LITTLE EWE: Illustrator Tommy Doyle Shares his Creative Process

I’m delighted and honored to have Tommy Doyle, the illustrator for my newest picture book LITTLE EWE (Beaming Books, 2021), here today to share the creative process behind his wonderful illustrations. After he describes his process, enjoy a nice selection of several early sketches and their final colored counterparts. Take it away, Tommy!

Thank you, Laura, for giving me the opportunity to talk about my process for Little Ewe. I immediately identified with Little Ewe when I read the story and I loved how children can also learn counting throughout her journey.

The first thing I do when I start a new book, is read the script and the notes a couple of times over a few days so my brain starts creating pictures in my head. 

One of the first thing that stood out was that there was another part of the story that was just as important as Little Ewe, her environment. Knowing that made me realise I had to do a good visual research to help me gather all the inspiration I needed. So before starting on the pencils, I went on several image banks and gathered pictures related to each of Little Ewe’s encounter.

I then spent a couple of days on my iPad Pro sitting on the couch creating the storyboard. Once the storyboard was approved, I moved onto the colouring part. 

I also wanted the reader to visually feel the mood and emotions of each spread as they got further into the story. There are a lot of fun moments but also some moments where you can feel that sense of distress. I wanted to have each moment as strong as each other so that in the end we really feel that moment of resolution and joy. 

You did a wonderful job, Tommy! I love each and every spread and so do the little ones I have shared the story with at school visits. I especially love how you use color to capture the varying moods on each spread. The result is fantastic. Thank you, again, for sharing your process.

Now let’s enjoy a sampling of pencil sketches and final art. Can you spot any differences? Enjoy!

ABOUT TOMMY DOYLE: Tommy is a Senior Illustrator and graphic designer based in Melbourne, Australia. Originally from Montreal, Qc Canada, he now resides in Australia.He’s worked in the industry for over 20 years. Illustration is a big passion of his and he finds it is an effective and creative way to communicate a message or an emotion. His work is bold and rich in simplicity. He loves playing with shapes and textures, mixing digital and traditional mediums. Learn more about Tommy at https://www.tommydoyle.com

YOU ARE YOUR STRONG: A JOINT Author and Illustrator Interview with Danielle Dufayet and Jennifer Zivoin

Published by Magination Press, Books for Kids from The American Psychological Association.

Today I am delighted to be doing a joint interview with picture book author Danielle Dufayet and illustrator Jennifer Zivoin.  YOU ARE YOUR STRONG (Magination Press, 2019) is Danielle’s debut work.  Jennifer has illustrated many books, but this is their first collaboration.  Thanks so much for joining us today.

From the Front Flap: “YOU ARE YOUR STRONG is an empowering exploration of children’s emotions that will develop self-awareness, peace and calm. With diverse characters and scenes featuring a range of different family relationships…the book shows kids that they will have help along the way to being strong and in control.”

Now for the interview with my questions bolded.

Laura: Please tell us a little bit about yourselves and your journey into the world of children’s book writing/illustrating.

Danielle: I was not a reader as a child –too busy running outside and climbing trees! I wasn’t read to either – just wasn’t a tradition in our household, but before you feel sorry for me…I am now a published children’s book author!! I always loved writing, however, even as I child. I’d write poems to express my feelings and observations. When I graduated high school I told myself I wanted to be a children’s book author. I read an awesome picture book by Lilian Moore (Little Raccoon and the thing in the Pool). I was blown away by its simplicity and deep message – all executed in the sweetest, most entertaining way! I thought, I’m going to do that too!

Jennifer: I have always been attracted to visual storytelling, and originally thought that I wanted to pursue animation.  However, illustration turned out to be the perfect fit for me.  I love being able to conceptualize and then bring to life the entire visual world of each book, from the character designs to the settings to the lighting in each piece.  I began illustrating children’s books in 2006 when I was chosen as the artist for the “Pirate School” books by Brian James. A few years later I signed with my agent Mela at MB Artists, and have been illustrating books and children’s projects ever since.

