The Process of Illustrating a Kid's Book

April 19, 2015

One of the major projects I am currently working on is creating the illustrations for the book, "Ten Tiny Piggies." It's a children's book written by Lorna Ellis, a military-spouse and mother who has a love and talent with crocheting. Her business is called Ten Tiny Piggies (you can check it out here) and she makes crocheted items. She had the idea to write a book about Ten Tiny Piggies and make ten piggie finger puppets to go with it!


Lorna mentioned the idea to me toward the end of 2014. I loved the idea. When she then sent me the story, I practically danced around the room. People come up with great ideas all the time, but often encounter difficulty with finding the time to put the idea into action. Thus, when Lorna sent me her manuscript, I knew she was serious.


We discussed what she was envisioning, including how many pages, what size illustrations, etc. She even sent me a manuscript copy that included the page numbers with the words, so I knew what kind of image would be needed on each page.


I then drafted a contract, which was something I've never done. I spent quite a bit of time looking at illustrator contracts. The purpose of the contract is to protect both the illustrator and writer. It defines things such as how many illustrations, deadline, fee, what happens if either side doesn't fulfill her responsibility, etc.


After we both signed the contract, I did another little dance of excitement around the house, and then got to work.


I started by sketching out different kinds of pigs. I wanted to create a tiny pig character that everyone could fall in love with. I quickly found that it's actually a bit difficult to make a pig look like a baby pig. It took me about 39 different sketches before I landed on one I liked. Here are some of the sketches. 

 Once I created a pig I was happy with, I made 7 more sketches just ot be sure. I then inked my favorite pigs and created a few watercolor versions of the pig. Here's the character I ended up with:


I sent all of these sketches to Lorna by taking pictures with my Ipad. This was certainly a crude way to do it, and I need to find something better for the future!


I also sent Lorna some sketches of the mother piggie. 


After Lorna approved everything, I started making sketches of each page of the book. I decided to make the sketches at 50% of the final size. Thus, I made them 4"x4". The book also has some images that span both pages, so those I did in 4"x8".


I once again took pictures of these with my Ipad and sent them on to Lorna. Her favorite pages were the last couple of pages, in which the Piggies were doing lots of funny things. Here is an example page:


We then made some revisions to the story so that there could be more flow to the story with engaging illustrations. 


Thus, I set about making each illustration funnier and more dynamic. To do this, I started by making the sketches in the actual size. This allowed me to see how much detail I could fit in and allow for proper spacing for the words. I quickly learned that I should have started with the original size in the first place!


I also spent some time making each of the ten piggies look unique and have its own personality. I then added in funny little animals to each scene - including mice, an owl, cows, and sheep. I want kids to have something to look for on each page. Below is an example, in which the Momma pig is searching for her piggies and one is about to scare her from behind. Whenever I have the Momma pig searching for her kids, I also have two mice somewhere in the picture. 



As I made all of these changes, Lorna was positive and supportive the entire time. Honestly, I couldn't be working with a better author! She is enthusiastic about everything and gives me plently of artistic space to really play with the characters and illustrations until they are just right.


All 27 pages of illustrations are now completed and approved by the author. My next step is to draw them onto watercolor paper, ink the lines, and add in the watercolor. The color will make such a difference. I cannot wait!


I still have plenty to learn... like how to send quality images! I've been using my Ipad, which isn't the best quality. I've tried the scanner, but it doesn't pick up watercolor well and some of the images will be too big. It's all an adventure!


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