Today I am pleased to share with you a post by Ginger Nielson, the artist who did the vibrant, lively illustrations for my new children's book from 4RV Publishing. You can learn more about Ginger and see additional artwork and books on her website.
Recently I had the pleasure of illustrating Connie Arnold's picture book, "Count 1, 2, 3 With Me." Published by 4RV Publishing, LLC, of Edmond, OK, the book is being released this month. It was a delight to illustrate her creative ideas for counting. There were new challenges for me as well, as I needed to create illustrations for some things I was not used to painting.
When I begin illustrating a picture book I like to go over the manuscript a number of times. Sometimes I will jot down ideas for an image in the margin of the document. Other times I will create a little thumbnail image to remind me of a thought I had while reading. When I am satisfied with the way the pages will move along I create a small storyboard showing all the pages in the book with tiny images or ideas for each page.
Most picture books are under 1000 words, but even the shortest ones present a challenge. Each image needs to stand on its own. There should be enough clues in the image that even a toddler can "read" the book.
Once I have decided how I want to illustrate each page, I begin sketching. For this phase I use soft sketching pencils and might even fill an entire sketchbook before I decide which of the images are the perfect ones for the story. Next, I scan or photograph the images and transfer them into the computer. Very large work needs to be photographed because my scanner is limited to legal size work.
With the sketches in the computer I go directly to my favorite painting program, Painter 13 by Corel. This program is similar to photoshop, but designed with traditional painters in mind. There are dozens of brush types, pens, pencils, chalk, paper textures, and much more to choose from. It is very much like painting traditionally but there are no bottles of paint to spill and the UNDO feature is a blessing if you mess up your painting. You can even decide how far apart the bristles on your paint brush will be.
I "paint" directly on a CINTIQ screen. This is a large monitor. I use a stylus pen on the screen to create the artwork. By choosing different brushes or pens, or chalks, I can create illustrations in much the same way as I do when I paint traditionally. I also keep my large screen Macintosh computer monitor open as I work. I keep other things on that screen that I might need to refer to as I paint. It is great to have reference material, email, and sketches readily available on that other screen. It has the advantage that I don't have a ton of papers all over my work area, just a screen full of images, or notes. This type of dual monitor set up allows me to drag images from one screen to the next. That way if I have a sketch on the iMac and I need it for my painting I can just pull it over and place it onto the canvas on the CINTIQ.
As the painting progresses I print out the finished pages, gather them into a book form and take a look at the flow of the work. If I am happy with the progression, illustrations, color, design, and composition, I am ready to transfer the finished work in the computer to a layout program such as In Design, place the text, and create a PDF ready for printing. If the PDF preview is correct I send that to the publisher or editor.
Sometimes the work on a picture book can take as long as a year, other times I can finish the work in a few months. Painting in the computer is not necessarily faster than traditional painting; it takes time to do either.
Many thanks to Ginger for the fascinating information. I'm happy to be able to share a few of her illustrations from Count 1,2,3 With Me. Aren't they delightful? My blog tour will continue on Monday. Be sure to check out my previous post for blog schedule (and watch the video if you haven't seen it yet). You can order Count 1,2,3 With Me from 4RV or my website.