Laura: So interesting, Danielle, that you weren’t a reader, but clearly always a keen observer and participant in all the wonders of the world – climbing trees etc. That is so key to writing! And, wow, Jennifer, what a great journey into the field and I’m also particularly grateful to have had one of my magazine pieces illustrated by you! 

Danielle, can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind this book?

Danielle: The inspiration behind this book was: Life (going through a difficult situation where I was feeling mad, sad, scared and worried all at once.) and Art: I saw the movie, Room, in which a 5 year old boy (played by Jacob Tremblay) tells his mom his (long) hair is his strong. Later, he cuts it off to give to his mom who’s had a nervous breakdown. It made me ask myself: what is my strong? Turns out, I am my strong –we all are our own strong! And sharing strong is good! 


Laura:  And such a good message it is! 

Jennifer, you have illustrated over 30 picture books. What drew you to  Danielle’s YOU ARE YOUR STRONG?

Jennifer: The editors at Magination Press selected me as the illustrator for “You Are Your Strong,” and when I received the manuscript, I loved the way that the text made me feel.  The words were empowering and poetic.  Since the text focused heavily on emotions, there was tremendous freedom for me to explore how I wanted to create characters and environments.

Laura:  And you did an amazing job!  One of the most striking aspects of your illustrations, in addition to your wonderfully charming and diverse depiction of children, is your sweeping use of color to capture each emotion.  Tell us about this choice. How did you choose your colors?

Jennifer: First, I chose a color palette for the whole book.  Then from that palette I selected only about 4 colors for each page – a main color representing the emotion, an accent color to make the character stand out, and usually two other colors that blended nicely with my other choices.  For example, pages about sadness were filled with shades of blue while pages about anger were bright red.  Then, I used light and the color strokes to define the atmosphere, movement and energy of each page.   For pages in which the emotion is directed externally towards another person or the environment, the lighting and movement were bold and energetic.  For emotions that were directed inwardly and were more contemplative, the scenes were softer.  

Laura: This is so interesting and I’m delighted that the publisher has permitted us to share one of your interiors so readers can get an idea of what we are talking about. In this illustration you use red to depict anger. 

Published by Magination Press, Books for Kids from The American Psychological Association.

Laura:  Danielle, teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?

Danielle: I have a handout that kids can fill in as to what their strong is. It asks: what are the things that bring out the happy, calm, brave and gentle already in you? The key word is already. I want kids to know they already have everything they need inside of them!

Laura: Sounds great! And I would also add that your book also includes wonderful “Note to Parents and Caregivers” by Julia Martin Burch, PhD which includes thoughtful tips and suggestions for helping children handle strong emotions.

Finally, for both of you, what’s next? Are there more picture books and projects in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

Danielle: I have a couple of manuscripts out on submission and I’m working on a funnier picture book right now about impulse control, friendship and the love of picture books! 

Jennifer: I am currently creating the artwork another of Danielle’s titles through Magination Press, which readers can look forward to in the next year!  In addition to this forthcoming publication, I am keeping busy illustrating several other book projects.  I am also excited to have finished a dummy for my first authored/illustrated picture book, which I hope to see on bookstore shelves someday.

Thank you BOTH so much for stopping by today and I wish you the greatest success with this new book.  Learn more about Danielle and Jennifer below.

Danielle Dufayet, born in Yonkers, New York, now lives in sunny San Jose, California, where she writes children’s books and paints. She also teaches English and Public Speaking (Self-Empowerment) to grades K-12. Danielle read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling. Thirty-five years and a Master’s Degree later, she finally made her dream come true and she’ll have TWO books out in 2019 – one about inner strength and managing big emotions, called You Are Your Strong and the other, Fantastic You!,  about self-love/compassion.

