My last blog post was about the picturebook The Suitcase Cyclist, which I illustrated. This post is to show the process we went through to get from initial thumbnail to finished spread - it's my usual process for a project of this type.
This was the first page I did, as Barbara, the author, was not used to commissioning illustrations, and I wanted to work up a sample of what the spreads would look like, so she could see how my idea of having black and white linework backgrounds would work.
My initial thumbnail was very rough, and was done at the very beginning of the process, when I had the text, but no idea how many children were involved - so there are only two children visible. The basic idea was to have the children and grandad dancing with Elvis on the set of Jailhouse Rock. I did the thumbnails for the whole book before meeting with Barbara, and talked through my ideas with her when I met up with her.
2: Rough layout
After a meeting with Barbara, I leaned that there were five grandchildren to be included. Barbara didn't want me to draw them specifically, but gave me their genders, hair colour and ages, so I went away and did a very rough sketch in Photoshop (in red) to see how I could fit everyone in.
3: Rough Draft
I then worked that rough sketch up into a slightly-less-rough draft (in blue). Ordinarily, it would be at this point that I would send it to Barbara for her approval to move to the next stage, but as she had never commissioned an illustration before, just for this sample I moved ahead on my own - because it was just a sample, and I wanted to show her that my ugly draft would turn into something better. The draft stage can scare a lot of private clients, as they are always so rough and ugly, as it is at this point that most changes happen, so I don't invest too much time into making them pretty.
4: Sample pencilling & digital colour
Next I pencilled, using the draft as a guide, so that there would be something tight and semi-finished to show Barbara.
I scanned in my pencils, darkened them to simulate inking, and added some digital colour, so that Barbara could see the general effect of a finished piece, without my having to work this all the way up to the final without any approval.
I then sent screenshots of each step in the process to Barbara, so that she could see exactly how a picture progressed, and made it clear when were the best points to ask for changes, and which stages I would send to her for her approval (at the thumbail and draft stages, with option to make smaller changes at the pencil stage. After that, working traditionally, changes would mean starting over.)
Barbara liked the sample, but there were some changes to be made: She had decided that she would like the children to look more like her real grandchildren, and had decided to add in the youngest, a toddler, as well. She provided me with some photos, and I did a new set of pencils with the kids changed.
I sent the pencils to Barbara for her approval, and as she was happy, I used a lightbox to trace the pencils onto Moleskine watercolour paper with Artline Drawing System Pens. I put the file into a special dropbox folder for Barbara to see the process.
I then added colour with Winsor & Newton watercolours.
Finally I scanned in the finished result and added text in Adobe InDesign CC.
Here's the finished spread in the book:
After this initial spread, when Barbara was clear about how everything worked, I set up dropbox folders for drafts, pencils, inks & watercolours, so that she could check over things at her leisure. I also sent through a number of dummies at various points, so that we could check that everything flowed properly.