The Making of The Mermaid’s Gift, My Illustration Process
Thanks to Dani Duck for inviting me to participate in this event. I love picture books and am so thrilled I am able contribute to the children’s book world. I hope in sharing my process, I help in some way to inspire you with your dummy books this month.
After illustrating eight picture books and creating five dummies for my own manuscripts, each a bit of an experiment, I’m happy to say that I finally feel like I have a pretty good system worked out. With this post I’ll share my process from first read through to final illustrations for The Mermaid’s Gift written by Claudia Cangilla McAdams and published by Pelican Publishing.
Reference research — Pinterest is a ton of fun for this. I set up folders for each project and collect images for reference and inspiration. In this case, colorful Burano, Italy (look it up on Google. If you’re feeling blue, this place will perk you right up); lace, lots and lots of lace research; historical photos of Burano and the lace museum there. I even used Google Earth to walk around the island to get a feel for the setting and layout of the city.
Character sketches — I work out clothes, hair styles, facial features, culture, and age. I sketch the main characters from a variety of angles, different facial expressions, keeping mind the need to keep the main characters consistent throughout. Which brings me to a issue with this story. Gianni, the main character, lost his hat halfway through the story. I bounced this back and forth with my husband and finally decided he needed to have another hat when he got back home.
Text Dummy — I print out the manuscript and break it up into 16 sections. I fold 9 sheets of legal or ledger paper in half and staple them in the middle with a special stapler I bought years ago for this purpose. I cut up the text and tape each section in its spread roughly where I think it might go, telling the story with the text — one chunk for the entire spread, or broken up with some on the left and some on the right. Since Mermaid is a retelling and set in the 1800s, I decided to go with a classic feel, keeping the text in blocks, but incorporating them into the illustrations. I played around with borders and copy blocks, but dropped that in the final sketch stage.
Brainstorm Scenes — blue sky thinking with my husband bouncing around ideas about the overall look, world, setting, perspectives, angles, POV, lighting. Playing with the best way to illustrate each scene adding to the story in unique ways. For this book I really wanted drama, which I achieved with lighting, angles, and unique perspectives.
“You have perfectly captured the moods of the various scenes, giving the story "life" in your depictions of the throwing of the fishing net, the ferociousness of the storm at sea, the mermaid's creation of the lace, and so on.” ~ Claudia Cangilla McAdam
Thanks for reading my long ramble. I hope something here helps with your dummy book adventure this month. Good luck and don’t forget to have fun!
Traci Van Wagoner
Live, laugh, and learn!
Other places you can find me online:
Children’s Illustrator: http://www.childrensillustrators.com/TraciVanWagoner
Blog: Celebrate the Little Things : http://tracivanwagoner.blogspot.com/
Tumblr: TraciVW Creations: http://tracivwcreations.tumblr.com/
The Mermaid’s Gift is available here:
Pelican Publishing: http://www.pelicanpub.com/proddetail.php?prod=9781455621088#.VdDmRUUdSOd