Website: https://www.danielledufayetbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danielledufayet

Twitter: https://twitter.com/danielledufayet

Art Website: https://www.danielledufayet.com

Jennifer Zivoin has always loved art and storytelling, so becoming an illustrator was a natural career path. She has been trained in media ranging from figure drawing to virtual reality, and earned her bachelor of arts degree with highest distinction from the honors division of Indiana University.  During her professional career, Jennifer worked as a graphic designer and then as a creative director before finding her artistic niche illustrating children’s books.  When she is not creating art in her studio, her favorite hobbies include drinking cocoa while reading a good book, swimming on hot summer days, and spending time outside with her family.

Jennifer lives in Carmel, Indiana. 

Visit her at http://www.JZArtworks.com

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR Spotlight: A Interview with Matt Forrest Esenwine and Fred Koehler in Celebration of FLASHLIGHT NIGHT’s First Book Birthday!

Flashlight Night_hi-res coverToday I am delighted to be celebrating the first book birthday of the delightful picture book FLASHLIGHT NIGHT which released one year ago today. FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, published by Boyds Mill Press, is an engaging rhyming bedtime story written by Matt Forrest Esenwine. Paired with Fred Koehler’s spooky, yet spectacular illustrations, it captures the imagination and begs to be read again and again.  Not surprisingly, FLASHLIGHT NIGHT has received glowing reviews (pun intended).  Kirkus Reviews (who gave it a coveted star review!) describes it as a “rousing read” with “delicious language and ingenious metamorphoses.” The Horn Book praises it as “an old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure.” I call it mesmerizing and fun!  Congratulations, team FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, and thanks so much, Matt and Fred, for joining us today to chat about the process that brought this charming book into being.  Let’s get started.

First of all, welcome. Please tell us a little bit about yourselves and your journey into the world of children’s book writing/editing. 

30688174_10216331665152702_4983291287571529728_nMATT: Thank you so much for inviting us, Laura! I’m so thrilled to be able to chat with you and Fred about our book. To give you the short version of my journey, I’ve been a creative type and have writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first song when I was 7 or 8, and it was horrible – something about a goat on a boat being swallowed down a throat – but it was really fun to rhyme and tell a story at the same time. (You see what I did there?) Anyway, my first published poem was in a local college’s literary magazine; I was a junior in high school and it felt so cool to have a free verse poem actually published, for all the world to see. Over the years, I had a number of poems published in various  journals and anthologies, but I always felt like my style wasn’t quite right for most adult-focused publications. Then in the late ’90s I wrote a couple of children’s poems, but didn’t know what to do with them…and over the next several years more and more children’s poems started popping out of me, and I felt it was time to do something about it. So in 2009 I joined a local SCBWI writer’s critique group, then joined SCBWI later that year, and started sending out my one manuscript for a poetry collection…which didn’t go anywhere, but it was a good, necessary start!

fred_koehler_MFRED: Hi Laura. Great to be with you. I like to think of myself as an artistic redneck who’d rather be creating cool stuff or out fishing than just about anything else you could offer me. I started working towards a career in publishing when my second child was on the way – he just turned nine. I always knew it was tough to break in to the industry but I just kept showing up, making friends, and revising my work till they had to give me a shot. All in all, it was probably about 4 years of trying before I finally got my foot in the door. Now I’ve got seven picture and two novels with my name on the jacket, and hopefully another half a lifetime to make a bunch more.

Wow, I love how both of you have followed your passion and I spot a common theme of patience and persistence in your journeys into the field.

Now a question for Matt. Your love of language is evident in FLASHLIGHT NIGHT’s  rich word choice and rhythmic rhyming verse. How was that love developed?

MATT: The simple answer is, it helps being a nerd in school! I always loved learning as a child, and would read my parent’s dictionary or encyclopedia set sometimes when I was bored. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, I used to make up word searches and word puzzles and my teachers would make copies (remember the old mimeograph machines??) to pass out to the class. I suppose you could say that was my first experience being published! But as I got older I learned how much fun language could be in writing. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Jencks, introduced me to Shakespeare, Shelley, Keats, Chaucer, and a wide array of classic poets which really spurred me to learn and practice form, rhyme, and all sorts of other poetic devices.

