The first thing I do is to read the manuscript of the story. I read it over and over again. I spend a lot of time thinking about the story, usually when I'm folding laundry or walking the dog or driving a daughter to school.
Sometimes I draw character studies. These help me remember what all the kids look like and what they're wearing. My daughter Alice gets to name them (unless they already have names, of course.)
These are the kids in Frosty the Snowman.
Here' s a picture of me working on the final paintings for Frosty. Alice is holding the character study page and telling me what colors to paint the kids' clothes. Guess where we are? On vacation in the Virgin Islands. People there thought it was very funny that I was painting snow scenes in a tropical paradise.
When I was working on Ms. Broomstick's School for Witches, I did these drawings to figure out what the little witch Pandora and her teacher, Ms. Broomstick, would look like.
Next I might do a bunch of scribbly sketches of scenes or situations that I think might work for the story. Some end up in the book, some don't.
Here's a page from my sketchbook showing some ideas of the things Frosty the snowman might do with his friends.
Next I draw tiny pictures, called thumbnails,which show roughly what happens on each page of the book. Each of these little rectangles shows two pages, called a spread.
These thumbnails are for Ms. Broomstick's School for Witches.
Not all of the spreads for the book are here, for some reason, but you get the idea.
After the thumbnail sketches, I do a better sketch for each spread. This sketch is "tighter" -- as opposed to the rough, scribbly, loose thumbnail sketches -- and drawn to the exact size of the book's pages. I have to leave room on each page for the words! I usually paste in a photocopy of the type to make sure I've gotten it right. These sketches are what I send to the publisher. The editor and the art director look at the sketches. They know that the picture I paint for the book will follow this sketch. Sometimes they ask me to make changes in the sketch, sometimes not.
This is a sketch for one of the spreads in Ms. Broomstick.
Look at the printed page below and see if you think the finished picture looks like the sketch. One thing I know I added after the sketch -- little faces on the brooms!
Sometimes I do a practice painting, or study, to work out the colors and painting style I'll use for the finished pictures.
Here's my study for the cover of "Ms. Broomstick." You can see that I didn't put in all the details, or even paint very carefully. (Check out Pandora's goofy-looking face, for example.) Since this is just practice, I don't need to make it perfect! See how the study compares to the finished painting below, and then to the actual printed book cover.
For the final paintings, I use watercolor paints and paint on fine paper made especially for watercolor. You can see a picture of my palette of paints in the My Studio section. I use wonderful brushes with lovely fine points. Nobody else in the house is allowed to use any of this stuff. It's expensive! And it's mine, mine, mine. (I make sure there are plenty of other art supplies available for the other artists who live with me.)
And here's the real cover of the book, with all the type in place!
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