Winging It – A children’s book on behalf of ‘Simpson’s Special Care Babies’
About a year ago writer Rod Kelly who I collaborated with to produce ‘Why worry William Wasp’ a couple of years ago asked if I wanted to illustrate another of his wonderful stories that Simpson’s Special Care Babies wanted to release as part of a fundraiser campaign. When I realised what fantastic work the charity do to ensure the best care possible for the most critical early days of premature babies and for their families, I felt I wanted to help with raising awareness of this – the fact that I could do this with my skill as an illustrator was a bonus. Here is a link to the charity’s website so you can see the fantastic work they do for yourselves…
I have documented parts of the steps in creating Winging It – a book about a little Adelie penguin with big dreams.
How do you start illustrating a children’s book?
My process of course begins with the fun part; reading the story. Here I get a feel for the tone of the tale which feeds into both the characterization and story-boarding. Then I will start pencil sketching scenes from the story. I will put the pencil drafts together to check that the flow works and there is no repetition in terms of character stance and composition, I really like dynamic scenes and variety – this is especially important in captivating a young reader.
How did you develop the character of Paul the Penguin?
So I tend to spend a lot of time watching nature documentaries – (who knew all of those episodes of frozen planet would come in one day), I do like binge watching cute animals on you tube also – yes that counts as research!. I like to note not only the features of the characters but also how they move around. With Penguins it always astounds me how they manage to shuffle such long distances. Paul, a member of the Adelie penguin posse are a very cute bunch yet somehow have a sort of cheeky charisma that I really wanted to emulate.
What is the next step?
I will initially render some of the most exciting scenes. I tend to start with the images that appeal to my imagination the most from the story as opposed to going in chronological order. I just find that certain image ideas really get my creative juices flowing and I have to get the ideas down straight away, in the process of doing this other scene ideas will pop into my head and it generally snowballs out in that fashion. Also I think these first images are where I really get a feel for the story and I decide what colour pallet I would like to keep as a consistent theme. In this book I loved expressing that cold blue and pink sky combination in my paintings.
What mediums do you tend to use?
I would consider my work to be very much a mixed bag of different mediums. I love going to the art shop to pick up new materials to use and I’m very much open to trying new techniques whether it be creating a fluffy cloud using acrylics or dry brushing over textured paper to highlight grainy effects.
‘Winging It’ allowed me to try out different techniques as Paul – adventurer at heart embarks on a journey around the world. One day we are in the arctic, the next we are in a baking desert.
Of course at the beginning we also have the magical Southern Lights – I looked at different ways to do this on you tube tutorials and actually found good old Bob Ross to be the best!
The effect of oil paints to be the best as the wet smooth effect just worked so much more effectively.
This was actually the first time I have worked in oils and it was great fun, but super messy and also takes forever to dry, so I think I shall stick mainly with water colours and acrylics for future projects.
I also like to collect materials that I could possibly incorporate into an image for future projects.
I tend to create the backgrounds separate from the characters and various elements then compile everything together using Photoshop. This allows for much creative freedom and flexibility throughout the entire process. Composition is very important to me and although I do draft up in pencil first I like to have the option to develop it fully as I progress through the book. It also means I can wiggle graphics around to allow for the addition of typography in the final stage.
More updates on this coming soon!
If you would like to pre order a copy of the book, you can do so here