Sounds familiar  – especially the word nerd part!

And now a question for FredYour spooky and dark, yet not too scary, illustrations pair perfectly with Matt’s text.  What is it about Matt’s story that drew you to the story? Also, tell us a bit about you created such a flash-lit feel in the illustrations.

flashlight-10eFRED: I often follow my gut on whether or not to accept a manuscript. I don’t read the synopsis or the art notes. I just focus on the exact words that the publisher wants on the page. If those words resonate with me, I take the project. Matt’s story for FLASHLIGHT NIGHT created an instant connection. I was a kid again, running through the woods with my friends, playing capture the flag or flashlight tag. Any time words can create that sort of visceral reaction, you know it’s something special. As for the illustrations, I was intentional about what lived “inside” the flashlight beam and what stayed “outside.” Anything outside the beam had to live in the dark and had to be part of the real world. But inside the beam, all bets were off. I did as best I could with my graphite and paper, then let Photoshop enhance the contrast between the light and dark areas.

MATT: That is probably the one thing people comment on the most, regarding the illustrations: how ingenious it was to keep the darkness reality (which is usually what kids are afraid of) and to make the light of the flashlight’s beam the fantasy.

flashlight-night-workingThe illustrations work BRILLIANTLY to enhance the text. Well done!  

Now a question for both of you. It’s always extra special for me to have both that author and illustrator here together chatting about their book.  Did you interact?  Please give us a little peek into that part of the book’s creation.

MATT: Interestingly, the editing process began even before our editor, Rebecca Davis, called me to make an offer! In Dec. 2014, 4 months after I had sent her the manuscript, I learned that the manuscript had won the New England SCBWI Peg Davol Scholarship, which afforded me the opportunity to have the manuscript critiqued by an established author; I would then be given time to revise it and have it critiqued again by an editor or agent at the New England SCBWI annual spring conference. As it turned out, one week after I had my first critique, Rebecca called to let me know she wanted to purchase my story – and during that time, I had made a couple of small but significant revisions. So I sent her the revised manuscript, and we then began tweaking things here and there over the course of the next couple months.

Although we connected on Facebook, Fred and I did not really interact with each insofar as the book is concerned; Rebecca handled the juggling act of matching text with the visuals She shared with me most of Fred’s sketches and illustrations, asking my opinion about certain things – which was greatly appreciated, since it is not a standard practice with most publishers! Some things we agreed on, others we didn’t – but as the editor, she of course had the final say. One particular change was in one of Fred’s spreads, where there was a lot going on visually – I don’t recall the specifics – and Rebecca and I were concerned that the illustration was so detailed that it took away from the flow of the story. I don’t recall if Fred remembers that at all.

Conversely, another example that stands out is the spread that reads, “Adventure lingers, stirs about,” near the end of the book. Those were not my original lines, but once we saw Fred Koehler’s illustrations we realized that what I had originally written was not going to work with his sub-narrative of the three kids on an adventure. So I had to rewrite that section in order to balance the text with what was going on with the pictures. It truly was a collaborative effort among the three of us!

FRED: My process is to take an author’s words and go sprinting off in whatever crazy direction my brain takes me. Maybe we had one or two emails back and forth? I think he got to see the concept. But otherwise, all of our communication has happened after the book went to press.

MATT: That’s true, we’ve been in touch much more since the book came out than beforehand!

Before we wrap up, what’s your number one piece of advice for aspiring children’s picture book writers/illustrators?

MATT: I know this is going to be more than one piece of advice, but I would say read as much as you can! Get a feel for what’s out there, see what people are writing, learn how they are writing it, and then try to do your own thing. I paid very close attention to detail in my story, choosing every word carefully to make it flow and rhyme and be fun to read, and I never settled for “good enough.” However, I did eschew certain standard writing rules they always teach at workshops:  I do not follow a “rule of 3’s,” there is no problem anyone has to solve, no one is given any names (in fact, there is not even a boy or girl mentioned!), and the main character, grammatically speaking, is the flashlight! So I think it’s important to note that one can bend rules or even throw out rules, as long as an editor realizes you know what you’re doing!

