Designing characters for the Boathouse series is challenging. Not only do you have to figure out what exactly they’re going to look like, but you have to design all the expressions, physical movements and limitations, and then take all of that information and be able to reproduce that look for consistency throughout the whole book.
I think it’s my favorite part of illustrating!
The Cat and the River Thames introduces a new location and various new characters, including some pirate rats and another boat builder. These were fairly easy to design; okay, so the rats gave me a little trouble, but it only took me a day or so to really get them where I wanted them.
But the book also introduces a bigger character, and let me just say, it was not easy designing him.
In honor of the release of The Cat and the River Thames, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
You ready for it?
Okay. Here it is: illustrating, although fun, is very time consuming.
There are so many steps for each illustration, and if I were to rush them or skip them, the picture would look…well…awful.
As many people have asked me questions on how much work really goes into an illustration, I thought I’d break it down visually for you all by sharing a step by step process of part of a final illustration. I say part only because the book just came out, and if I shared the whole picture I’d give away some things 🙂
Have you heard the news? The Cat and the River Thames is now available through RV, myself, and Amazon! Woo hoo!
In celebration of the release, I made scones and tea for my family to celebrate, just like how we had shrimp and grits for the release of A New Adventure, A New Name.
The scones looked so pretty, and well, tea is always pretty, so I thought that a quick photo shoot of the food with the book would be a great way to promote the book for Etsy and Facebook.
And I think it turned out pretty well:
But what you don’t see is the uncropped version:
This is the top of my coffee table.
It is my favorite flat surface to photograph on in my entire house. The surface is this really nice stained wood, and it’s not super shiny so there aren’t big light reflection spots I have to work around. The light that comes through the window is super soft, and it’s pretty perfect for not having a “real” photo box set up.
But, I have three kids.
And they like to play on the coffee table.
And leave things up on said table.
So this momma has to work around it sometimes.
And this fits my life so perfectly now with summer vacation happening. I have work I have to do, but there are musical theatre workshop camps, swim lessons, business trips to Chicago, week away camps, family vacations, and just day to day life to work around.
But, we make it work.
It just takes a little more effort 🙂
PS – Dangle earring supplies have started arriving, with the last part coming tomorrow! Be on the lookout for more updates on when they’ll be available on Etsy ❤
Okay, so maybe hate is too strong of a word….how about I thoroughly dislike public speaking?
Being in front of people and having them look at me gives me the heebie jeebies. I break out into splotchy hives under my neck like this:
I’m always afraid I’m going to say something wrong and make a fool out of myself, and being the center of attention is not my cup of tea.
But I love my job and Boathouse Mouse more than I hate speaking in front of people. So when my son’s fourth grade teacher asked if I’d be willing to come in and talk to them and the fifth graders about being an illustrator, I jumped at the chance!
It was a lot of fun visiting with the kids this morning. I spoke for about 40 minutes (which flew by!) and then there was Q&A time for about 10 – 15 minutes afterwards.
Some things we talked about were:
Who makes up the team that makes the Boathouse books (there are four of us!)
How long it takes to make each book (about 6 months for the whole book, with about 5-10 hours on each page)
How I come up with each illustration idea
How I design each character; we walked through the process of designing Boathouse and learned what ‘anthropomorphic’ means
What supplies I use; they got to see the difference between the watercolor paper they use in school vs. what I use for illustrations, see my special graphite paper, and hear why I use three different mediums for coloring
How the skills they’re gaining in school help with publishing a book (reading, math, public speaking, computer, etc.)
I broke down each step of the process; they were surprised at how much work really goes into a book!
Aaaand they may or may not have gotten to hear an excerpt from Book 2! But oh man, they were not too happy with me when I wouldn’t read any more!
I had to be careful about what pictures I included; I wish I could include some pictures of the kids getting excited about Book 2, but I don’t have permission to include any kiddos in my blog. I do have permission to include the boy’s head in some of these pictures, but it also helps he belongs to me 😉 My eldest was also at the presentation, but she was my photographer extraordinaire (aka she took over 1,200 pictures!).
