Archive for January, 2010

Critical Reflection

January 26, 2010

For this unit, I wanted to explain the concept of a “quality” to a young audience; specifically, children aged three to five years old. My goal was to create a small children’s book, consisting of a series of illustrations that would serve to visually explain the concept. There were several reasons that I wanted to go in this direction.

The first of these is that I felt that an illustrated children’s book would be an excellent way to explore visual explanation, as a large amount of children’s books are intended to teach a wide array of concepts, from vocabulary words to morality lessons. After this occurred to me, I decided to stick with the idea because it involved two areas that I had been previously unfamiliar with – illustration for children, and bookbinding. Similarly, the reason I eventually chose to work with watercolor was because of my unfamiliarity with the medium. I felt that this would be an excellent opportunity for me to develop my range as an illustrator, as well as serving as an interesting and challenging project.

Because I was largely unfamiliar with the production of work aimed at a young audience, as well as with bookbinding and design, I knew that research would be an extremely important factor in helping me to create the final product that I wanted. For this purpose, I purchased several books to get me started and provide me with inspiration throughout the project. All of them helped immensely with the process of developing a concept for my book, but The Bloomsbury Guide to Creating Illustrated Children’s Books, in particular, contained a wealth of useful information, and was unique among the rest in that it provided advice on story writing as well as illustration.

In retrospect, I think that this was one of the main problems I had with this project – developing a story for the book. I felt, at the time, that it was essential to have a basic plot in order to provide a frame for the illustrations, and so I spent a disproportionate amount of time trying to figure out what sort of story I wanted to write, how I wanted to write it, and what specific age range I wanted to target it towards. For assistance, I turned to The Bloomsbury Guide, which offered advice regarding everything from plot themes to character descriptions. Eventually I came to a point where I realized that that my focus on the narrative was overpowering the actual purpose of the project – to produce illustrations – and I being editing down my ideas to a much more simplistic story. While this did help me target a specific age range, as a simpler story necessitates a younger audience, I realize that I did spend far too much time on it, and this hurt the development of the rest of the project.

I have mixed feelings about the final product. The text, especially, really bothers me. I had wanted a handwritten style, because I thought that it would make the book more informal, and help make the reader feel as though they weren’t being talked down to. From an aesthetic perspective, Sara Fanelli’s Mythological Monsters inspired me, because I love the way her handwritten text intermixes with her illustrations. However, I don’t think the same can be said for mine. While I wanted it to look informal, I feel like it doesn’t have a definite stylistic presence, leaving it feeling more unprofessional than anything else.

Additionally, I had some trouble with the actual book binding itself. Although I did make a small test version to try out the binding method covered in a tutorial I found online, which involved sewing signatures together, I decided for the final product that it would be better to use a method from the Bloomsbury book, which involved gluing the spreads in individually. Looking back on the project, I wish I had not been so ambitious as to assume I’d be able to bind the book myself, rather than looking more seriously into having it professionally done.

On a positive note, one thing I do like is the illustrations themselves, particularly the designs of the five animals that the main character meets through the story. Stylistically, this was a huge change for me, and I really like how they came out. With the main tiger character’s design, as well, I was quite happy, because I felt he was different enough to stand out to the reader, and anthropomorphic enough so that he would be easier to relate to than a more realistic approach.

All in all, while I am not terribly happy with the outcome of this project, it was definitely a learning experience for me. I always wondered if I might enjoy children’s illustration, and I now have much more respect for illustrators who work in this area. I did enjoy working out of my comfort zone, and would like to continue to explore this area in the future.

The Book Binding Process

January 26, 2010

The book binding is not really going as well as I’d hoped it would. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found the best method for me to work with which is the one listed in Bloomsbury’s Guide. Though this appears to be intended for hardcover books, it works just as well for me, because it doesn’t require double sided printing, and the hardcover can easily be replaced with a soft one.

Essentially, it just involves printing out each individual spread, and gluing them together, side by side, so that the blank backs of each page are attached to each other. Using this method instead of dividing the book into signatures also allows the spine to be thicker, which gives it more of a presence.

All I’ve got left to do now is design and attach the cover!

Crochet Stuff

January 22, 2010

I’ve decided that my crochet tiger is no longer really relevant to the project, and is taking time away from working on the book, which I’d like to get finished as soon as possible. When I was focusing on different physical qualities of the characters in the book, it would have fit better, because the yarn would give it a soft texture similar to fur, allowing the child to experience tactile learning as a means of reinforcing the information provided. However, since the focus has changed to the actual appearance of the animals, I don’t feel like it serves much of a purpose anymore, other than as a hypothetical selling gimmick.

Book Binding Tutorial

January 19, 2010

In addition to the book binding walkthroughs in my children’s illustration books, I’ve also found a large amount available online on YouTube.

More Page Layouts

January 18, 2010

To-Do List for Wednesday!

  • Work out text style & format
  • Finish drawing & scanning in drawings for opening and ending pages
  • Divide up pages for printing
  • Print
  • Draw cover
  • Bind book
  • Finish crochet work
  • Write evaluation
  • Organize all physical work and roughs for handing in
  • Document remaining steps in blog

Thinkin’ Bout Text

January 16, 2010

I’ve been working under the assumption that I’d just have standard, typed text, and I’m not sure why. While looking through “Creating Illustrated Children’s Books” for information on page layout design, I came across a section on fonts.

