Back in November 2018, I was offered the chance to illustrate a children’s book by my husband’s colleague, a school teacher. She had initially used her publisher’s staff illustrator but decided to look elsewhere for the artwork.
My source material was an 18-page manuscript written in the 1990’s about a boy (based on the author’s son) who gets a kitten for his birthday. The kitten gets lost, and the rest of the story follows the boy’s efforts to find it.
Though I had not anticipated doing a project like this when I started freelancing, I was excited for the challenge and the chance to try a new style.
To begin with, Ms. Majtyka was after a very particular style, something akin to the Little Golden Books. This involved communicating a bit with her, doing research on Pinterest, and then providing a few options to choose from.
After deciding she liked #2 the best, I sketched out the remainder of the cast of characters in that style – Teddy’s mom, the cat, and 3 of Teddy’s neighborhood friends.
After getting approval on my character designs, the next step was looking at the manuscript and sketching out new compositions for each page.
Over the course of a few months, I worked and reworked these sketches, then presented them to Ms. Majtyka.
Final Art & Layout
I had been thinking throughout this time about what colors I should use. I made a couple of test palettes, and settled on a mix of bright saturated colors that strongly contrasted one another.
I also knew that the author wanted a hand-drawn feel, even though I was working in vectors, so I surrounded nearly every shape with a thick textured stroke, and applied a few gradated textures to elements of the background.
After a few rounds of emails and tweaks, I got final approval on the artwork, and sent the files off to the publisher.
Time will tell whether Teddy’s Birthday Present will come flying off the book store shelves, but for me, this project has been a success in terms of trying something new and working with a creative collaborator.