I’m delighted to announce that the illustrator for On My Way, my forthcoming picture book with Scholastic, is the fabulous Simon Howe. Just love his whimsical, magical work, very excited he will be creating the visual world of On My Way–which is a story in verse about the extraordinary people a child meets on their way to various places. And there’s a real twist at the end! The book will be out in the second half of 2018.
It was so exciting today to meet over a very convivial lunch with the fantastic Kathy and Peter Creamer from Little Pink Dog Books and be handed a draft copy/dummy book of See Monkey, my forthcoming picture book with Kathy, to be published by Little Pink Dog Books in early June next year. Here, with their permission, is a bit of a sneak peek at a few elements. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the warm, lively and funny visual world Kathy has conjured up to bring my text to full colourful life and can’t wait to see the book out next year!
(By the way the finalised book will be in hardcover–and the photos don’t do the final colours justice)
In Part Two, here’s Laura Wood’s great post about how she went about creating the visual world of Building Site Zoo. And it includes samples of her roughs, storyboard, and work as it developed–thanks so much for sharing them with us, Laura!
Creating the illustrations for Building Site Zoo, by Laura Wood
The first time I read Sophie’s manuscript, I thought it was one of the most original picture books I was ever asked to illustrate.
I knew it would have been a fun text to bring to life but also quite challenging… which is always a good thing! I knew it would be hard for me to draw all those buildings and machines, since it’s not something I’m very used to!
Anyway, it didn’t take me long to decide to accept the challenge.
The first things publishers want to see are always the main characters of the story, so I started from there. The story doesn’t say explicitly who the characters are, which I personally love, since it gives me a lot of freedom to play around. I decided to go for brother, sister and grandpa.
After that, I started doing lot of research about cityscapes, buildings and machines before sketching ideas for the storyboard. I knew I needed to becoming familiar with the shapes of the machinery before getting the ideas out.
The idea I finally came out with was to approach the whole book, as a dual reality kind of thing: basically having two very similar spreads, the first one with the animal – the world made up by the kids – and the second one with the corresponding machine – the real world. This way, I thought the reader could make a connection easily between the text, the animals and the machinery in action. Mmm… I think written down sounds more complicated than it is, anyway here are some early storyboard sketches.
Some more storyboard sketches. As you can see, spreads developed and changed.
Once all the spreads have been approved by the publisher, I work on the final lines. For this book in particular, since there were a lot of overlapping elements on each spread, I preferred to draw some of the elements separately (background, animals, machines, characters, etc…) and put everything together in the computer.
I then proceed to colour everything. Once the internal spreads are coloured, the cover is always the last thing that gets done.
There were lots of different elements I wanted to fit in this particular cover, so I tried a few ideas but it took me quite a while to get the composition working…
Here’s an extract:
This story is a marriage of text and illustration, each interdependent as they should be in quality picture books. At first the little girl sees only the rainbow, even though there are other spots of colour around her, as she thinks nostalgically of the colours of the country but as she starts to see more of her environment, so too the colours in the pictures increase although the city remains grey and the country bathed in light. And as her thoughts slowly attune to the city environment she begins to see more objects, different from the farm but perhaps with something to offer as she peers over the blue fence and sees a treehouse with a rope ladder and maybe a friend.
You can read the whole review here.
My latest picture book, Two Rainbows, illustrated by the wonderful Michael McMahon, came out this month with Little Hare and to celebrate I asked Michael to share his creation process for the book, which he’s done in this very interesting post. Enjoy!
I was first given a draft of Sophie’s Two Rainbows by my publisher Little Hare and was asked to imagine this little world of words becoming illustrations. When reading the story for the first time there were two things that I was struck by. One was the stories unique look at colour, and the other was Sophie’s original choice of words.
Stepping through the colours of a rainbow the reader follows a little girl as she begins to notice all of the colourful differences between the city where she lives and the memories of her home in the countryside. Sophie’s words give life to a simple story that highlights both the obvious and the subtle. Comparing the vibrance of the farm meadows to a muted bus-stop poster gives the story both a realistic and idealistic twist.
Illustrations are often simply coloured in, either to express emotion or create emphasis, but it’s rare for colour to sit at the forefront of a narrative. In that sense it was a nice change of pace to wonder how colour could be used in each scene. I often sketch and then start to put together each illustration, with colour naturally following on from this somewhere near to the end of the process. However, it was interesting that colour was now going to be considered first before touching pen to paper.
After reading each page, I would very quickly draw the first things that came to my mind, not thinking it through too much. I would then read the next part of the story and do the same. I like the spontaneity of this. After considering each page separately, I’d then start to sketch the story again and consider it as a whole – crossing things out and moving things around until it starts to form something I feel is working well.
