Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My First Picture Book Dummy, Part 1 - Concept & Inspiration

Part 1 - Concept And Inspiration
Part 2 - Writing
Part 3 - Thumbnails
Part 4 - Character Design 
Part 5 - Roughs 
Part 6 - Finals

Although it feels like I'm just getting started in my illustration career (will it ever stop feeling that way?) I've actually been doing it for quite a while now, over 7 years in fact. I've had many fun projects along the way but it has begun to feel like I was over due in focusing in on my big goal of becoming a published picture book illustrator.

Inspirations for my picture book dummy

Alas, the only offers I've received for children's book illustration have been from self publishers. While I'm quite flattered by the offers, I also want to be paid for my work since that's the professional part in professional illustrator. So I felt it was a good time to start creating my own picture book. A couple things helped me come to this conclusion.

Two pieces that I created for Turtle Magazine
Firstly, my daughter. Corny, I know. I'm very fortunate that I get to draw for a living but I realized that it's somewhat pointless if I don't use this opportunity to make something truly personal. I'm really good at taking a spec for an educational piece and and fleshing it out, but it's hard to inject a lot of soul into those. I've done a lot of magazine pieces that accompany poems and those allow me to be a lot more creative, but it's still not telling a story that's personal to me.

Secondly, my daughter. Even cornier, but hear me out. Now that she's two I've been reading many more picture books than ever before. I've done some rough math:

(3 books/bedtime + 1.5 books/naptime) x 365 days = 1642.5 readings per year

So I've become quite immersed in picture books lately and have learned a lot of what I like and don't like in them. I'll get more into this in my next post.

For a long while she was on a huge Little Critter by Mercer Mayer kick. It helped that my wife had about 20 of these books left over from her childhood. I love them too. They have a great balance between pictures and text. The text tells Little Critter's version of the story and the pictures show the reality. It's a wonderful dichotomy. I got to thinking "I could do something like that!". This was a HUGE revelation because I've never been very confident as a writer. I've always found writing too, well, literal. Illustrating allows me to tell a story in a more open-ended way which is what I love about it. Reading the Little Critter books began me thinking about telling two versions of the same story and it seemed like a really fun idea.

This really freed me up since I could focus on telling a story with pictures, and then use the text to give it a second dimension. I already had a story in mind as well about a girl having a pet tiger. This came from my daughter having a tiger puppet, El Tigre, as her favourite stuffie toy. What I liked most about this idea was the contrast between a big hulking tiger and a tiny little girl who was kind of the boss of him. So now I had my concept and an idea of how I wanted to execute it. All that was left was everything else!

The next steps of writing, thumb-nailing, character designing, roughing, and finalizing will be covered in subsequent blog posts. The next post will be about my writing process which I think was a little unconventional. So please check back, I'll be posting a new one each Wednesday. Or follow me on twitter, @marcuscutler and I can remind you there.


Part 2 - Writing

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