Last month I was approached by John O'Marra about a project he created called "Chocolate Chips and Rocket Ships." John wrote "99 1/2," poems for children and is gathering 100 artists who create for various genres and creative industries, to illustrate each poem. After reading a sampling of the poems, and looking at the fabulous artistic talent participating, I wholeheartedly jumped in!
The poem I selected to illustrate is called "Mad"
When I read this poem, I immediately saw visions of a kid going bonkers, so wrapped up in his emotion that he forgot WHY he was mad in the first place! I could identify with him.
I started making sketches with the help of reference. To capture the mood and emotion of a character, I sometimes film myself acting out whatever the character is going through, using a camera on my computer.
With the shots as reference, I make sketches. At first I try to stay really loose and not get too uptight, just playing with expression and figuring out what the boy might look like.
I try to not to put too much pressure on myself at the beginning of a project because I think if you do, you loose the opportunity for fun and creative solutions. At this point, anything is possible and any idea is OK. Leave the inner critic at the door. He can come in later in the form of benevolent editor, but if invited too early, he becomes a creativity sucker and ultimate Negative Nelly.
After making loose sketches, I start thinking about layout and refining the face/character of the boy
At first I thought it would be cool to have little vignettes around the page showing the kid going through various expressions during his little "mad party." But later I worried the image would be too busy combined with a background.
Next I thought about showing "mad," through weather. I LOVE painting clouds so I thought this might be a nice opportunity to paint some lightning. I also played with the idea of having the boy surrounded with drawings of things crossed out. NO
After these sketches I wondered if the boy looked too old, or well...TOO mad. John's poem is fun and playful. I thought about the idea of the boy looking a little less mad and more mischievous -like he is enjoying his tantrum.
After making four black and white sketches, I emailed them to John for feedback.
John liked the sketch with the less mad boy surrounded by drawings crossed out.
After getting the OK from John, I sat down to make the finish.
Working in Photoshop allows me to play with elements of the image like a collage- moving things around tightening the composition.
As you can see, I simplified the background, getting rid of the border, and managed to get a stormy cloud in there :-P
What the finial spread in the book will look like:
My inner critic, Mr. Negative Nelly thinks that I might have gotten over render-y and this illustration isn't exactly perfect, maybe not the most creative solution, but I had reached a point in time where I had to stop noodling with it and let it go. (Plus there was a deadline to make!) I have a quote that I heard from a Paper Wings podcast taped onto my computer for this reason:
|"Progression, not Perfection."|
Do the best you can do, then move on. Every project is a lesson and we are all improving in our skills everyday! I have a tendency to think that something isn't good enough and that I should stop. This has really hindered me in my creative career and I am working on it!!
Thank you for reading about my process from start to finish! Hope you enjoyed the trip!
More information about John and his fabulous project can be found here: