Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Illustrating a book... The Beginning.  

The appeal of Prismacolor: gorgeous color, no water required, from BLICK ART SUPPLIES.

Apologies for being tardy. I'm definitely behind posting this entry, since the book, I Love You Too, I Love You Three, (written by Wendy Tugwood, with my illustrations, and published by Firefly Books) landed on shelves and digital-order desks last fall, but what the heck, better late than never...

Read on for more about creating illustrations for this book...

This sweet book, I Love You Too, I Love You Three, turned out to be so well-paced, so well received, that it's hard to believe there were challenges in the making of the art... but hello(!), there were challenges, all right. The first challenge was in deciding which direction the illustrations would take. The story is more than a counting book, more than a love book, more than a miss-you book. It's all of those, and moreover it's a perfect bedtime book.

What path should we take?

First scenario: If the narrator's trip is imminent, as is implied in the story, the illustrator's first impulse is to depict mom or dad going, or being, away. But that rendition means depictions of airports, luggage, hotel rooms etc, or maybe backpacks and hiking Everest, or both parents are going to relationship camp, or mom and dad have just split and someone is moving out. Ugh. Or maybe the parents are staying home and the kid is going someplace. There are too many variables. It also hamstrings the artist because, well, where's the kid in these pictures?! Are all the drawings to be of the mom or dad being away and imagining the child at home? That's not going to work because it doesn't do justice to the other elements of the book. It's much too didactic.

Second scenario: What about the counting aspect? The book is perfect for tiny rugrats to learn to count to ten. So, yes, this can be a winner... or not. Not. The book is more than counting. It's all those other ephemeral, emotional, misty, abstract things, too. Relegating the book to the counting-books shelf doesn't cut it either.

Third scenario: Let's make it just like Love You Forever... Haaaaahahahahahaha. If anyone says that out loud I must keeeel, (or maybe keelhaul them). There will never be another Love You Forever. It is an entity that won't, and should not be copied (though many try). And comparisons don't do justice to the lovely sentiment of I Love You Too, I Love You Three.

After mucho coffee, wine, and crumpled sketches, in the end I remembered the best advice ever laid upon me as an illustrator. I was doing freelance work for art director Marg Stewart in Canada at the national daily, The Globe and Mail. I was illustrating a story (fiction) and Marg said (and I paraphrase) "Don't pick an image that's described in words. Illustrate what the story is about." Now... to illustrate what the story is about is the toughest thing ever, tougher even than that open-face steak sandwich at your local greasy spoon, because the illustrator must not only understand the story but also dig into it and draw (no pun intended) out its essence. And that's what I did, I think. You be the judge.

Check out the next in this series: "Story-Boarding. It's More Fun Than Waterboarding, but Not Much."

Thanks for stopping by and happy paint-slinging!

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