Archive for December, 2009

Writing for Younger Age Groups

December 28, 2009

One thing I’ve been having kind of a hard time with is the tone of voice I ought to use when addressing young children with my story. I want to avoid sounding patronizing, but I also want to avoid overly complex language. To help me get a better feel for how to deal with this issue, I’ve been looking at Sesame Street clips on YouTube!

So, for those three, the definitions are pretty straightforward, which is what I remembered from when I was a kid watching Sesame Street. However, after browsing through the related videos, I found this old one which I probably first saw when I was about 3.

While I was watching it for the sake of nostalgia, I noticed something I had not picked up on when I was a little kid… that the sketch, while also tackling the fine art of fish-calling, is really intended to teach kids the difference between “quiet” and “loud”… very sneaky, Sesame Street, very sneaky indeed.

The reason I’m posting it here is to contrast it with the teaching approach used in the top three videos. All of these sketches have been about teaching different concepts, but the top three directly address the viewer, telling them that the purpose of the segment is for vocabulary expansion. This is an approach I had been considering taking with my book – making it part of a series on vocab building, with this particular book being about the word “quality.”

However, after watching the Bert and Ernie one, I’ve realized that my ideas don’t have to be completely limited to that. One of the reasons I decided to go for an obviously vocab-based book was because I thought my ideas for story lines had too much relative complexity, and were getting in the way of the overall goal of the project. After having seen this example, though, I now realize that there’s no problem at all with having am entertaining premise surrounding the actual learning aim of the book – as long as it’s simple enough, it will just help to draw the viewer in.



December 21, 2009

So I’ve gone with crochet for the little tiger guy to go along with the book. I chose this option because it provides a furrier texture than a sewn or vinyl animal, is inexpensive, and can easily be used to create rounded shapes.

This is the little guy so far – I’m going to have to make his arms bigger, I think, so that I’ll have enough room to be able to put stripes on there.

I’m a little annoyed that I couldn’t find orange yarn anywhere; I checked every sewing store I could think of in Bournemouth. Luckily my flatmate had this dark yellow yarn, which I think I’ll be able to dye to get it to a more orangy color.

Little Tiger Cub

December 17, 2009

I took the design from the little collage leopard guy I made a while ago and came up with this:

This is going to be my main character for the book, I think. I like the idea of using a tiger, because it doesn’t have any particular masculine or feminine associations, as many others do.

For this image, I used a lightbox to trace a dip pen over a pencil sketch of him. I am not entirely sure how I feel about the use of dip pen – it’s something I hadn’t used before, but it was mentioned in the Bloomsbury book as a common technique, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I cleaned up the lines a little bit and colored him in using Photoshop. I am having a hard time forming an opinion on this – I don’t hate it, but I don’t find it very exciting. Then again, does it need to be ‘exciting?’ Lots of children’s illustrations do use very simplistic characters.. I’m just not used to drawing them.

I’m going to try some painting techniques, and record these in my sketchbook. I’d like to try watercolor and acrylic paints and see how it turns out – I think I might prefer the texture provided by the brushstrokes and paper, to give it more character.

Digital Collagin’

December 10, 2009

I came across some high res fur textures today and so I thought it would be a good excuse to try this out!

I wasn’t really feeling this little guy when I first made him, but he’s grown on me a bit. I’m just not used to producing things so.. stylized, I guess? I do like how he’s got different colors of fur on him, darker for the details and lighter for the face and body so that it looks slightly more three dimensional, not just incredibly flat. I think I succeeded in that, at least I hope I did!

Oh poor little leopard dude – you were pretty unsuccessful, weren’t you. The pattern is too dark for your eyes to show up, it’s too condensed in your ears.. ugh. One thing I DO like about this guy, though, is the actual basic design of him, proportions-wise. I was trying to create a childlike shape so kids could could relate to – disproportionately large head, nubbly limbs, slight belly, low-set eyes, buttony nose, all that stuff. I’ll come back to that aspect, at least, if not the collage technique or fur pattern.

