The latest book I illustrated for Hachette – my first traditional fairytale.
Category: Illustration Work
Early Bird gets the Worm
A new twist to Childrens’s Book Publishing – I was commissioned by Bruce Lansky of Meadowbrook Press to create a series of three wordless picture books – an unusual concept, but one that allows very young readers to create their own narrative while looking at the pictures – The images were constructed rather like a comic strip, each page moves the story on one step at the time in a simple logical way, so the young reader stays engaged with the simple plot.
Three titles were created: Early Bird Gets the Worm. Polar Brrr’s Big Adventure. Monkey See, Monkey Do. They are all available as ebooks and hardcover editions.
Early Birdy Gets the Worm has been named a 2014 GOLD winner in Children’s Picture Books from the Mom’s Choice Awards and a SILVER winner in the Education category of the National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Parenting Resources competition.
After 20 years of working as a commercial illustrator, the most common thing I have been commissioned to do, is various kinds of farm yard animals in varying styles: from computer 3D, to watercolour, to mixed media. Thats closely followed by jungle themes, sea creatures, pirates and princesses!……….it does make me reflect that this really is quite a dreamy job – I get to be a kid every day!
My latest children’s book was no exception. Based on the concept that I had done for this particular publisher the previous year, the book was a leprello – an accordion fold. In this case, it was 12 pages long, printed double sided – 24 pages in total. The brief was really very open, I didn’t even have any text to follow(mainly because it was for a French publisher, so I could easily have misinterpreted it)!………just a short suggestion of what could appear in the story. The internal spreads focused on the activities you might find going on indoors on a farm: milking, making cheese, mending machinery, pressing apples etc. The content of the external spreads concentrated on scenes outside: the duck pond, pig stye, harvesting, vegetable patch etc. Unlike briefs from educational publishers which are very prescriptive, this picture book allowed me the freedom to indulge in creating some humorous scenarios, which always makes the process more fun and the final product is a truer expression of you as an illustrator.
As with all children’s books, I will have to wait for some time to see the finished product – probably a year – can’t wait! I made an attempt to video the process of creating one section of illustration – done over roughly 8 hrs, it was a 1 gig file! So I have done some brutal editing and cut it down to 3 mins!
Toy Box Tales
I thought I would share the process behind creating my latest children’s book cover. I always start with a sketch – you can’t beat using a pencil, but I tend to work on tracing paper rather than cartridge paper – a trick that I picked up while working in a greeting card illustration studio some years ago. It eliminates the need for a light box – you can overlay the tracings and tighten the imagery up as you go along. I still find this traditional way of working much more natural and fluid – the graphics tablet came into play once the final sketch was scanned in – then the colour was added.
Photoshop is so versatile, I use it everyday on all of my imagery. In this case I have multiplied the pencil layer and then worked underneath it – adding in blocks of colour to each object and then the tone/highlights. I duplicated some of the final toys/objects and then filled them with a flat tone which was them multiplied to create the shadows + a little gaussian blur to soften them off. Finally came the texture – I keep a collection of images that I have taken on my camera for this purpose. I chose ones that reflected the qualities I was trying to evoke – in this case, a slightly worn/used feel that could be applied to some of the toys and box.
Check out the short video that I have mashed together from stills saved a intervals throughout the process.
I have a German publishing client for whom I have created children’s illustrations for several ranges of stickers that appear on the front of their weekly magazines. Theses stickers are normally seasonally themed and take the form of digital 2D illustrations with a strong key line, colour in fill and some shading to give the characters form.
The most recent set of stickers however, have been executed in digital 3D, focusing on the EURO 2012 football Cup. The brief was to create friendly generic characters based on the official tournament football. They had to appeal to children, even thought the TV listings magazine was aimed at adults. The publishers were trying to increase sales using ‘pester-power’ from the kids shopping with their parents.
Using colours/costumes and icons that personified particular countries, these kid’s illustrations represented the individual nations competing within the tournament. The client was quite prescriptive with what they considered epitomized each country. Spain had to be a bullfighter, Denmark a Viking and England a Policeman. So our red and white flag waving football character ended up with a policeman’s helmet on! Naturally, being a German magazine, the client wanted the German football character holding up the trophy as the tournament winner! They also wanted him to be scoring a goal against Portugal, with Ronaldo taking on the role of the unfortunate goalkeeper.
These were fun to do – my kids are especially excited about receiving the sample stickers…which will probably more exciting than England’s performance!