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WHEN I GROW UP * How the book grew up. *  Artist sketches & commentary.

What struck me first about Julie Chen's story was the tender bond between mother and child. I knew right away that tie would be the underpinning of the story and so  I included mom in every vision of the future.  Look carefully and you'll find her hidden in a cloud, as a satellite hovering nearby in space, or on a packet of seeds.  Thank you, Julie, for this lovely story!

THE WONDERFUL THING ABOUT PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPTS IS THAT THEY DON'T COME WITH INSTRUCTIONS!

I wanted something to visually tie the series of "questions" posed by the little boy. I settled on a sequence of images in which Mom puts her son to bed while he asks her about his future. I hid Mom in every fantasy of his future and midway through the book added a little dog.

 

It's crucial to have a great editor for a picture book and in Paula Wiseman, we had just that!

Creating a bedtime sequence allowed me express the visions of the future as dreams.  Here he's a writer riding on the Sphinx.

THERE NO ONE WAY TO ILLUSTRATE A STORY.  YOU MAKE CHOICES.

One of my first approaches was to have the story take place in a park, the child sees things and events (a bird builds a nest, the architec and  a squirrel climbing a tree, a mountain climber) which provoke the questions he asks his mom about his future. The subsequent bedtime link allowed for a much simpler unfolding of the story.

I start with the roughest of sketches and they're my favorites!  They are meant to capture an idea as quicklyn as possible, they're "place holders" until I refine the drawings,  but they have an immediacy I really like.  There is also beaiuty in inperfection.

The statue of mom evolved into a statue of the dog with the dog directing or admiring from below.

SEEING THE WORLD THROUGH A CHILD'S EYES.

I included Mom and dog in the little boys dreams of the future.  Why?  Because they are his world now! 

IF IT'S NOT WORKING FOR THE STORY, GIVE IT UP.

This gardener scene gave me the most trouble, I don't know why, I had so many variations and finally settled on the one that would be best understood by children.

Pencil drawint.

Pen and ink.

Pen and ink with water color and pan pastel.

WHERE'S THE DOG?

The dog is under the covers, he emerges later.

 

I did so many dragon variations, I think I went to sleep dreaming of them!  

YOU CAN ALWAYS DO BETTER.  IT'S NEVER DONE UNTIL IT GOES TO THE PRINTER.

It takes me a year to illustrate a book, I'm always in the process of improving on it and I don't stop until it goes to the printer.  While I can't be perfect I can do my best.

 

 

By the time the book interior was set, I really had only one idea for the cover.  A few twists, and the concept was there, fresh and clean, very simple and straight forward.  My wonderful designer, Jess Handleman is brilliant with design and put together the final typography.