Monday, December 31, 2018

Illustrating Otters, Part 2

In the last post, I wrote about how I got started with illustrating the book "Four Otters Toboggan: an Animal Counting Book". I showed the original thumbnails of the book illustrations and how I made the first complete illustration for the proposal. After the proposal was sent we waited...

Soon enough we got the exciting news that the publisher wanted to hire both of us for the book. Many emails were sent back and forth in the next months, about the contract, and when that was finally signed by all parties, it was go time for me. The author had already finished her manuscript, and now it was time for me to actually start doing the hard work.

We agreed on a rather long time for me to work on the book, as I was pregnant and about to give birth in the next few months AND we were moving into a new house. My plan was to sketch everything out in detail before the baby, and then carve, print and assemble the final illustrations after the baby.

I started the work by researching every animal: their habitat, distribution, nesting sites, coat variations etc. If I had questions, the author, Vivian Kirkfield, was available to talk. We are Storm Literary Agency mates, and hit it off from the get-go. We have a warm collaborative relationship and I am so happy I've gotten to know her so well through this experience.

When working on the illustration sketches, I liked to jump around the book, leaving the cover as one of the last illustrations. We were still balling around for a catchy title when it was time for me to start working on it.

I tossed about 20 ideas in the hat. Everyone was brainstorming in our parts of the country. Then one night I was thinking about what kids would gravitate to in the book. It was the animals of course- foxes, owls and ... otters. I realized Vivian had already written the perfect title in the book: "Water splashes.  FOUR river otters toboggan down a slide of mud. Dripping onto glazed rocks, they hold fast with furry-soled feet...".  

Four Otters Toboggan was the perfect title for the book! Everyone agreed and we added the subtitle an Animal Counting Book. Then I was able to design the cover illustration knowing how big the title was going to be. (See the video for the sketching below.)
Final color proofs from the publisher to check for color accuracy. 

I always start sketching with a rough pencil sketch for basic shapes, that then gets more refined. For wood engraving purposes, I then traced that sketch into a light gray silhouette. Then I multiplied that layer, made it darker, and erased areas to make the second layer. The second layer was then multiplied to a third darkest layer, that was then erased again. It was basically a digital way of making a multiple layer wood engraving, that allowed me to plan the final prints in high detail. I ended up changing the grayscale sketches into color half way through, just so I could have everything planned even more specifically, so when the time consuming part of carving the images came, it would go as smoothly as possible.

Below is a mini video showing how I add the different layers on the iPad with the Procreate drawing app:

I also made a longer series of videos of the steps for the illustrations. Here is the first one, that covers the sketching process in more detail:

Hope you enjoy them. Next time I'll walk you through engraving the illustrations. 😀


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