…told mostly through images. Click on any image for a closer look.
The idea for The New Kid started when I observed a small girl in The Happy Pear coffee shop. Something about the way she was wearing her coat resonated with me, reminded me of myself as a child… the above on-the-spot sketches and first version of text are dated 3rd January 2010.
Early draft of the text which I printed out and immediately covered in edits. There were many rewrites and edits through-out the process, right up until I sent off the final art.
Early thumbnails as I tried to work out the story visually. I did this alongside shaping the text. Again, I wrote notes to myself all over these – change this, change that. These are working roughs, all about getting the idea out onto paper, not about making nice drawings.
Yes, that’s them.
Then I did sketches to find my characters. Ellie is based on the little girl I saw so I had her set from early on. The others had to emerge…
These images are from a set of more coherent roughs – I’m still working small, three spreads to an A3 sheet of paper – but I’m getting closer each time to how the book will look. I did at least three versions of the book at this size, copying the images which were working and changing/tweaking/losing others with every layer of reworking.
When I was happy with how it was working I made up a full size dummy and sent a copy to my agent (now I’d make a PDF and send it too). She showed it to Hodder and I had a contract! Yay! This was, I think, mid 2011. The work described above was done in two/three/four week runs, with gaps in between doing other things.
The editors then sent me comments, suggested some changes, pointed out weak spots…
…and I took most of these onboard as I knew they would improve the book. One or two things I didn’t agree with, so we discussed and compromised, or I left those out. I did another set of full size roughs, there were a few more tweaks and finally…
Title page shows the setting for the story, after which we close in to a much more intimate distance
spread 4 Teasing Ellie
spread 5 Weirdo!
spread 6 Ellie uses her coat to turn into an elephant and charges her tormentors
spread 7 Ellie uses her coat to turn into a seal
spread 11 -Superheroes!
…a set of ‘finished’ roughs – a set as close as I could get to the final images before going to colour. Last chance for major changes, so everyone looked at them very carefully. I roughed in the text as already planned with the design editor. Text needs to be placed where it reads well, looks well, and is not too near gutters or edges. There needs to be room to allow translations into languages, such as German, which will need more space. As the text in this book is sitting on the images I needed to make sure I didn’t paint fussy texture or dark tones underneath.
It was finally time to begin the finished art:
spread 3 ‘What’s your name?’
Spread 6 ‘Oh, oh!’
Spread 7 The new kid is being a seal…
Spread 10 I run and get my coat…
Spread 11 Superheroes!
I worked in acrylics. It was very labour intensive and took about six months to complete – 15 spreads averaging two weeks a piece (some 1 week, some 3), and of course a few hit the bin along the way.
I referenced loads of images as I worked, some to ensure drew the animals/vehicles correctly, others were for colour reference. I had taken many photos a friend’s dog, and of a street in Cobh, other images were from books and the internet.
Then came the endpapers and the cover. The cover is very important as it is what makes people pick up the book in the first place – I’ll blog about that journey another day.
I sent off the art by courier and then a month later a set of colour proofs arrived – my absolute last chance to pick up errors in the text and tweak the colours if any of them looked strange. The colours in the final book will never exactly match the art; the best that can be accomplished is a close match with no odd colours. A few changes were needed – a spelling fix on the title spread, one spread looked rather dark, and the skin tones in two had gone a little peachy.
The book headed off to China to be printed and bound. It can take six months to a year to arrive back and be distributed to shops. I got my first copies in May 2014, so it had taken 4 years and 4 months from initial idea through to published book. About 10 months work spread out over that time, it’s hard to tell exactly; I was working on other books in between.
It was a fairly typical picturebook journey for me; other writer/illustrators have different or similar processes and take less or more time. Michael discusses his process here: miss-brooks-story-nook-the-art-part-1
This post is especially for the students and staff at Marino Institute of Education, where I have very much enjoyed being this year’s writer-in-residence.