I read a new picturebook to our daughter last night. The artwork was amazing. But one thing bothered me: the boy looked like a different person in every picture.
Now that I’ve illustrated a story for myself, I can totally see how this happens.
1. It’s difficult to draw people. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, even among people who draw regularly. I think that’s why so many picture books feature animals as characters!
2. It takes months to illustrate a children’s book (even if, unlike me, you don’t dawdle about it!). Over the course of months, your child model grows up. I’ve already noticed that the reference photographs I took of our three year old look different, mainly because she’s since turned four.
But of all the things to get right in an illustrated book, it must be the child protagonists. I’ve noticed our resident preschooler looks intently at the facial expressions of the characters in storybooks. When language skills are in early development, facial clues provide most of the story.
I thought I could use myself as a model for Roya, to avoid imposing on randoms, asking them to get into my bed and whatnot, but when I first drew her, she looked about fourteen. The lazy bastard in me thought, oh well, fourteen she is, then. I can’t be bothered creating her again.
But the story doesn’t fit a fourteen year old. She has to be younger than that — I wrote the story about an eight year old. So even though I quite like this character (who looks not much like me, by the way) I had to kill her. (Along with the initial colour scheme, which was easier to let go. No one’s ever been incarcerated for killing a colour scheme, I don’t imagine.)
By the way, here’s an even earlier version of Roya. When Dan walked into my computer room he actually screamed. “Yar! What the hell is that?”
That’s when I knew I was making the story TOO scary. No one would expose their kiddies to a story with this thing as a main character, right?
Anyway, that’s what you get when you use a Blythe Doll as inspiration. (She did actually have eye-balls, but when Dan walked in I hadn’t done them yet. It’s true, without eyeballs, anyone looks freaky.)