Hidden City

I mentioned recently that I had been wrapping up illustrations for a children's book which I have been working on most of this past year. This project has been a labor of love and one of my favorite projects to date. It is published by Eerdman's Books for Young Readers and the title is Hidden City. A release date is yet to be determined as the book is being finalized.

This is the first in a series of sneak peeks and posts about the process I used in illustrating this book leading up to it's release. Eerdman's is a dream publishing house to work with. At every turn they are so supportive to the illustrator's process and have come back with thoughtful and intelligent feedback. It has been a true creative collaboration. The book is a collection of image rich poems written by Sarah Tuttle about nature hidden in urban environments. To tell you this has been fun to illustrate would be an understatement!

Here are a couple of sketches and my progress to full color. I am just showing cropped illustrations, not the full page illustrations yet.

This first illustration is for a poem about bats hunting moths at night under a streetlamp. Here are two of my pencil sketches that I scanned into my computer.

In the past I would not have described myself as a big sketcher. I would typically dive into the color illustrations and work things out intuitively as I proceeded. With this book I sketched a lot and tried out different ideas, layouts, characters, etc. Once I had things worked out in pencil, I stuck fairly close to my sketches for the color work. I wanted to focus on character, story, and atmosphere in each spread. I like to pose a question at the beginning of each book project that gets to the heart of what I am trying to say. For this book, I asked myself.... "Do you want to live in this illustration?" And of course, if the answer was no, it was back to the drawing board, literally. 

I also spent a lot of time collecting...references, materials, papers, textures. I made a folder for each poem. I kept a notebook with all of my ideas regarding colors, textures, and perspectives that would best illustrate the feelings that each poem evoked. I tried to tap into our shared childlike curiosity,enthusiasm, and wonder when we are surrounded by natural beauty, especially in unexpected places such as an urban setting.

Another poem is about a mother raccoon teaching its young to hunt. This wound up being one of my favorite illustrations in the book. The process of drawing it was so much fun and the end results surpassed my expectation of what it would look like.

Here are a couple of little fellas in pencil and full color.

We wound up changing the scene from a city park to a back alley behind a restaurant. It worked out so much better than the original vision I had which I was pretty attached to. There is a lot to be said about letting go and staying open to changes even if you have already put a lot of effort and time in. I have learned to check my gut and be honest about whether something is working or not. Your gut instincts about your artwork never lie.

Stay tuned for more posts about Hidden City as we get closer to a release date.

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