My first illustration of my new picture book is almost complete. Below is a little movie that I made, to show the different stages I go through when creating an illustration using Blender.
There’s an element of uncertainty when I start on a picture book: I really have no idea of what the style of the illustrations are going to be like. The opportunity to illustrate it into any style I like is incredibly exciting.
Only when I’ve finished writing my story will I start illustrating the book. I will try different styles and ideas, and this is the part that I love the most, especially character design. You see your ideas develop and evolve and if you’re lucky you end up with something cool and exciting (of course there are plenty of times when your ideas don’t work out and then you have to go back to square one, but I won’t mention those as I want to concentrate on the positives here!).
Illustrating a book is a very organic process. Below you will see my first attempt at illustrating the main character of my latest book Amelia Dyer. Next to it is the final version of the character. As you can see, they couldn’t look any more different from each other.
The original idea was to produce a book similar to the style of my previous title, “My Monster”. But the fact that I started using new software for creating my illustrations, changed my plans. Blender’s features – especially the 3D modelling functions – took my illustrations to new levels of complexity and creativity. Everything I learned affected the style of my illustrations and in the end, I came up with something that I had never produced before and I’m hoping the book looks better for it.
In real life Amelia’s mother died from typhus. In my book she’s locked in a basement by Amelia and eaten alive by hungry, ferocious rats. The below animated Gif illustrates Mrs Dyer just before she’s attacked by the rats.
The main challenge in illustrating Amelia is that she goes from baby to a grown-up woman in about 850 words, less than two A4 pages. In a quick series of illustrations she transforms from baby to toddler to teenager and finally to a grown-up. I want the reader to be able to immediately identify her in the illustrations and I thought that one way of doing this is by giving her an easily recognisable trait; like Pippi Longstocking-inspired plaits. Now I still need to design Amelia as a grown-up, and those plaits might look ridiculous on an adult. If they do I’ll just give her another trait, like big crooked teeth.
The most time consuming part of illustrating my book is character design. I’m new to the Blender software and turning my 3d characters into digital puppets, I find, is a rather difficult process. The characters in the above pic are OK for posing but anything that would require the slightest movement, such as a simple gif animation, would require more work. I will need to work on that as I intend to animate my Amelia Dyer poem. But for the printed version of the picture book it will do just fine.