to find a CD by Melba titled, “Melba Liston and her Bones” as well. After gathering all of my materials my studio begins to sound like a jazz session as I begin reading.
- I make thumbnails sketches and jot down notes on the sides of the manuscript while the Be Bopping is blaring from the speakers. My sketches are loose like a trombone’s slide and they take about a minute each.
- When the thumbnails are completed I being drawing defined sketches from them and at the same time placing them in page order. Sometimes I may have two or three different ideas for a page as shown in the cover sketches.
- Once my sketches are approved, I transfer the final drawings to an illustration board. This, of course, is done after I’ve measuring the dimensions and taped off the edges, which includes a half-inch border.
- I spray a fixative on the drawing so it won’t smudge then coat it with a clear gesso. Next I tape the image to a wooden board. The board allows me to work sitting down at my art table or placing the painting on my easel.
- Finally I use a lot of jazz music, dancing and oil paints to finish the final art.