When I am on a book project the first this I do is read the manuscript. I want to get a feel for the story and so usually read it several times. Then I begin trying to figure out where the pages should break in the story. The thing to keep in mind is that every page and spread in a book needs to have a purpose. You want to lead the reader to the next page and you also want to have a good balance between text and imagery.
Once I am comfortable with how the pages will fall, I then start to write down and loosely sketch what each illustration needs to contain. Knowing what needs to be incorporated and represented into the illustrations will help compose the book and images.
At this point I will make a loose layout story board that helps structure the individual illustrations and make sure that the book is dynamic and logically structured. Composition is a huge part of a successful picture book and I could write a book just on that topic alone. One of the things to take into account is that the book needs to work as a whole and well as each illustration contained within.
Now, I start to sketch and thumbnail the illustrations making sure that I am always aware of the text placement. It is easy to get caught up in the development of an illustration that the text can become an afterthought. The best picture books make a successful marriage between the visuals and text. This is achieved by always thinking about the text while working on the illustration itself. Once the thumbnails are complete they get reviewed by the publisher.
The rough sketches get massaged into more finished drawings incorporating any requested changes. Once this is complete all the black and white sketches get are compiled onto a working “Dummy” or mock-up of what the final book will look like. Further revisions and changes take place until the publisher gives the OK to start the final artwork.
I love working with a textured ground so my paint surface take quite some time to prepare. I gesso my 140 pound Arches cold-pressed watercolor paper and let it dry. Then I apply my ground which actually needs to dry for quite some time. The longer I let it cure the nicer the texture. Once it has dried to my liking I transfer the sketch and begin painting.
I paint in layers so it takes quite some time before the images take shape. Each painting goes through the “ugly stage” for quite some time before is really develops into what the final illustration will look like.
That’s it in a nutshell. T.
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