First Notable Missourian books complete!

I'm happy to announce the first two books of the Notable Missourian series by Truman State University Press have been printed and they look fantastic!  The books are SAM NIGHTINGALE by Mary Barile and GREAT WALKER by Greg Olson.  Original illustrations by yours truly, including the cover image for Sam Nightingale.  These books look fantastic.  The printing, binding and overall quality are superb.  Yes superb...and I don't bust out that word normally.  Moreover, these stories are very well written and truly bring to life these interesting characters and the time periods in which they lived.  Great stuff!

Sam Nightingale loading a flatboat on the Missouri

I really enjoyed making this one.  It makes me look forward to the Joseph Kinney finals where there will be a lot of river scenes.

The first three books of the Notable Missourian series by Truman State University Press are at the printer now.  Two of them may even be complete.  I cannot wait to see how the actual books turn out!   

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Carolina Rice Plantation

After arriving in America, Sam Nightingale was sold to a rice plantation owner.  The editor opted to base the final art for this chapter on a composition sketch showing a pulled back view of such a plantation.  Knowing that these illustrations are going to be reduced quite a bit I decided to keep this one simple and let the forms and shadows do the work.  

Originally I figured a Carolina rice field should look similar to asian rice paddies, but that was not the case.  In especially brutal and deadly conditions, the slaves would carve fields out of the thick marshes of the South Carolina lowlands.  Earthen dams would be built around the fields and canals dug throughout them. When the time was right, a flood gate would open and the water would be distributed through the canals, flooding the fields evenly.  

An interesting thing learned was that the farmers knew the area was good for growing rice but they were terrible at it and relied on the knowledge of the slaves from rice growing regions to figure out how to do it right. Slaves from Guinea (such as Sam Nightingale) and other rice growing parts of africa were very valuable and highly desired because of that.

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The slave march of young Sam Nightingale

So far all of the Notable MIssourians I've illustrated have been very interesting, but there's something about Sam Nightingale (Guinea Sam) that really drew me in.  Sam's complex story begins with bondage and ends with him helping to heal others.  Okay so he may have occasionally hexed people too, but people should know better than to cross a hoodoo conjuror.   Anyways, here's a guy that is long dead and gone and there is no photo of him and not a lot of first hand written record yet the stories of him persist. The man to this day oozes a spooky charisma.  We should all be so lucky to ooze such things.

This illustration shows Sam as a boy having been captured by slave traders and marched to a slaver ship in his native country of Guinea.  

(All Notable Missourian illustrations are for Truman State University Press.)

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Guinea Sam sketch examples

Here are some examples of the Guinea Sam comp sketches.  Researching materials for the illustration of this book has lead me down some fascinating rabbit holes.  (fascinating rabbit holes?)  I've really enjoyed making these and I look forward to the final art.  

(These sketches are for the Notable Missourian book series to be published by Truman State University Press)

Guinea Sam as a young boy captured and sold to slave traders in his native Guinea

Guinea Sam as a young boy captured and sold to slave traders in his native Guinea

Guinea Sam as a youth working on a rice plantation in South Carolina

Guinea Sam as a youth working on a rice plantation in South Carolina

After working on a sugar cane plantation in Louisiana, Guinea Sam was sold to a man from Boonville Missouri.  There he tended an apple orchard.

After working on a sugar cane plantation in Louisiana, Guinea Sam was sold to a man from Boonville Missouri.  There he tended an apple orchard.

This is an alternate approach for Guinea Sam in Boonville.  I like the scene better but the figure is not great.  Guineas Sam was freed at the end of the civil war.  He stayed in Boonville for the rest of his life as a gardner, storyteller, and conjure man.

This is an alternate approach for Guinea Sam in Boonville.  I like the scene better but the figure is not great.  Guineas Sam was freed at the end of the civil war.  He stayed in Boonville for the rest of his life as a gardner, storyteller, and conjure man.

Guinea Sam using his conjuring to lift a curse

Guinea Sam using his conjuring to lift a curse

A family refused to put Guineas Sam up for the night, so he hexed them by telling them that before the end of the night they would be driven from their home.  That night there was a big storm and what sounds like a ball lightening incident.  The timing is awesomely spooky.

A family refused to put Guineas Sam up for the night, so he hexed them by telling them that before the end of the night they would be driven from their home.  That night there was a big storm and what sounds like a ball lightening incident.  The timing is awesomely spooky.

Guinea Sam as an older man mixing herbs and traditional folk remedies.  

Guinea Sam as an older man mixing herbs and traditional folk remedies.  

Meet Guinea Sam

AKA Sam Nightingale.  Sam was an herb doctor, conjure man and story teller from Boonville Missouri.  He is another fascinating subject of a book in the Notable Missourian series (Truman State University Press).

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The challenge here was that there was no known photo or engraving of Sam to work with. That meant I had to come up with character sketches based on the description of his appearance and personality. To get in the mood, I listened to some hoodoo podcasts while reading up on the Gullah culture and conjuring.  It worked maybe too well...I think this image might have some juju going on. My son asked me to print out a copy so he could hang it in his room and some fold deep in my lizard brain told me that was a bad idea. 

Along the same lines, it seems superstition has been a theme of mine lately.  The other day I had a black cat cross my path while running and the first thought that came blasting through my head was "Well great, now I'm effed."  To build further on the crazy I got home and my own pet black cat came out to greet me and I thought "Oh good!  I own a black cat so that nullifies any black cat crossings, right?"  

Seriously, thats a thing right?  

Back to reality.  So Guinea Sam is a fascinating story and I can't wait to start on the final art for it, but right now I'm working on the final art for Helen Stephens so he will just have to wait...cause her story is amazing too!