Monday, June 16, 2014

The Writing Process: Author/Illustrator Blog Tour

Well I just got tagged! Last week my good friend and AMAZING AMAZING illustrator Brooke Boyton Hughes tagged me as the next one up in this cool series. When I first met Brooke I was truly humbled by her talent and she quickly became an artistic mentor for me. Everything she draws is sweet and dark like the perfect chocolate. She just illustrated the book "Cupcake Cousins"written by Kate Hannigan which she is working up a second for now. She also has a picture book, Baby Love, written by Angela DiTerlizzi coming out next spring! "Lovely" and "magical" aren't descriptive enough words to describe Brooke's style. Do yourself and favor and check out her work. You will instantly fall a love and want to live inside one of her drawings.

1.  What am I currently working on?
I am currently working on my second picture book with Roaring Brook Press due out the winter of 2015. All I can say about that project at the moment, I'm drawing hedgehogs and anteaters these days. I'm soooo thrilled to have finished my first picture book, Boats For Papa, which is due out next spring. Both books I'm writing and illustrating. I've also been doing some gag comics for a new project for Highlights Publishing.

2.  Why do I write what I write?
I find that I as much as I love humor I am very drawn to stories that have a deep emotional connection with the reader. It's because of that attraction to an emotional story I naturally want try to write compelling and important work- work that has meaning and depth that will provide a safe place for a young reader to not feel alone. I've been trying to get better with writing what I know and I think that has allowed me to tap into those places inside of myself that can resonate with readers.

3. How does my writing/illustrating process work?
Well, I rub this magic lamp that I have and... Just kidding. It depends on the story. I'm always jotting down and drawing random things that I like or interest me as well as things from memories. That helps stir up ideas for stories. My best work comes when I act on inspired ideas.That is how both of my current books were started. When I get one of those "YES!" ideas I really try to act on it fast. Sometimes the "YES!" ideas turn out to be a big fat "NO WAY!" but the important thing is to get them down, then you have something fresh to work with instead of something labored and forced.

Usually it works better for me to do rough thumbnails and story writing simultaneously. Sometimes I write out the stories in advance, but those stories tend to get overwritten right off the bat and require extra work. Most often I'll see the story in pictures in my head and use that as my mental structure for how the story is going to unfold. Once I have my rough story and thumbnails, I start to work out the story a little more. Refine it and get it to a place that makes more sense. Once it's more than just a idea and has some recognizable visuals, I'll usually let my crit group in on it. They are all so awesome and really help to find the holes.

Once the idea has run through many edits and tweaks, it is ready to turn into a real dummy. I flush out the characters through sketches and color tests and get them to where I want them to be. Then I turn the thumbnails into real sketches. After I have my sketches, I lay out the dummy in InDesign and put in the text. Then usually I will turn a few of my sketches into more complete and finished illustrations to see what things will really look like.

(Sorry I don't have pictures for some of this next part.)

For my illustrations I take tracing paper and trace over my sketches to refine them. Then I flip over the tracing paper, and go over my line work again on the reverse side with a darker/softer graphite- like drawing the image backwards.This lets me see where the drawing looks a little wonky (if it looks out of balance backwards, it gets re-worked). Once the reverse image is completed, I burnish (or rub) over the traced image onto watercolor paper so the pencil lines get transferred to the paper. I find this easier sometimes than just tracing via a light box because watercolor paper is so thick, sometimes it's hard to see the details. And the best part of this is that if I have to redo an illustration, I just have to rub the image onto the paper again instead of re-tracing the whole thing all over again. It's a little extra art insurance!

Once the pencil lines are transferred, I use a fine black waterproof pen (Uni-Pin .01) and trace the lines and add in my extra line work (textures for trees or animal fur). Then I erase the pencil and watercolor over top. I use cheaper toothy Canson Cold Press 140lb watercolor paper to help retain my "pooling" technique (nicer and less toothy papers naturally make the watercolor behave smoother). I also don't stretch my paper to allow the watercolor to pool and stain.
That's pretty much it! Just repeat the illustrations and boom- you have a book! It's THAT easy! Just kidding. It's not easy and it takes a long time but it's SOOO much fun!

So I guess that's it!
Next up is my SUPER AWESOME friend Lisa Anchin! Lisa is just like her illustrations, colorful, bold, imaginative, and just downright fun! I've always loved and admired Lisa's use of color, perspective and her ability to show movement. Not to mention her characters are just too freaking cute. She's a fantastic writer and illustrator who is currently working on a couple of picture book projects. Check her out next week!!!