The creation of Building Site zoo, part two: the illustrations

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…

 

 

Advertisements

Another lovely review for Two Rainbows

I was delighted to read another lovely and perceptive review of Two Rainbows this morning. It’s on The Bottom Shelf blog.

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. 

Michael McMahon on creating illustrations for Two Rainbows

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.

 

 

Five Favourites 19: Yvonne Low

 

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
pictures.


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.

Five Favourites 16: Ingrid Kallick

 

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.

Five Favourites 12: Liz Anelli

 

 

Today Liz Anelli writes about her five favourites.

 

 

Sweethallow Valley by Elleston Trevor (1951) is a bit like Wind in the Willows but with less happening. A group of animal friends live in cosy houses nestled within an English wood. A book I loved because it smelt of my grandparents’ house. I read it so many times they eventually gave me the copy to keep and I still have it, complete with its hot chocolate drink stains and biscuit crumbs.

Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome (written back in1933) is my favourite of all the Swallows and Amazons series for its magic balance of everyday-life believability and audacious mis-adventure. Three families make friends during a Christmas holiday in the English Lake District. The weather prevents their usual camping and sailing activities but they throw themselves into astronomy and skating instead, culminating in a mistimed re-enactment of a famous North polar expedition. Determined that being stuck in bed with mumps throughout the book will not ruin the fun for the rest of the group, natural leader, Nancy Blackett shows her strengths and weaknesses to such an extent that it actually makes me cry every time.

Silly Verse for Kids by Spike Milligan (1968). I know most of these funny poems by heart. They make me laugh but also have a strong dash of his black comedy and sense of the bizarre, plus his fantastic illustrations. I remember buying this through my UK Primary School’s Scholastic Book Club back in the early 1970’s and can remember how exciting it was to order books myself from a catalogue.

Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson (1957). Tove Jansson’s world was so real to me as a child that I could not limit myself to just one from the Moomin series. This book is full of the passions and loneliness of being the only one awake in your family … for the whole winter… and trying to make friends with that you do not know – both living creatures and nature.

The Exploits of Moominpappa by Tove Jansson (1950) I was recently fascinated by reading the revised version of this (Moominpappa’s Memoirs – published 1968). I love this book because it’s all about fathers, their blunder, pomposity and their fragility. You get to know the dads of all the main characters’ from the other books too, and at the end they all meet each other … for the very first time.

Across the Tasman 6: Sarah Davis

unnamedToday in my New Zealand series, I’m delighted to be publishing an interview with the wonderful illustrator Sarah Davis. Sarah began illustrating picture books in 2008, and is now, as she puts it,  ‘ruined for any other career.’ She has an honours degree in literature, and her love of language and narrative underpins her illustration work – as a self-taught artist, she is constantly experimenting with new ways to tell stories visually. She has illustrated more than 37 books with major publishers and been shortlisted for about the same number of awards in Australia and New Zealand. Sarah is an ambassador for Room to Read, and the Illustrator Coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (Australia East/NZ) Sarah is represented by the Gallt Zacker Agency in the USA and Frances Plumpton Literary Agency in New Zealand.

Sarah, you’ve said you are now spoiled for any other career other than illustration! Can you tell us about how that career started? What first drew you to illustration? And who were your main artistic influences?fearlesscover-copy

I think I’ve always been heading towards illustration, actually, but I got temporarily derailed by Life. I actually majored in English literature and creative writing at uni, and haven’t had much art training, and had my son when I was only 20, so went into teaching English at secondary school because it was something i felt passionate about and the hours were also good to fit around being a sole parent. I’d always drawn for fun and wanted to do more with it, but couldn’t really find the time.  I started dabbling in art a bit more seriously when I was about 26, but had our two lovely daughters in 2001 and 2003, and was still working part time, so it was hard to fit it in! When we moved to Sydney in 2004, I took time off work and that’s when illustration started to take off for me. I decided I’d go with the “fake it till you make it!’ philosophy, and set up a profile on some online freelancing sites, and got a bunch of jobs that way which taught me how it all worked and helped me start to build a portfolio. Then I decided to have a go at picture book illustration. I applied to the Stylefile with some truly horrible art samples, and they very sensibly and very kindly rejected me. Their rejection was accompanied by an A4 page of incredibly constructive criticism, and I took all their advice on board and built a much better portfolio, which i took to a critique at a SCBWI conference, and it all took off from there, thanks in a large part to my fairy godmother Susanne Gervay, who was incredibly kind and supportive and enthusiastically made connections and opportunities appear for me.soundsspooky_cover_hbk

What draws me to illustration is the opportunity it provides for narrative – I’m a sucker for story. My artistic influences are pretty varied, I think – I spend a lot of time online gazing at the awe-inspiring work of superior beings. I don’t think I really have a style, and seem to shift my approach based on the demands of the text, which I suppose is why the people whose work I admire also cover a broad spectrum of styles and periods.

You’ve become one of NZ’s busiest illustrators, with many books published, and lots more on the go. How do you manage your time with all the different projects?

