Every artist has a process that is unique to their aesthetic and their chosen media. I'm a "traditional" artist, working with real world materials. In my case, that is mostly cut paper, watercolor pencils, and ink. I thought it might be fun to take you guys on a behind-the-scenes tour of the creation of one a recent portfolio piece.
I chose the German fairytale of the cobbler and the elves. You'll remember that it's about a poor shoemaker, desperate and hungry, down to his last pieces of leather. He had just enough to make one more pair of shoes, the sale of which were all that stood between his family and starvation.
Miraculously, elves come in a series of nights, making shoes so magnificent that the cobbler is pulled up out of poverty. In gratitude, the shoemaker and his wife make clothes for the elves, after which the elves leave and are never seen again.
In deciding on the composition, I took a bit of inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock. I remember watching a documentary about Hitchcock's ingenious ways of getting an audience engaged in his movies. One scene in the film stuck with me, one where there is a woman sitting on a bed, talking on the telephone. The way the scene was shot with the view of her inside the scene partly blocked by a doorway.
The director said that he'd always remember how during the test screening, that the audience all lean sideways at that scene, as if to crane their necks around the doorway to better see the woman inside.
Borrowing from that idea, I placed the cobbler on the outside of the frame, peaking in at the elves, taking us the viewers with him.
You'll notice that placement of the orange elf changed from conception to the final piece, leaving more space in the middle for the gutter. (The "gutter" is the middle fold in a book. In a two-page spread, the illustrator needs to be sure nothing of importance is place in that area, as it will be swallowed up by the bend where the pages come together.)
As much as planning as I put into this piece, it still managed to surprise me (in a good way) at the final result, kind of like that cobbler finding the elves hard at work on beautiful shoes.
Thank you for letting me share this with you all. I hope you enjoyed it.
Check back soon for a follow up interview with one of our previous "first looks/first books" authors. She has some cool news to share! Until then...