One of the many dreams I had as a kid, was to illustrate children's books. A friend of mine was working at an educational publisher and she got to write a children's book for a series of books that schools can order for their reading classes. My friend knows how much I like to paint, so she asked the publisher if I could do the illustrations for her book. I had to send some examples of my drawings to the publishers and apparently they thought it was good enough! So, in september 2015 I started making the illustrations for the book, which is called 'Lotta's Rugzak', which is Dutch for 'Lotta's Backpack'. I had almost two months to finish it and here you can read/see the whole process from idea to book.
My friend immediately knew what Lotta, the main character of the book, should look like: red hair, freckles and green eyes. She also knew Lotta's backpack should be very big and yellow.
I made several sketches which I showed to her. I drew different versions of Lotta; with curly hair, straight hair, normal sized eyes, big eyes, with watercolour, coloured pencil, etcetera.
As soon as we picked out the perfect Lotta, I started drawing. During the whole process,
I made pictures (especially of Lotta) to send to my friend, so she could give some feedback.
When all the sketches were finally finished, I started coloring Lotta's face and hair. I did this on all illustrations at the same time, for she has to look the same on them all. If I didn't do it all at once, there was a chance that I couldn't get her skintone or haircolor right the next time.
On the picture below you can see Lotta's finished face on all the illustrations. Her hair isn't finished yet, here. I made her hair in several layers, so it had to dry a lot in the meantime.
It was difficult to decide what Lotta should wear. Regarding shoes, wellies were a logical choice, as she walked through the woods. But what kind of clothing should she wear? It had to be simple, because I needed to draw it a lot. My friend wanted Lotta to have a flower on her shirt, but when I tried it, it didn't suit her. First we wanted her to wear something green, but since the story takes place in a forest, most backgrounds would be green and then Lotta would blend in with the background too much. Yellow clothes would be weird as well, because Lotta already had a yellow backpack and she wasn't supposed to look like a banana. Eventually, she was wearing this:
Just like I did with Lotta's face and hair, I painted all the illustrations of her clothing all at once, in order to prevent that she would not look the same in every image.
Lotta is not the only character in the book, she also meets a lot of animals during her walk through the forest. For the animal characters I tried all kinds of different designs. Eventually I decided to make the animals not too cartoony, as I wanted them to look wiser than Lotta (they give her advice in the story) and therefore wanted to give them a more mature, semi-realistic look.
Here you can see the big difference from sketch to final result. I first wanted to show Lotta and the mole from the side, but for some reason I couldn't get Lotta's profile to look child-like enough. I also found it too difficult to draw pouting lips (because she gives the mole a cute little kiss) from that perspective.
When Lotta was finally finished, I started painting all the backgrounds. I found it difficult to get the perfect tint of green and I'm still not satisfied with the outcome. I think it's way too bright. I'm also not satisfied at all with the rest of the backgrounds. The trees are way to simple and childish and there are not enough details. I should have added more nice touches such as animals, flowers and mushrooms in the backgrounds.
In retrospect I realize that I have spent too much time on Lotta and the animals, so therefore I had almost no time for the backgrounds, while they are just as important.
After several weeks the illustrations were finally finished. Now it was time to get them into digital large format. I wanted to scan them at home, but our scanner is A4 format, while the drawings are A3. I then went to a copy shop who could scan them for me. I was extremely happy. Until I got home, took a look at the illustrations on my computer and found out that the colors were incredibly ugly. Also, everything was way too bright and you couldn't even see Lotta's freckles any more!
Fortunately, my friend could pick up the drawings and take them to the publisher, where they have a high quality scanner. I then got a little extra time to improve some things with photoshop. I removed some little mistakes (one illustration had a speck of paint) and blurred the background to create more depth.
I was so excited when they were all finished! But I was also a bit dissapointed in myself. I knew they could have been a lot better. Then again, I learned so much by doing this! Therefore I'm very grateful to my friend who helped me get this job, and to the publisher who gave me this opportunity.
After several months, the book was finally finished. Despite all my self-criticism, I am still very happy with the final result!
If you want to see all the finished illustrations, click here.
I posted the illustrations in a Facebook group for illustrators, and got a lot of helpful feedback to improve my illustrating skills! If you have any feedback on these illustrations, or the way that I've been working, please contact me or leave a comment below. Thanks! :)
On my blog I write about the process of improving my skills, about grabbing every chance I get to become more experienced and about learning from ups and downs. Besides that, I write about everything that inspires me, like film, photography, paintings and psychology.