I’m trying really hard to find my “style,” here – one of the reasons I wanted to do a child-oriented project in the first place was so that I could work outside of my natural element and explore my illustration style from a completely new perspective. Similarly to the last project, I wanted to try collage again here because it’s not something I’ve had a lot of experience with, and I’m still trying to get a feel for it. I think maybe combining two things at once that I’m not familiar with is perhaps not such a good idea? I don’t know – I’ll come back to it.

Toy Production Techniques

December 1, 2009

Just a preliminary look into the options that are available to me to create a toy to accompany my book.


I remember trying to sew my own stuffed animal once, when I was about 14, and giving up in frustration. Working under the assumption that I am now older, wiser, and more patient (and in possession of an actual sewing machine), I’ve turned to the internet to see what new information pops up.

As it turns out, there are infinite amounts of sewing patterns available online, a whole lot of them for free. There are loads of websites that provide free patterns and tutorials, and all of them are horrendously designed.

Knitting and Crochet

I have always wanted to learn how to knit, so this is the most exciting option for me as of right now. I love the quirky, homemade look of knitted dolls, as well as the actual yarn itself – the texture provides an interesting feature outside of the actual shape of the doll.. it’s just over all very nice and cozy. My Grandmother used to crochet a lot when I was younger, which gives a similar effect to knitting, and I used to ADORE a teddy bear she made for me when I was a toddler. I’m not just going off on a random anecdote here – my thought is, if I loved knitted/crocheted things when I was a young kid, hopefully other kids will too.

As with sewing, there are an abundance of knitting and crochet patterns available online. Additionally, I’ve had this book recommended to me:

I’ve also looked into the differences between knitting and crochet, and the most coherent source I found was Wikipedia:

One of the more obvious differences is that crochet uses one hook while most knitting uses two needles. This is because in crochet, the artisan usually has only one live stitch on the hook, while a knitter keeps an entire row of stitches active simultaneously. So dropped stitches, which can unravel a fabric, rarely interfere with crochet work. This is also because of a second, perhaps less obvious, structural difference between knitting and crochet. In knitting, each stitch is supported by the corresponding stitch in the row above and it supports the corresponding stitch in the row below. In crochet each stitch is only supported by and supports the stitches on either side of it. If a stitch in a finished item breaks, the stitches above and below remain intact, and, because of the complex looping of each stitch, the stitches on either side are not likely to come loose unless put under a lot of stress.

Round or cylindrical patterns are simple to produce with a regular crochet hook, but cylindrical knitting requires either a set of circular needles or four or five special double-ended needles. And free form crochet can create interesting shapes in several dimensions because new stitches can be made independently of previous stitches almost anywhere in the crocheted piece.

Knitting can be accomplished by machine, while many crochet stitches can only be crafted by hand. Although some crochet patterns can emulate the appearance of knitting, distinctive crochet patterns such as the Granny square cannot be simulated by other methods.

Crochet is more suitable than knitting for joining pieces of fabric and knit patterns for sweaters may incorporate crochet for finishing. Crochet can add borders or surface embellishment to both knit and crochet fabric. Crocheted fabric uses 1/3 more yarn than knitted fabric. Crochet produces a thicker fabric than knitting, and tends to have less “give” than knitted fabric. And, generally speaking, crochet technique produces fabric faster than knitting.

So basically, what I’ve gotten from that is that crochet is easier by comparison, is less likely to unravel is broken, and is much simpler for developing tubes and circular shapes.


I found this “How To” on making your own vinyl toys/sculptures:

As well as this website that offers production services:

I’m not sure how I’m feeling about the possibility of vinyl with this project, but I wanted to look into it just in case I found something that piqued my interest. As it stands, it’s looking like it’s going to be too expensive for me and/or too time consuming for the unit – in terms of having to send the design off and get it properly produced.

Edit: Also a thought on plastic toys… depending on the age range, could be dangerous!! Need to keep this in mind.