This is how the messy sketches begin…
After the initial sketches, I find it important to start each book with a little bit of research. In a way, I feel it’s good for storytellers to know and imagine the world of their characters, a sort of ‘reading-before-the-lines’ not just between them. I imagined the little girl in the book growing up and spending her childhood in the countryside and then suddenly having to pick up everything and shift into the heart of a very far away city. I took my time photographing the inner suburbs of my own city to get a sense of where the little girl might live. I also went through troves of old photos of famous cities to create a kind of made up metropolis. I took inspiration from a lot of different places.
This is how the sketches start to take on a little more shape…
When the sketches are finished and placed alongside the text, I then start to put together the illustrations by adding more details and slowly refining each one until we have the finished book.
Today Yvonne Low is presenting her five favourites.
The Little White Horse
Author: Elizabeth Goudge
Illustrator: C Walter Hodges
Orphan Maria Merryweather arrives with her governess Miss Heliotrope at Moonacre Manor to learn she must resolve an age-old feud. I loved the beautiful illustrations and
period fantasy which includes a castle, a secret home cut into a rock-face and unusual characters such as a mysterious white horse, an enormous lion ‘dog’, the menacing Monsieur Cocq de Noir, an unconventional fiddle-playing parson and a cook whose best friend Zachariah the Cat communicates by drawing with his paw.
A wonderful mix of courageous humans and animals helping each other.
Doctor Dolittle (series)
Author/Illustrator: Hugh Lofting
Doctor Dolittle’s many adventures with his trusty family of two and four-legged animals
including Dab-Dab the Duck, Jip the Dog, Polynesia the Parrot and Tommy Stubbins.
I especially enjoyed the tales from the Rat and Mouse Club and the Home for Crossbred
Dogs and longed to be able to communicate with animals just like the Doctor.
Chronicles of Narnia
Author: CS Lewis
Illustrator: Pauline Baynes
The magical world conjured up by Lewis, with all his memorable characters, a favourite
being Mr Tumnus the Faun. The evocative and detailed black and white illustrations
completed the enchantment of the series for me.
Le Petit Prince
Author/Illustrator: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Part of my passion for all things French, starting with school-girl French lessons and the
gentle anarchy of Le Petit Nicolas (Goscinny/Sempé), leading onto the subtle reflections
on life from Le Petit Prince. A foreign contemplative world created in both story and
The World’s Best Fairytales (A Reader’s Digest Anthology)
Grimm/Andersen/Perrault and others
Illustrator: Fritz Kredel
I loved this Anthology, which has a wonderful collection of 69 fairytales, both famous and
little known. Amongst my favourites, The Princess on the Glass Hill, The Nightingale,
The Frog Prince and with my passion for ballet, Twelve Dancing Princesses.
The illustrations of medieval ladies with tall conical headdresses and peasant boys
becoming princes no doubt encouraged my love of history and all things medieval.
Today Ingrid Kallick recalls her five favourites.
Where the Wild Things Are. Maurice Sendak. Who doesn’t love this story? Great children’s books often have a seditious element. Sendak almost always delivered that. The art, the adventure, the folkloric quality and the eventual safe return of the child all stand out. Most of all, the art influenced my work at a pre-verbal level.
I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. Dr Seuss. This is one of my favorite kids’ books. The artwork is fun and inventive, but not as surprising as the plot. In this story, the main character goes on an arduous journey to get to a place “where they never have troubles / at least very few”. The one trouble he discovers upon arrival is that he can’t get in, so he gets a baseball bat and returns home to defend himself from the troubles he originally had. Ha! No deus ex machina in this story.
Bambi, a Life in the Woods. Felix Salten. I still have the copy I read as a child. I always had a fascination with deer and woodland wildlife, so I decided to read it. The realism and loss are hard to forget. After reading it, it took many years for me to understand why people hunt. I did like the simple black & white illustrations. When I saw the animated version, it was my first experience of the disconnect between how I envisioned a story and how it was portrayed on film.
A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. I don’t think we owned this book, as it was already a much older edition when I was young. The soft colors and dreamy images by Jessie Willcox Smith are the ones I remember. These, too had a deep influence on my work.
Last, but definitely not least…
The Dragons of Blueland and My Father’s Dragon. Ruth Stiles Gannett. Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett. Even though these illustrations are more geometric and colorful that I usually do, I remember poring over them and marveling at the diamonds and stripes. I don’t remember the stories as much as the art.
But wait…there’s more! Bonus:
Millions of Cats. Wanda Gag. This is a very dark, old style tale that feels like Grimm. Wanda Gag’s Illustrations were so full of movement, as emotive as German Expressionist woodcuts, and narratively direct. I liked it as a child, but I really adore it as an adult.