I’ll say this right out the gate, illustrating a children’s book is HARD! In a way, it’s sort of like writing. You might see (or read) something done so well that you’re inspired and think, I can do that! But the truth is, you probably can’t. At least, not nearly as easily as you think you can.
Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.”
For me, that summons it right up. But, although writing and illustrating are far more difficult than they seem, they’re so darn rewarding that I for one didn’t regret the effort I put into my first children’s book. …Hundreds of hours.
I don’t consider myself an illustrator, but out of necessity, I illustrated The Imaginaut (and I’m glad I did!) Most people wanting to write a children’s book get snagged on the illustration part. They jot down a story they believe to be fantastic (because after all, it’s not a novel, how hard could it be?), then they look at professional illustrators only to scoff at illustrator costs, and then they ask friends… But in most cases, I’ve learned, it’ll be hard to find even a friend willing to spend as much time and passion needed to illustrate a book for as an unpaid “favor”.
With that said, I thought I had a solution. I’d take a short cut and just write the story and then let my children draw all the pictures. I mean, I want to be a writer, not an illustrator. Besides, I was certain my book would be soooo much cuter if their drawings were in it. The thing is, originally, when the book was only for me and them, that idea would have been just fine. But by this point, my aspirations for the book had grown, and I quickly realized that having them draw all the pictures would mean I’d need to take more of a directorial approach and guide their drawings down the right path so that the pictures went with the words on the page. And after I realized this, it was only natural that I began to imagine how each page would look, which meant my expectations became far too lofty for them. (I want my kids happy, not burdened with daddy’s unreasonable demands.)
And as it turned out, to lofty for me.
Even now, though I worked hard and am proud of the books, it’s not as great as I had hoped. The thing is, I was years out of practice and I just couldn’t get the pictures I wanted down on paper, and nowhere near as crisp as I wanted them. Then there was/is that minor problem of not having my drawing basics in order. (I.e. Proportions, dynamic perspectives, ect.) Not having a firm grasp on the basics, meant I needed to design a character within my limited capabilities. Henry and Cosmo, my main characters, are close, but only because I could hide a lot of my problem areas with Henry’s helmet and gloves, and Cosmo’s transparency.
Then there was the time-consuming aspect… For every picture I drew and wanted to use, I had to trace it onto a clean sheet, trace it again with a certain black pen (so that it would scan), scan it into the computer at a high enough DPI (dots per inch) and then edit it on the computer before resizing it for the book.
With all that said, I want to reiterate that this is a passion project, so it didn’t daunt or stress me out in the least. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Actually , I enjoyed it so much that I decided to do something extra with the book.
More about that next time, though. Cheers.