I had such a great time that when the fourth grade teacher asked if she could tell other teachers about the presentation and see if any of them want me to come talk to their classes, I of course said yes 🙂
Maybe public speaking isn’t so bad after all? Or maybe it’s not so bad because it’s over and I don’t have another engagement lined up at the moment 😉
Do you like public speaking? Give me your best tips for feeling comfortable in front of a group! And let me know if you have any questions about the illustrating/book making process!
Back in November, a woman from my church approached RV and me about buying Boathouse books for a preschool class that she helps to teach. They were going to be doing an author/illustrator unit, and would love to use Boathouse as their featured book. It was exciting to hear that a school was going to be using our book for a project, and we looked forward to seeing pictures of what they did.
About a week ago, Kim called me out of the blue. The school was going to be having an open house/exhibition night, and would I be interested in coming in to see the kids’ projects and hand out the books to the kids in person.
It was so much fun meeting all of the kids, hearing about their favorite parts of the book, and seeing their Wanderer projects.
They made little Boathouse figures, almost like a paper doll. He has his hat, his marlinspike on a cord, his tool box, boat plans, and Wanderer for them all to fit in! It’s even laminated, so the kids can play with them and not worry about them ripping. They even made an extra one for me, which I am going to frame for my office.
They also drew pictures of their favorite parts of the book! Most of them loved the seagull and when Boathouse was on Wanderer.
The kids and parents were all excited about having their own copies of the book; kids have been going home and talking about the book and the projects, and the parents had no reference of what book they were talking about. The principal even came in and bought a couple copies for kids in her life as she was excited about the book as well.
Just seeing how loved this character and book are takes my breath away. I love being part of this project, and seeing others excited gets me all that more excited as well!
However, the overall experience was a little strange. Parents were taking pictures of me talking to their kids and even having me pose with them. Kids were squealing when they met me, and I even had one little boy who kept coming back to talk about the book and was giving me hugs when he had his picture taken with me! I am just not used to that kind of attention!
A huge thank you to Kim and the school for a wonderful night, it was such an honor to be invited!
And stay tuned….Book 2 is close to being finished and will be available soon!
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Boathouse, and I thought I’d but together a FAQ blog post or two answering them:
How do you know RV? How did this come about?
RV is actually the dad of one of my good friends. I’d worked with him on a smaller project before (designing a logo for Mission Navigation), but nothing on this scale. RV is an author and has an awesome fiction series (seriously, you should check them out.) He emailed me late December last year with an idea for a children’s book series about a mouse who builds boats and goes on adventures, and was I interested in working with him as his illustrator. I gave it some thought (about two seconds worth) and said yes!
I’ve had a lot of people ask me how Book 1 is coming along and when the expected release date is going to be now that we’re past our original target of September.
My answer? It’s coming soon!
We’ve run into some bumps in the road:
All of the final drawings took a lot longer than I expected them to. I originally thought they’d take me a week, maybe two. However, each illustration took on average 5 hours of work to complete. Considering there were 19 or 20 illustrations total, that’s about 100 hours of work around having summer vacation ending, kids going back to school, and other obligations I have. I grossly under calculated my time, and it took about 2 weeks longer than I anticipated to finish it all.
I had to learn a new program for doing the book layout…and then get and learn another program. I am not technologically adept by any means. Thankfully, I have a tech guy for a husband, who learned the program quickly, then walked me through exactly what I needed to do for the book. The second program was more designed for books, and gave us the correct format for what we needed for the publisher.
We decided to switch publishers. We now have a publisher that is better for illustrated books, which improves the quality of the book while keeping costs down.
There was a page spacing error in our proofs. When I redid the layout when switching programs, I forgot to put a blank page in causing pages to not line up properly.
The good news is this:
The second proof is being printed right now. We’re hopeful to get the copies later this week or early next week. Once we look those over, which I think is more a formality, we can set a release date.
Book 2 is going to move a long so much faster!!!! I know what I’m doing now, and I’ve been able to go back through my process for Book 1 and cut out a few steps so I should be able to move faster and more efficiently. I’ll also already know the program, and we’ll know what to look for when we do the final edit before sending to the publisher.
I have Book 2 here, and will be starting my initial sketches any day now! I can’t tell you anything more than that, but I’m super excited to work on this book!