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.
Quote from my book, not a confession! So leaving controversial headings aside, I am writing to share my good news!
Even though I still have a significant amount of work left to do on my Amelia book, I can, for the first time in over a year, feel the completion of my project. After months of hard work I can feel it’s slowly coming to an end. I have created the characters, the scenes and I have framed the illustrations in the way I want to demonstrate the action. It’s one thing having an idea in your head and another putting it on paper. And a nightmare when you just don’t have a clue on how to illustrate the text, so having made it this far feels like success.
I am now starting the process of finalising my illustrations which entails some texturing and lighting. The picture below is a good example of this. Looking for the perfect textures is something that I enjoy immensely. This weekend I will be traveling around my lovely city (London) armed with my camera, taking pictures of walls, bricks, old wood and any other texture that will blend nicely with the Victorian setting in my book. Hope you all have a lovely weekend! And remember, if you live in the UK, clocks go back one hour on Sunday.
If you have a look at the porch you will see that some textures are missing, the curb needs texturing too and the portico has penetrated the window ledge. The street is too clean so I will somehow have to fix that too.
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.
I’m currently working on a mock up of my picture book to see whether the artwork, layout, illustrations, words, pages, etc. look good in book format. This is also my last chance, before sending the digital file to the printers, and penultimate opportunity, before printing, to change anything I’m not happy with.
I’m now only days away from sending my new picture book to the printers. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! It’s been a long and exhausting journey but I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it! I’ve been trying to create a funny and different font to use for the title of my book and this is what I’ve come up with:
Staring all day at a computer screen is not recommended. And when doing illustrations on computer software this can become a problem. The glare from the computer screen tires my eyes and I become blind to my drawing mistakes. This is the main reason why I print my illustrations before finalising and sending them off to the printers. Looking at the illustrations on paper I tend to find all those mistakes that I’d missed on the monitor, like composition, contrast or even weird character poses/expressions.
I print everything twice; once in black and white (which is sufficient to detect any problems / errors) and again when I’ve made the necessary amendments; I print the illustrations in colour. The colour copy gives me a pretty good idea of what the final printed copy is going to look like and a last chance to amend anything I’m not happy with.