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Volume 1715
Dave Burton and his portfolio of Barsoomian art

An Artist Journal
Volume IV
Continued from Volume III
Tarzan of the Apes
By David Burton


Outfitting the Porters
Choice of Illustrations
Design and Layout of the Book
Back to the Future Article

Volume IV Part 13: An Artist Journal by David Burton ~ Outfitting the Porters

During the time when I started this, finding the correct clothes was extremely important. Oddly enough, I had trouble finding the right period clothing for both men and women. Eventually I was able to do this by finding a reproduction of a Sears catalog that gave examples of clothing from between 1880 and 1915. This was PERFECT! I was then able to go through this and dress the Porters (and members of their party) appropriately.

The main thing that I didn't want to do is stray away from what would have been really worn. In the past, this has had some play as far as Jane is concerned.

The other thing was wear. How often would things get torn up? The biggest problem I have is when I'm illustrating, I want to stay true to what and how things really would have been, and trying to make something more sellable by going to that torn skirt that shows off some leg. That's a bridge that I'll be crossing soon. I'm probably going to let my boss beat me into what would be the best way to go.

Next I'll get into the nightmare of choosing which illustrations would be best.

Outfitting the Porters

Volume IV Part 14: An Artist Journal by David Burton ~ Choice of Illustrations

When I take a book that I'm going to be illustrating, I make it a rule to keep it on hand and to read it at least 4 - 5 times. I'll read it the first time to absorb it. Then I'll go over it several more times making notes. I try to find what will make the best illustration. This isn't always easy. When  illustrating a book you have to give the book a balance. Too many here or there and choosing nothing but action scenes will make the book off balance.

When I'm going through the book, I'll try to find what I feel are the most important scenes, for example, Tarzan and Jane's first kiss or Kala's death. Then there are those scenes between what's being said. There are many in a book like Tarzan. For example, I've chosen to illustrate a scene that features Tarzan in clothes towards the end of the book where he and d'Arnot are in one of the  settlements. I've got Tarzan sitting on a porch telling a native boy tales of his boyhood. The native boy is sitting intently listening to every word. Not a scene that actually takes place in the book, but I felt that at some point Tarzan would have to recognize that not all natives were his enemies.

Now d'Arnot tells him this but we never hear of Tarzan making his peace with what had happened to his mother (Kala). Those of us who've read the second book, know that the Waziri become his close friends. I wanted to show that bridge where he understood and grew. After I've made my notes on what scenes I think will be good, I then make a series of thumbnail sketches that are set side by side. After I've gotten that done, I look them over and see if they work together. Here's where I find that balance I spoke of earlier. When something doesn't look right, I'll change it for another illustration or drop it and exchange it for another.

I have a lot of fun reading the books and finding what to draw and then choosing what I think would make the best cover. I do run into problems though. Such as anything written by Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs. They give the illustrator so MUCH that it's hard to choose. When I started going through Tarzan, choosing what I felt would make great illustrations, I became bogged down with the sheer number of choices! I had to go through these and choose. This is like trying to choose which of your children will live and which won't. It's never easy and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Next, designing the layout of the book.

Choice of Illustrations

Volume IV Part 15: An Artist Journal by David Burton ~ Design and Layout of the Book

Designing and layout is hard work. You've got to have a balance as I mentioned in last week's column --  you've got to have a flow to your book.  I've got a juggling act in that I've got close to 30 illustrations that all have to be placed and done so that they work together. I've got one from the Leanta Books' Princess that wasn't used because it didn't fit. You can see this by signing up to their web site and newsletter, as that this will give you access to a part of the site that only members can see. Here you'll see a sample chapter from Princess with that illustration. And as for Tarzan, I've got one that I'm doing just for that part of their site.

I have this one illustration for Tarzan that gave me a problem. It's nice, but I'm not happy with it as it is, in its original form. I've got Tarzan placed where he has to be as opposed to where he should be. As it stands, it looks as though he's falling down on Terkoz and Jane. I wanted him looking as though he were jumping down on them but from an angle. I had to place him the way that I did because of the size of the figures and the size of the paper. I could have used smaller figures and the drawing would have looked less detailed and with larger paper, well I would have used it if I had it. Never mind the fact that finding the size that I need with my deadline would have been ridiculous. I did try other angles and he didn't fit, so I compromised and placed him where he is. Now the drawing won't look the way that the original does thanks to Photoshop and Kylen who handles all of the layout, design and tech stuff at Leanta Books.

Due to the time of the year Leanta is running behind, so Tarzan of the Apes won't be out on January 1st. The NEW release date is now January 15th. So, if you haven't had a chance to preorder your copy, you've got a few extra days. You can preorder your book at

Design and Layout of the Book

Back to the Future:

Lee's Leanta Books brings classic sci-fi to a new generation
Thursday, January 25, 2007
By Kate Betton ~ Contributing Writer

The front cover of A Princess of Mars, illustrated by David BurtonLeanta Books is undertaking independent publishing in an industry run by big business. Leanta, coming from the Gaelic word for "well read," is a team of three: Kathleen (Kate) Wiggins edits, her son Kylen Wiggins does the layouts, and David Burton illustrates.

Leanta's first publication, released in May of 2006, was a reprint of 1912's A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, featuring close to 30 original illustrations done by Burton.

"I've been illustrating for over 20 years, done covers and portraits, and I was working with a publisher who did A Princess of Mars in serial format," Burton says of Leanta's inception. "I wasn't really happy with the reproductions in that work, and one day I was venting to Kate, and a couple hours of later, it was like, 'we could do this ourselves, we can publish this ourselves.' And I've had a lot of response from the Edgar Rice Burroughs fan community."

