With layers to create the setting, individual characters, lighting, filters, camera lenses and settings, there is lots of play that goes into getting my images and sometimes interesting surprises.
When I am making personal work, I have a fluid process. I begin an illustration by sketching or creating figures. I then build the layers. For the most part, I use ink on Yupo paper, a plastic paper. It has strength, and no grain. It catches the light quite beautifully too.
Once I have my layers ready, I install them in one of my theatres, like a tiny stage set. My husband has made me several theatres for different purposes, though I usually work in the smallest one. He gave it to me for Christmas in 2009. Below you can see how I play with the composition and lighting during an afternoon working in the theatre. Personal work like this, gives me time to explore ideas and give up some control. I like the element of chance.
When I am working on a book, I work in quite a different way. The first step that publishers need to see are the thumbnails for the cover and the 32 pages of a picture book. These are small sketches that give a general idea of what an illustration will look like. I often do several of these for each page of a book. I like to see how they work together before deciding which to use. In this phase, I'll often work out the general colour palette for the book too.
Then, I go on to the sketches. The art director will have me rework some of the sketches, making sure there is room for text, that there is consistency throughout, a nice balance of perspectives and just a general flow to the book. I like to see where I can give information with the image that might not be in the text. For instance, in the book Red Sky at Night, I wanted to show that the grandfather and his grandchildren caught some fish on their trip, so I included a net and pail in this image.
Once the sketches are approved, I move on to the finals. It generally takes me about 4 months to do this part of a book. It is important that the final illustration be close to the sketch. This is a challenge that I've had to really work at over the years. Since I am dealing with 3 dimensional scenes, I've had to learn a lot about depth, lenses and scale. The nice part about working this way, is that if something isn't quite working, I can adjust it, and rephotograph it. I can also play with the lighting, and find the right atmosphere for a scene.