FRED: Here’s practical advice. Create an annual budget for your writing and give yourself permission to spend it. If you can put aside $1,000 a year, that might get you a couple of local conference or maybe an out-of-state trip to attend a bigger book-making workshop. If you want it to become more than a hobby, treat it like an investment.

MATT: That is, indeed, very good advice. I budget for one SCBWI workshop each year, plus I’ll be heading to my second Highlights Foundation workshop in October to spend 5 days with Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, I budget for my website and postcards and such, and I also set aside funds for purchasing books (not just other books, but my own, to sell). Creating books might be a lot of fun, but it’s still a business.

Thank you both so much for joining us today and happiest of birthdays to FLASHLIGHT NIGHT!

To learn more about Matt visit his website

To learn more about Fred visit his website

And now, since this is a birthday celebration, we have an extra special treat –  not ONE but TWO GIVEAWAYS!  In celebration of FLASHLIGHT NIGHT’s first book birthday, Matt is offering ONE SIGNED copy of the book to one lucky winner.  And a second winner will receive an awesome packet of KidLitTV swag! (The book was featured on KidLitTV’s StoryMakers last year.  To see that episode, press here.

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win one of these book birthday treats, let me know by commenting below. All entrants will be entered in both giveaways. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident, ages 18 and up.) The giveaways end Wednesday, 10/3/18 at 12:01 am EST. The winners will be announced that day!

 

 

 

 

LOVE IS KIND: Illustrator Lison Chaperon Shares her Creative Process

I’m delighted and honored to have the illustrator for my newest picture book LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) here today to share the creative process behind her delightful illustrations.  It’s not often you get to see the process explained and shown with such detail. It’s fascinating!  Take it away, Lison Chaperon and… merci!  Enjoy!

Bonjour Laura! I’m so happy to have been chosen to illustrate your wonderful story. It was such a joy to illustrate! Your story and characters were a great source of inspiration. I’m pleased to share my creative process with you and the readers of your blog. 

When I received the manuscript, the first thing I did was to read it several times and determined the page breaks. The story is an adventure for Little Owl and for the readers so it was important to create surprise effects from one page to another.

1 page breaksThen, I worked on the character designs. I tried several techniques (ink, felt pens, pencils, watercolor…) before finding the right combination to render Little Owl’s feathers: watercolor and color pencils.

2 Little Owl Designs3 Granny Designs4 Characters DesignsOnce the look of the characters was determined, the amazing editorial team needed the cover. So I looked for cover ideas. The image had to be eye-catching, sweet and it had to capture the book message. Below are my proposals:

5 Cover sketchesHere is the sketch chosen by the team and the final art:

6 Cover final sketch7 Cover FinalThen I started the sketches. This is my favorite part! I love finding ideas, working on compositions, thinking about little details… I first storyboarded the whole story, trying different compositions through very rough tiny sketches. 

8 thumbnailsWhen I determined what worked best, I did more detailed sketches at full-scale with text.

9 Illu 1 sketch10 Illu 2 sketchI also did colored roughs to give me a first idea of the colors.

11 Illu 1 rough color12 Illu 2 rough colorOnce all the sketches were approved by the team, I went on to the final art. 

I reported the final drawings on watercolor paper (scale 110%). I wanted delicate and refined colors with a lot of nuances to express the atmosphere, the message of the story, and Little Owl’s feelings. So, before starting to paint the final art, I did several tests with the watercolor and the color pencils to find the right balance. And here is the outcome:13 Illu 1 final14 Illu 2 Final

Thank you, Lison, for sharing your process with us. I continually marvel at all that goes into illustrating a picture book and I feel so blessed that you were chosen to illustrate LOVE IS KIND!  The Zonderkidz team had great vision.  I’m thrilled that my words get to share page space with your wonderful illustrations.  

Happy reading, all!