Thursday, March 25, 2010

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 16

The last two pages show the girls bonding in a garden of their shared imagination. Text is on the upper left.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 15

Margo and Pearl engage no further with the bullies. They skip away, and plan their own pretend tea party.

The text here is all on the left page, on the tufted hill.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 14

Margo points out that she also looks like a lion. I tried to show her lion as powerful, but good-natured. Sure, she has commanding fangs, but she only uses them to smile. The worst revenge the teaser suffers is to have her braids undone by the roar.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 13

Pearl steps up for Margo. She knows a good fashion idea when she sees one, and shares Margo's penchant for similes. "I like Margo's yellow tutu and I think she looks just like a sunflower."

Margo's sunflower stands out in a field of look-alike daisies.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 12

Margo stands up bravely to the bullies and onlookers. I took the opportunity here to show our other heroine, Pearl, entering the scene from a distance. This way, she's clearly had no part in the shenanigans of the previous pages.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 11

She gathers her forces, and gives herself a pep talk. The text here sounds cheerful, but I wanted to show the hurt and confusion Margo uses these words to fend off. It's not a breeze for our heroine to stand up to teasing, but she does it anyway. I made sure my sister, who wrote The Yellow Tutu, agreed with this, and our editor signed off.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 10

Margo's first reaction is surprise. I tried here to show her feeling tiny, exposed and alone for a moment, buckled with shock.

I manipulated some of my sketches, including this one, in Photoshop. Here, I scanned in a watercolor wash, and added it as a layer below the drawing. I then double-clicked the drawing layer, and changed the mode to "multiply." This separated the lines in the drawing from their white background, and let the layer beneath show through. I love me some multiply mode.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 9

Margo's imagination comes clashing into her classmates' group think. A couple of kids take the opportunity to bully and insult her. The left-to-right dynamic here is all against Margo. I tried to show her straining against it physically, with all her might.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 8

Still walking, now in the real world, Margo wonders what her classmates will think. This spread has another of my favorite lines from the text: "Would they think she was the actual sun and not look straight at her because they wouldn't want to hurt their eyes?" Margo clearly has the other kids' attention by now. Their opinion of her fashion choice remains to be seen.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 7

One of my favorite lines in The Yellow Tutu is, "Would the pavement heat up when she walked by, warmed by the brilliance of her rays?" But, loving the idea is one thing; trying to depict it is another. How does one visually express hot pavement in a way that might interest kids? I went with a klatch of squirrels, wringing that sunny spot for all it's worth.

I placed those words in the grass above the squirrels, and the following text above and below the peeking Margo.

No bikinis on the squirrels in the final version. I gave up trying to reconcile scanty swimwear with a coat of fur.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 6

Margo has decided to go to school with the tutu on her head. As she sets out, she imagines the effect her sunny headwear might have on her surroundings. In this spread and the next, I depicted her imaginary walk to school, rather than her real one. Here, she wonders "if she would make the flowers grow because she looked just like the sun." She moves from left to right, toward the next page, flowers growing huge in her wake.

Note: I ditched the bluebells from the sketch, to emphasize vertical growth.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 5

Margo gets ready for school. The bear and ribbon anchor her back in her home setting, after all that dancing against blank backgrounds. They keep the story tied to the first spread, and give an added sense of her whimsy. The bear's gaze and the direction of the ribbon maintain the dynamic from left to right, and the focus on Margo's actions.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 4

Margo realizes she'd look more like the sun if she wore the tutu on her head. Singing "I Am My Sunshine" (to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine"), she dances off stage left, and on to the next page.

While I decided where the text would go in each spread, the art department took care of type design, consulting me along the way. This spread only had text on the left page.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 3

In the third spread, Margo puts the tutu on over her pajamas, and dances around her room. She imagines herself as a princess and sunshine. On the right, I show her high up and circular, like the sun.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 2

Varying perspective from page to page helps maintain the reader's interest. I also hoped a close-up would draw readers into Margo's experience of the tutu. A very rough early sketch shows the seed of my idea -- I imagined Margo splashing in a sea of tulle.

The hard part was finding a way to depict both the texture and transparency of the fabric. After many false starts with paintbrushes and pastels, and staring helplessly at the dancers of Degas, I muddled my way onto a technique that involved neither yellow pastel nor paint. I rubbed black conte crayon over rough paper, scanned the result into Photoshop, and put that image through a long series of insane and improvised steps. The Dance of the Twisted Tutu. My final illustrations had so many Photoshop layers, I was embarrassed to show anyone my files. What's that line -- "Don't let them see you sweat"? (Alas, it was too late by then for such demure sentiments. My art director, Tracy, had seen me sweat more than an Axe commercial in trying to get it right, though she never wavered in her gracious help. I was darned lucky to have her on my team.)

I had initially planned to use more traditional media for the final illustrations of The Yellow Tutu, but kept gravitating to Photoshop for its flexibility and plethora of possible effects. Eventually, I did the whole book digitally. I used a digital pen and tablet, and it felt like painting to me.

Illustrating The Yellow Tutu, Part 1

When I first read the manuscript for The Yellow Tutu, it pulled me along -- I wanted to see what happened next. There are things illustrators can do, too, to coax readers to turn the pages of a book. One is to guide the reader's eye from left to right wherever possible, creating a visual momentum that might move her or him to the next page. Another is to hold out something intriguing without revealing it right away.

In the first two-page spread of The Yellow Tutu, Margo wakes up on her birthday to find a big present at the end of her bed. I decided to show her on the left page, full of anticipation and ready to spring. Her eyes guide ours to the gift at our right. Above is the finished illustration I sent to Random House, with extended edges for "bleed" (the printed version is more closely cropped, showing less of the bedspread, package and bear).

Before going to color, I worked out the composition in pencil on a template my wonderful art director, Tracy, gave me. The centering marks at the top and bottom define the "gutter" where the two pages meet. Illustrators need to keep this area in mind when composing a picture book, lest important parts of the image get lost in the fold.