Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Trailer: Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer

The book trailer is now up on You Tube!

I am very excited about this book. Both the author Carole Gerber and I did a lot of research.

When I was first contacted by the publisher about the book, I was embarrassed that I had never heard of Annie Jump Cannon. As a kid, my favorite show was Cosmos and I wanted to be an astronomer when I grew up. I not only read a lot of Carl Sagan, but was a huge fane of science fiction as well. How had I never heard of her?

Somehow I ended up in illustration and industrial design, but maybe if I had known about her, I would have still pursued a career in science. 

The era of science that she contributed to was an amazing time and it seems like she is lost in the shuffle of more popular scientists like Lowell, Hubble, Einstein, Tesla etc.

When you look at her accomplishments, it is amazing to think that women did not even have the right to vote for most of her life.
Illustrating the book was a challenge since varied pictures are not often paired with her information. It was like a scavenger hunt; figuring out what lab equipment to illustrate and how the classrooms would look or what they would wear, what her childhood house looked like... In addition, I did not want to simply replicate the few images of her that are available. I wanted to make them new and my own take of the scenes.

For Example, there is a famous scene showing Annie and her class with a bunch a lab equipment ( I had a really hard time figuring out what they were doing in the picture to make a dramatic scene from it. I asked several people who had actually taken (and taught) college physics to pinpoint what it was a picture of.

Finally, my cousin's husband who teaches engineering at Cooper Union in NYC put me in touch with a professor who said that his assessment was that they were not performing any experiment, it was a posed picture where the photographer just piled a bunch of equipment around them. So, we decided to go with the picture above where she is doing a spectroscope experiment.

The building at Wellesley was particularly hard to find since it burned down many years ago.

I even tried to reproduce the Harvard Observatory wallpaper. I could not find color reference, so had to wing it on that.

Fortunately, I got in contact with a person at Harvard who had made a documentary about Annie. He was able to give me a lot of information-including her eye and hair color. This may seem odd, but the only color images of her were when she was elderly and grey.

Anyway, the book is now out, and I hope people like the effort we put into it. It was a joy painting the life of Annie Jump Cannon!

By the way, a note on the trailer: Several sources said that Annie loved to play the piano. It seemed like Bach would be a perfect fit for a scientist. When I was young, I tried to learn this two part invention #13 myself, to varying degrees of success, mostly unsuccessfully.

Back Cover
Sketch from the layout...

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