Some of you might already be familiar with my first picture book, SMALL DOGS, which I am querying and is currently being reviewed by an agent. Since finishing the artwork for that book a few months ago, I began working on my next picture book - THE GIFT.
THE GIFT is a different kind of story altogether. Whereas my first book is about dogs and the idea that you should never let a physical quality limit your potential, this book is a more poetic story about the relationship between a mother and her son, and how that relationship affects each of their lives.
I'd like to share a bit of my process with this project and see how that differs from my first experience, where I didn't share anything from my book until I was finished with it.
One note about this post: these steps are a general outline. I don't always do everything in this exact order as the creative process is never linear, but it certainly helps when organizing a big project such as a picture book.
STEP 1 - STORY
It always begins with story. STORY STORY STORY! I remember when this story about a boy and his mother came to me. I was sitting listening to music, and all of a sudden, the story began manifesting itself in my mind. This was years ago! I kept that little seed in my mind until I finally had time to flesh it out, and once I did, I spent several months working on it and letting it simmer. Finally I had a working "draft," something that I could tackle and reshape where necessary.
Here you see how I generally flesh out one of my projects. After writing some drafts in MS Word, I draw very loosely on sheets of paper and I arrange them on a wall (or in this case my closet doors), so that I can see the story progress in front of me. It is as this point that I can edit and figure out my pacing, and what scenes I really need to tell my story.
My biggest obstacle wasn't what the story was, however, but in how I was going to tell it. I wrote three different versions of the same story and finally settled on the one that struck the biggest emotional chord with the help of some very talented friends who read my work and gave me their feedback.
STEP 2 - LAYOUTS
What I do next is nail down my layouts for each page, making sure that the compositions are right. This is one of the funnest parts for me, admittedly. Sorry for the blurriness on the first one, but I don't want to reveal the entirety of the book just yet. You can see what one of the sketches looks like in the next image, which is done very small. The thumbnail you see here is about 1.5" x 1.5" All of the thumbnails fit on one regular sheet of printer paper.
STEP 3 - REFINE LAYOUTS
After I've worked out my entire book in a very rough, simple format, I then begin to refine the layouts that need refinement. Sometimes I'll just paint straight over a rough sketch as I don't need more than the basic shapes. Other times, though, I might want to change a pose, or I might need to add more information to the piece in the drawing stage, in which case I'll refine the layout.
This is an example of the refinement from my thumbnail above. I changed the pose of the performers to improve the composition and made sure my text placement will fit accordingly. Since I'm going to paint over it, I'm not worried at all about doing a nice, pretty drawing. I just need enough of the information in the sketch. I also start accounting for the extra space I'll need for printing bleeds.
STEP 4 - COLOR SCRIPT
That'll be in the next part of this post. I hope you've enjoyed looking at a bit of my process. I feel a bit weird showing this much as I've never done so, but I do it in the spirit of inspiration and sharing that makes the blogosphere so awesome. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section. Just as well, I'd love to hear about your processes and what works or doesn't work for you. Thanks for looking!