“Wow” con’t: A Bruce Foster Q-and-A

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The Sydney Opera House, by Bruce Foster, for the book “Architectural Wonders: A Pop-Up Gallery of the World’s Most Amazing Marvels”

Following up to our quick review of the new book, (linked here), “Wow: The Pop-up Book of Sports” by Sports Illustrated for Kids, we tracked down paper engineer Bruce Foster, whose work must be held in your hands to fully enjoy, for a quick Q-and-A:

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Q: How big of a sports fan are you (considering your upbringing, where you live, etc.) and did that draw you into this SI project?

A: Well, I’ve lived most of my life in the South — Louisiana as a boy, Tennessee as a teen and young adult, and Texas as an adult and father — although as a young child I did live briefly in L.A. and San Diego. My dad’s sport has always been hunting rather than team sports, but my brother, David, to whom I dedicated this book, was always the real sportsman in the family. He was very very good at whatever he tried whether it was hunting, baseball little league, football, and now his son, Dalton, is carrying on that tradition in fine form.

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As for me, I was the bookish, artistic boy and didn’t get into sports much as a kid. My nose was always buried in a comic book or sci fi novel. I did enjoy football at The University of Tennessee where I went to college, and now I’m a fan of our local Houston teams. Working on the Tomlinson spread with the Titans — what with my Texas-Tennessee connection) — was a lot of fun for me. Even though it was a losing play for the Titans (and former Oilers), I enjoyed including them in this book.

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Q: How could you compare bringing sports to “life” in a book like this versus other projects you have done — which seem to be mostly making buildings and sculptures pop out of a book?

A: My work is actually quite broad with a very wide variety of subjects as well as a diverse group of illustrators such as children’s author/illustrators Mo Willems, Charles Schulz and Marjorie Priceman, comic artist Wil Eisner, modern fine artists Elizabeth Murray and Ginny Ruffner, as well as adult market artists like Chuck Fischer.
As for media, paper engineers can design with greater fluidity with traditional illustration as opposed to photography since its more labor intensive to re-invent photography, filling in missing areas that illustrators can just draw as needed. In this book there were many complications in working with photography, especially people, but the retouching artists at SIK are super talented. Bringing these great moments of reality to paper motion entailed going through a lot of photographs to choose the right one or group of photos of the same moment so that we could lift pieces to fill in the gaps. We actually had many other sports in consideration, but in the end had to pare it down to a group that was diverse, had wide appeal and was possible to translate into pop up.

Q: Were the SI shots you had to work with among the best sports photography you’d seen?

A: There is no doubt about that. SI has an incredible library of fantastic shots from which to choose.

Q: How long did it take from concept to finishing it?

A: This book actually moved faster than most books I’ve worked on. When SIKids contacted me in November 2008, we already were behind schedule to meet Fall ’09 lists, so everyone was very motivated to get it done quickly. We knew that the principle work had to be completed by March and we didn’t get approval to start until early December, so that means from beginning to end it only took four months before color correction and printing began.
The SIK team was able to do all the prepress work as well, so the printer in China was handed fully designed, color corrected files and proof sheets extremely early compared to the norm. If your readers aren’t aware, all pop up books are hand assembled, usually in Asia where the work force is highly trained to do just this task. Most pop up books take a year at least to develop.

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Q: What kind of time does it take to put together just one concept? Was the the one with skateboarder Danny Way jumping over the Great Wall the toughest to engineer?

A: Each subject had its own characteristics, some taking longer than others. Some took only a week to design, some several. And there were a few sports scenes that I explored before ultimately discarding them. I’d say that the Red Sox spread was actually the most difficult. Not only for me, but for the photo artists. Trying to get a real Fenway Park to pop up in several directions was tough! And the artists had a particularly difficult time finding photos of all the areas needed to fit my templates. And yes, we are all aware that they didn’t win the pennant at Fenway. This is more of an homage to the team that finally broke that famous curse. Placing them inside their legendary home just seemed a great setting. So if you will, notice the team is actually sitting on a platform instead of the actual playing field. Like a commemorative statue, almost.

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Q: Any other things you wanted to add about the production of this book and whether you feel it’s just as much for adults as kids?

A: This is a great, great collection of sports moments. But there are of course many more. I’d love to work on a sequel. Perhaps another one can include say…. hockey!…. But that will be up to SIK and the sports fans out there.
As for who this book is for, well, Sports Illustrated Kids magazine may be intended for a younger audience, but these sports moments transcend age. This book could have been produced for adults by Sports Illustrated just as well. Every sports fan, no matter age, is going to want this book once they see it. The background information and graphics about these athletes and great sports moments that surround the popups are incredibly informative and interesting.

== More of Bruce Foster’s work at his blog (linked here)

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From the book, “In the Beginning, the Book of Genesis,” the seven days of Creation, with each disc representing a day and including a pull out excerpt from Genesis about that particular day.

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