Jim Aylesworth’s, Cock-a-doodle-doo, Creak, Pop-pop, Moo, takes place on a farm, and although Jim doesn’t specify when the story takes place, I imagine the early, 1920′s. I always”picture” the paintings in my mind as I develop sketches for the dummy book. So… I’m sketching and the images percolating in my imagination are different than usual — they are completely without color! I continue sketching, and slowly a bit of color seeps in, but it is very subtle. The art in my mind’s eye is reminiscent of the hand-tinted black-and-white photos displayed in my grandparent’s house.
It occurs to me that this might be an appropriate “look” for the illustrations in this book. I set out to simulate the look of a hand-tinted photo. I decide to fully render the image in graphite and then add a bit of soft color with watercolor paint. The effect is perfect!.. But something isn’t right. The style reflects the era but seems too somber for the story, which is quite lite. Now I’m torn. I really like the look of the piece, and I had a good deal of fun rendering it, but I can’t ignore the nagging notion that the mood just doesn’t fit the text. I decide to send the illustration to the Editor at Holiday House to get her opinion. My fears are confirmed when the Editor responds that after showing it around the office, the consensus is the art won’t appeal to a young audience because it isn’t colorful.
Back to the drawing board!
The second illustration is colorful, and while I still really like the first version, the bottom line is it just doesn’t reflect the mood of the story. So the remaining illustrations for, Cock-a-doodle-doo, Creak, Pop-pop, Moo will have all the color typical of my past work. I will, however, find a way to use the “tinted drawing” style in a future story!!
It’s very important that characters in a picture book are consistent throughout. Little Johnny had better look the same on page two as he does on page 22! To make this easier, I begin by creating a series of sketches of each character so that I can refer to these images as I work my way through the final illustrations.
In addition to the farm animals in Cock-a-doodle-doo, Creak, Pop-pop, Moo, there are nine people: mom, dad, grandma, and six children!
Illustrating a story requires a vivid imagination. Initially my imagination is sparked by the words. The words build a framework for the illustrations, providing facts (and sometimes mere clues) about who and what is in the story as well as where and when the story takes place. Imagining a “scene” is predicated on the fact that I actually know what something looks like. If the words call for a crowing rooster perched on a fencepost, then I MUST know what a rooster and a fencepost look like! I can “see” these things in my mind’s eye, but some details are a little blurry. For instance… what exactly does this rooster’s comb look like? What about the texture of his legs? What about the tiny feathers on is face, the larger feathers on his neck, and back, and tail? And that fencepost… I imagine a hedge post, weathered by years of exposure to the elements. When my imagination needs a boost I try to locate what I need and photograph it. I also search for images on-line and in books and magazines.
The story I’m currently working on takes place on a farm, so I’ll be collecting reference for cows, chickens, pigs, horses, and yes, roosters! By the way, in this story, water is drawn from a pump in the kitchen, and horses pull the wagon, so I won’t be gathering photos of a tractor, a combine, or a shiny 2010 Chevy pick-up!
I signed on to illustrate, Cock-a-doodle-Doo, Creak, Pop, Pop, Moo!, a story by the talented Jim Aylesworth! As you may have guessed simply by reading the title, I’m going to be depicting life on the farm. I hope to update you all on my progress during the months ahead, so stay tuned!…
A young student attending a literature festival in Warrensburg, MO drew this portrait of me while I was presenting to his group. The likeness is pretty good, and I love the details. Note the chin whiskers, the Cro-Magnon brow, and the reading glasses hooked in my shirt collar!
I recently visited ten Elementary Schools in Olathe, Kansas to talk with the students about illustrating books. The kiddos were familiar with my books and enthusiastic to learn more about the illustration process — a tribute to the Librarians and their efforts to prep the kids for my visit. As it turns out, the Art Teachers also got into the act. These creative folks introduced the youngsters to various mediums and techniques, basing each project on one of my books! The halls of every school I visited were adorned with FANTASTIC artwork! CHEERS to those teachers and their students!!
Following Featherbottom, is here!! Brought to you by the creative folks at MarbleSpark, this special book is like no other I’ve been associated with. Why?… Because with the help of your home computer and the magic of modern technology, you can visit MarbleSpark, plug in a name, birth date, and other tidbits, then watch as a book is built just for you…before your very eyes! If you like, you may buy it. In a few short weeks, your one-of-a-kind hard bound copy of Following Featherbottom will arrive at your door step.
Curious to learn more?… Simply follow the link to MarbleSpark, and have fun creating YOUR book!