Thanks for the invite!
Your illustrations inside A Poem Grows Inside You are so colorful and full of joy! I just LOVE them! Will you please share a little about the book's illustration-journey?
Of course! Every book has a story, the story that happens before the story. Actually several stories because everyone involved in making a book has their own story for how they came to be part of it. My story for this book begins with--it was the first time a traditional publisher offered me a picture book to illustrate. This was HUGE! Something I had been working towards for a few years, and the theme and manuscript and publisher were all so appealing to me, I could not have been happier.
That is huge! But wait a minute, if A Poem Grows Inside You, which was published by The Innovative Press in October 2022, was your first book with a traditional publisher, what about Hattie Hates Hugs? Wasn't it published by Beaming Books in April 2022?
Interesting, right? That timing situation came about because, for one thing, publishing can be like that; but in my case, it happened because of the pandemic. Let me explain.
I got the offer for A Poem Grows Inside You in March of 2020...
Yup. I remember standing outside the elementary school while my dog and I waited to walk my daughter home from school, I had just gotten off the phone with my agent, and was looking forward to spring break with my kids…. which ended up lasting a year and a half. Because of those Uncertain Times. (Remember when every sentence started with “In these uncertain times”?) The Innovation Press decided to delay the book for a year, which made perfect sense as absolutely no one knew what was coming at us.
It was hard to wait, but also everything was hard and I was very busy doing things like buying too much spaghetti squash because what if the stores ran out of spaghetti squash. And it gave me a long time to think, and to experiment with different mediums. And without that time, I doubt I would have discovered the process I used for this book. Above is an early style guide I made once I decided on a medium, to show the publisher the technique I had in mind and the character design. We made a few tweaks, including the color of the raincoat.
For me, everything starts with thumbnails, which is probably the hardest part of the process--lots of talking to myself and tugging on my hair and making cups of tea I never finish. But once they are done, I feel like I have a roadmap to follow. I get lost really easily, so I love maps. Now, for that technique I mentioned. I really don’t know if I would have discovered this without the pandemic keeping us all at home and giving me so much time to experiment. I would trade not knowing this for COVID never having happened, but here we are.
What's the technique? Do tell!
It starts with sanded paper--the kind usually used for pastels. I am not a pastel artist, so I can’t even remember where I got it. It’s literally sandpaper, very fine white sand glued to a paper backing. When I painted on it with acrylic gouache, it would behave like watercolor or gouache depending on how much water I added, and going over that with colored pencils created a rich, bold line and a texture I fell in love with.
It is a gorgeous technique!
Some books start with the cover, and with others the cover comes last. It all depends on the publisher and their marketing schedules. This book came cover-first, and I decided to paint the background and character separately so things could be tweaked and nudged in photoshop. I have done this for all my book covers so far. You really get the benefit and security of working in layers while still using traditional media. Above are a few more process-images.
Did you enjoy illustrating Katey Howe's lyrical words?
I really loved painting this book! Katey’s words are just wonderful and I would find her phrases repeating in my head as I painted various spreads. And the Innovation Press has been such a fantastic publisher to work with, with great taste in books I might add!
The making of beautiful picture books like A Poem Grows Inside You is a collaborative effort to be sure! And now it's out in the world!
It's wonderful. and I hope many creatives, young and old alike, will enjoy reading it and sharing it with others as much as I did illustrating it!
I'm sure they will!
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