The notes on this page, in particular, regarding the integration of text with the image, immediately brought me back to Sara Fanelli’s book.

(Sorry the image is cut off, the pages are too big to fit on my scanner bed.)

I think the reason that “Mythological Monsters” didn’t immediately give me the idea to incorporate similarly hand drawn text into my own book is because it meshes SO well with Fanelli’s work, I never thought of it as being an aspect separate from the actual drawings.

Considering it critically now, I love how it works. The book just wouldn’t be the same with regular, typed text, no matter what font it was. It gives it its own unique character and identity. Sooo, I’m definitely going to see how this works with my book.. I’ve been thinking that it’s sort of lacking something so far.

Page Prototypes

January 16, 2010

I’ve been picturing in my head for a little while how the pages ought to be set up… I’ve got some little thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook, but I decided to just put these ones together quickly in Photoshop for a better visualization.

So, what I’ve gotten from this basically is that I REALLY need to focus more on working on the little tiger. I designed him so much earlier than the other animals, I didn’t realize how much his anthropomorphic self contrasts with them… or does it? Maybe I’m thinking too much about it. I just wanted him to be drawn in a way that would let the target audience identify with him, but maybe I should try rethinking it, find something more in-between.

As far as the layouts themselves go, I like the monkey one the best so far. It takes advantage of the width of the spread while still leaving room for text. The peacock one feels awkward to me… Also, I think the images are probably too large for the page, not leaving enough room for the text… or, if there is room, it will look really cramped. As far as the snake one goes, I’m happy enough with it, but I’m kind of embarrassed by the way I drew the tiger in that one; didn’t realize how badly I painted him in.

Finished Animals

January 15, 2010

Color Tests 1

January 12, 2010

Though I’ve decided I’m going to use watercolor for the final images, I’ve found it much easier, and less messy, to test out different color options in photoshop first.


For some reason, while I was first drawing the giraffe, I was envisioning it with pink spots. After having actually seen it, though, I have to ask myself, why are they there? The spots are not the focus of the giraffe, his neck is. Although I do think that pink and yellow is a fun combination, it doesn’t quite work with the concept behind the drawing.

I prefer this version to the pink one, I think. The brown color lets it remain in the realm of the realistic, but the variety in shades prevents it from being mundane and flat. Interest is maintained, but the focus is not taken away from the neck.

Same colors as above, but with added swirlies. That was just an idea that popped into my head, so I thought I’d see if it would work. I’m not entirely convinced either way. I think, if I do incorporate this into the final image, I will try to add it digitally rather than painting it on.. that way I don’t have to worry about ruining the paint.


The snake needs to be green, because, like with the giraffe, his color should not interfere with the child’s ability to understand which aspects of the image are the important ones to take notice of. So, here, I’ve just stuck with the stereotypical snake color association, looking at a couple different shades. The last one is my favorite, I think, because it’s the most vibrant, with more yellow in it.. it just draws more attention. Also, in the third one, I’ve gone over a few of the scales in a darker green color, rather than leaving them black, which I think helps to emphasize them as being actually an important part of the snake, and not just a detail thrown in. As with the little swirlies on the giraffe’s spots, I’ll add these in digitally after I’ve painted the rest of the image.


Because the seal will be in a tank of water, I’ve put some light blue in the background just to give me a sense of which colors will look best with the environment taken into consideration.

The grey, here, I didn’t even finish because it looks INCREDIBLY dull. I know I want to stick to relatively realistic colors, but it’s so boring! There will be a bright orange tiger on one page, and then on the other, this guy. Between the two, no one’s eye will stay on him, which is kind of against the point of the whole book.

Keeping the watery environment in mind, I decided to try out this lavender color. I didn’t want to go for blue, as I thought it would blend with the background too much, and so I thought this was kind of nice because it feels to me like a compromise between blue and grey.

Because I liked the lavender, but thought it might be too unrealistic, I tried out this darker, more blueish purple. I thought it might be similar to a dark grey or black seal without having to actually use those colors. The blue in this color helps relate the animal to an aquatic environment, while the purple in it keeps it from blending in to the background.

I haven’t come to a decisive conclusion with the seal as of yet. Although this exercise has been helpful, I think it’s going to come down to actually just painting it a few times and seeing what turns out the best.

Page Layout

January 10, 2010

I’ve decided how to lay out the page with the giraffe on it, which I’ve drawn in my sketchbook, but for research purposes I’m gonna put my inspiration image here.

I’m sorry about the quality of the image! I tried to scan in directly from the “Mythological Monsters” book, but the pages were to large to fit on the scanner screen. Luckily, the same image was printed in “Illustrating Children’s Books,” so I’ve scanned that in instead.

So this is a two-page spread in which the book has to be turned vertically to view the image properly. Besides being a neat trick for the viewer’s entertainment, the use of the space to display such a large, tall figure makes it much more imposing than it would have been if it had been shrunk down and squeezed into a horizontal format. There would be much more empty space surrounding it, making it look smaller by comparison.

This is just a neat use of space, I think, which is why I’m going to use a similar layout technique for the page in my book featuring the giraffe. I think it would really serve to emphasize its height to the reader, and is also simply a better fit for a very vertical animal.