So far we've spent a lot of back and forth time figuring out what will be depicted on each page of the book and how the layout will be in terms of full page spreads v. single page illustrations, etc. With that mostly wrapped up, it was now time to actually start drawing! We wanted to nail down the appearance of our main character, Santa Claus, first and get an idea of how the style of the illustrations will be, so I began with some character sketches.
Meet our Santa:
It took a bit to get to this point. I am not the type of artist who can just make things up out of their head. I envy, applaud and admire those kinds of people - that is serious, raw talent. I need to be looking at something to have any chance of getting it right. In school, I was trained to take lots and lots of reference photographs...like literally have someone dress up as my character and pose them as they will appear in the final image. Ask my college roommates, I put them through a lot:) This is the same way that someone like Norman Rockwell worked. So, for this book, I needed a Santa...and thankfully my Dad is up for the job!
I didn't spend a lot of money getting a completely accurate Santa costume...we already had the hat, I bought the beard at the party store and he wore black pants and short boots from his regular wardrobe...I just needed to see the positioning of the body and how the fabric drapes, how a wide belt (in this case one of my scarves cause it was all we had on hand) would wrap around a bigger belly (there's a pillow in there), etc. So here's one of the shots I used to help me with the above illustration.
Then I drew him in pencil, changing the clothes to be what I wanted, making the boots taller with buckles, puffing up the white trim, adding more detail, etc. The next step was to go over that with a fine point black pen until I had a more finished drawing like this:
Then I scanned these in and added all the color in the computer in Photoshop (using a tablet pen), while keeping the ink lines on top. I'm hoping as I refine the process that I can get the look to be a little less digital and more painterly, but I'm ok with how these turned out. And so are the authors, which is the important thing:)
Next I will tackle a complete full page spread illustration...starting with a photo shoot and then collecting other reference for things like reindeer, etc. Fun! And nerve-wracking!!
Would love to hear your honest feedback! Good and bad. Thanks for all your support:)