Walter Wick is a photo illustrator and children’s book author, best known for his highly popular “I Spy” and “Can You See What I See” books.
Wick works photographically, but instead of taking photographs of real world scenes, he constructs small dioramas, painstakingly designed, intricately crafted and carefully lit, that he then photographs. In a sense, his compositions are sculpted.
Wick starts with a sketch (image above, top), which is the basis for the model, often prepared by model makers out of polyurethane foam, then painted and finished, theatrically lit and photographed. Effects and certain elements, the sky in the case of the image shown here, are digitally painted in Photoshop.
The final images have a quality quite unlike either regular illustration or 3-D CGI. Perhaps the closest analogy is the models used in stop-motion animation, like Coraline.
There is a visual charm inherent in miniature scenes and dioramas that is unique. (I’m particularly fond of it, perhaps because my father, among his other skills, was a museum model maker.)
The Walter Wick site has a “Features” section with many delightful series of photographic mini-essays on how individual illustrations were created; several from each book series, as well as from his latest book, Walter Wick’s Optical Tricks.
There is an exhibit called Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic, organized by the New Britain Museum of Art, that is currently at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, New York until February 15, 2010.
Painter, illustrator and blogger James Gurney (see my recent post on Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist) recently had the opportunity to visit Wick’s studio in Connecticut, and reports on the visit in this post on his blog Gurney Journey.