Kathleen, Kylen and Burton started in December 2005 to formulate their plans.

"We spent a couple months just getting everything together that we needed to know," says Kylen.

"Doing all the research," adds Kathleen, "and coming up with our concept. Yes, we had Princess we wanted to do, but then, what else? What it is, is we want to take these classic novels and bring them back to life for a new generation. Bring them back to the kids that don't know about these stories, because they were written so long ago. And most are out of print. And then we wanted to make them more interesting by showcasing some new artwork, and make use of the artists' community that we have around.

Tarzan of the Apes illustration by David Burton"I have a large language background," says Kathleen. "I love to read, and editing just comes natural for me, it's easy for me. So I was like (to Burton), 'I can do that. And you can do the art.' And then there was this whole section we needed to figure out how to do, which was putting it all together."

"That's my job," Kylen adds.

Says Burton of Kylen's work, "He has an incredible eye, and sense for design and balance. So when I hand my work over to him, especially in this, a more intimate setting ... usually it's like, 'okay, in this day and age, scan your painting in, send it and cross my fingers.' But with this ..."

" ... we get to work directly together," Kylen finishes.

For each book Leanta Books publishes, the group begins by selecting a title to work on. Next comes research, locating sources and the beginning of the editing process. Burton reads each book many times, analyzing descriptions and character progress. He then does a series of thumbnail drawings, called a storyboard, to follow the story of the selected text.

The group decides on the number of drawings to be used and chooses them so as to balance the text and image ratio.

Kylen then scans the images, and combines them with the edited text to perfect the book's layout. The file is then sent to a publisher in Maryland. The publisher will print and distribute on demand, although the Leanta team keeps a stock of books for conventions.

Leanta chooses to publish in a large format to preserve the integrity of the artwork.

An illustration by Shawn Meyers, who illustrated the Leanta version of H.P. Lovecraft's The Book: Volume 1So how does one edit what is technically previously edited work? The material, Kylen says, "was published in pulp magazines, and their editors were kind of iffy sometimes."

"I go onto the internet," adds Kathleen, "and find sources for it ... I've had some where it was like, 'okay, this sentence to this sentence? Something's missing,' you know, so then I compare it to a published version of the book, an actual hard copy."

The art is integral to Leanta's editions. Burton teaches art from Leanta's home office in Lee to adults and children, in a small group of artists of all abilities. Another of Burton's students, Shawn Myers, illustrated Leanta's second book, H.P. Lovecraft's The Book: Volume One.

"We wanted to get Sean involved, he's an amazing artist," Kylen says, "he draws this incredibly creepy stuff, he just does it, almost unconsciously."

David Burton tried to give human-like expressions to the Martians in Leanta's version of A Princess of Mars"You just read (these) books and your imagination takes off," Burton says. "A Princess of Mars was one of the first Sci-Fi books ever published. You just can't find that sort of thing in a bookstore these days. And there's fans out there that want to read it. Next we come out with Tarzan of the Apes. The only thing to counter that are the people familiar with only the Disney version, which is more popular right now ... the story isn't exactly the same."

"'Not exactly the same' is kind of an understatement," Kylen laughs. "It's entirely different."

"I made (the animals in Tarzan) something I always wanted to make them," Burton says. "They're not quite gorillas, or chimpanzees, they are something in between because they have a language. So I had to change the structure of their face so that would work. Because ... the jaw has to be different, for them to speak. The mouth has to be different. So I had to create a sort of cross between a Neanderthal and a gorilla.

"There's other sections I thought, 'this is really important,' and it's never been illustrated. So I tried to make it more real, give more humanity, more sensitivity to the animals. In A Princess of Mars I tried to give (the green men of Mars) a different look, and different expressions, because they're individuals. I did the same with the apes in Tarzan, I tried to give everyone a different look, so that they were individuals."

Kylen Wiggins (left), David Burton and Kathleen Wiggins in the Leanta Books officeBurton recalls his mentor, Gary Gianni the illustrator, of the "Prince Valiant" comics told him, "Forget whatever you've seen. Read the book, and create your own."

"A Princess of Mars is a science fiction story, but it's also a romance, it's also an adventure story," says Burton.

"Tarzan comes out Jan. 15, then we have H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, which is going to be illustrated by Shawn, coming out in April. Then Gods of Mars comes out in July," says Burton.

Of the 26 Tarzan books, Kylen says they'd like to publish "as many as we can."

Bob Zeuschner, biographer of Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs, says of the Leanta editions: "Burton's appreciation for and respect for the words of Edgar Rice Burroughs puts him into a very special class of artists who have provided artwork for Burroughs' greatest novels. We are lucky to have him profusely illustrating these classic romances."

Says Burton, "It's been fun, we're getting more and more recognition as we go along ... I was amazed when I held this (A Princess of Mars) in my hands for the first time. I had chills. To this day I still look at it and think, wow, this is real."

Leanta Books will hold a book signing with artists David Burton and Shawn Myers on March 31 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Barnes and Noble in Newington. For more information or to order books, call Leanta Books at 292-5622 or visit

End of Volume IV Part 15
I'll be back in a few weeks with my work on the sequel to Princess,
The Gods of Mars.
See you all then!

Dave Burton (1960-2011)
Remembering his boundless imagination, human spirit
and fine artistry.
This is our introduction 
to the many fine art pieces Dave has shared 
with ERBzine readers over the years. 
His friendship and fine artistic talent is greatly missed.

See Volume I in ERBzine 1698
See Volume II in ERBzine 1708
See Volume III in ERBzine 1714
See Volume III in ERBzine 1715
See the Official David Burton Website
ERBzine Artist Profiles Series Presents David Burton

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