Very badly! I call my system “surfing the tidal wave” – that feeling where you’re performing a very tricky balancing act, only just staying afloat, and there’s a weight of thundering chaos surging at your heels waiting to crash down on you. So far I haven’t totally wiped out and I’m still juuuust ahead of the wave. I’ve illustrated 37 trade picture and chapter books since 2008, as well as taking on commercial projects, books for educational publishers such as Cengage, and speaking at between 20-40 schools a year. Balancing that and family time has been very hectic – we’ve got three kids and 6 months ago we acquired a lovely extra teenager. There were quite a few occasions over the last few years when I had a deadline looming and I didn’t sleep at all for days in a row. I wouldn’t recommend it! I’m much better at achieving work/life balance now. I’m being very selective about what I take on, and trying to be much more disciplined with planning ahead. My son actually introduced me to bullet journalling this year, which is actually a wonderful way to be mindful and deliberate about how you spend your days. (http://bulletjournal.com/)

hippoWhat ‘sells’ you into agreeing to illustrating a text? What sorts of things do you look for? And do you have contact with authors at any stage during the process of creating the illustrations?

The text has to come to life in my head and make me feel something – it has to make me laugh or cry. I like texts that feel unusual and a little unhinged, or that feel as though they haven’t been done before. Vivid, evocative language and appealing characters. To be honest, a lot of the books I’ve done have been sequels – so I’ve initially signed on for one book, and then ended up locked in to doing 3 or 4, which is a brilliant problem to have, but also a little frustrating. I feel like it’s forced me to mark time a bit and cover old ground, when I really want to be moving on and trying something new. But I think I’m just coming to the end of that now!

I usually don’t have a lot of contact with the authors through the process – the publisher usually liases with them, shows them the roughs, processes any feedback for me. It’s a bit odd, because that’s how it works even with authors I know quite well! Me and Juliette MacIver are a bit naughty though and we often have quite long consultations in which the publishers aren’t included, usually involving bottles of wine and ukeleles. (actually, we should include the publishers – they’re all great people and  good fun and can probably also drink wine and play the ukelele.)toucan-can-f-cvr-300dpi

You’ve illustrated both picture books and chapter books. What do you prefer doing? And how does the process differ between the two styles of books?

I much prefer picture books – there’s a lot more leeway for the illustrator to tell a story. Illustrating for chapter books is quite prescribed and proscribed – you basically get told what to draw and given a space in which to draw it on each page. It feels a lot more like  you’re just decorating the text. When you’re illustrating a picture book text you really have a huge interpretive role, and you have to bring the characters to life, draw out and enhance the themes of the text, work out how the action of the plot will play out visually. It’s much more challenging and fun. You can also subvert the text, add unexpected twists and turns and layers – then it becomes a wonderful sort of alchemy where the contributions of two creators meet and mix and create a new level of meaning.mdcc_hbk

You are published both in New Zealand and Australia, and your books have won awards in both countries. Do you see any differences between the two countries in terms of reception of books, and reader responses?

I’m not sure, really!  To be honest, I try not to think too much about how my books are being received, because it scares me! Best to keep my head down and just get on with it. Obviously, awards are always lovely – my favourite kind of award to get are the Children’s Choice awards. Kids are very wise and also really tough judges. As far as differences between the 2 countries go… um…. The Marmaduke Duck series became a really big hit in New Zealand and is a bit of a household name over there, but never really took off here. The quirky kiwi sense of humour might have something to do with that. I mean, it’s an entire 4 book series about a duck who makes jam! Doesn’t get much weirder than that…

mmd_wide-blue-seasDoes being a New Zealander impact on or influence your work? If so, in what way?

Well, I think it must, in the way that everyone’s childhood influences their work! I moved from England to Aotearoa when I was 6, and grew up mainly in Christchurch. The land had a huge effect on me. The mountains and bush and sea of Aotearoa have an really powerful presence – this brooding sense that the land is living, and aware of you.

I think for a little country it really punches above its weight creatively, and as a kid I remember there being a lot of emphasis in school on art and creative writing. I read voraciously, and a lot of my favourite authors were NZ writers. Gavin Bishop actually came to visit my school when I was about 9 or 10, and I remember he was working on Mrs McGinty’s Bizarre Plant, and showed us all his rough sketches – I was transfixed! (I actually wrote a blog post about it: http://sarah-davis.org/blog/2015/7/20/l0ef49s6lr8u1vcxogmnuqer1ommrd)

I should also mention my fabulous NZ publishers: Gecko Press and Scholastic NZ. Both extraordinary powerhouses of creativity and absolutely delightful to work with, and tireless in promoting their books and trying to get them out into the wider world, which is a necessity for NZ publishers since the local market is so small. An extra shout out must go to Julia Marshall at Gecko, who has built the company from the ground up and really does produce the most extraordinarily beautiful books.

What are you working on now?hoth

I’m working on a sequel to Be Brave Pink Piglet, published by Hachette, and a super-secret (and exciting!) project for Penguin, which is due in January. I also have a couple of educational titles on the go so that I can pay the bills. I’m working on a couple of series of paintings, too, and hoping to have an exhibition next year. But what I’m most excited about is that I’ve finally finished writing a picture book of my own, and am also going to be illustrating another that my son wrote. They’re both with a publisher now, going to acquisitions soon I hope!