Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fun with Illustrations

If you've met me at an event, or have talked to me personally about any of my books, I usually mention the illustrations. They are an integral part of my books, and I take them very seriously. I write from the heart and my brain sees images, BUT I can't draw to save my life! The person who has done illustrations for my words means the absolute world to me. His name is Greg White, and he does what my hands could never do. He is able to understand me and put my feelings onto the page to mesh with my written words. If you have thumbed through The Life of Bud or A Simpler Time, you know what I mean. My two Muffin books are meant to be whimsical and fun, and Greg made that happen too. He used pictures of Muffin as a pup and then used my husband's favorite clothes (green shirt, jeans, black Converse sneaks) to make this book realistic but FUN. Also, I make a cameo in the first Muffin book, walking down the street with my favorite donut. One thing people do need to know when working with an illustrator, you do need to hand over your work to the illustrator and give them the freedom to draw how they interpret the words (with some guidance from you). It is like letting your child grow up -- you give them input, they start as pencil sketches, slowly develop into beautiful works of art, that can stand on their own, but also represent you!

When Greg and I were collaborating about The Life of Bud, he kept saying that the leaves needed to have faces. I kept saying that they definitely should not have faces. I wanted the leaves to show emotions through color and perspective so the reader would feel what Bud was feeling without facial features to guide them. Secondly, what leaves have FACES?! I told Greg that I had nightmares about leaves having faces, and one face kept popping into my head. I did not want my book to have a cartoon(y) feeling. I love sharing this story with school children. We talk about how weird it would be if the leaves on the trees had faces and were staring at them constantly! Once Greg began drawing, he too realized that the book would come to life better without faces on the leaves -- but he did have to have a little fun first! The first sketch he sent me was the one of my nightmare. Yes, a Spongebob leaf was my nightmare. Children love seeing this sketch and realize how silly a leaf with a face truly would be!

Greg then drew a cute sketch of a leaf with minimal facial features -- which definitely was cute, but just not right for the tone of the book. Greg and I both agreed that a faceless leaf did work best. I'm glad I went with my gut feeling; Greg's leaves with my words did not require faces. Below are two more sketches we discussed during the making of The Life of Bud.

I am teaching now, which doesn't leave much time for writing. I do write in my journal often and I am privy to many ideas from the children I teach each day! Kids say and do things that make me laugh and then I see pictures and words in my head that go with either what they are doing or saying and so I make sure I get those ideas down ... someday they may come to fruition. I am working on a sequel to A Simpler Time, which is, for the most part, finished. I just need to make sure that I go over each word with a fine tooth comb. I hope to send this to the publisher for consideration in June or July of this year. And I can't wait to see what Greg does with that book!


  1. You know how much I love Life of Bud. Such a great story about life, loss, and change.
    Thanks for this post... Your books are sweetly illustrated, and I always want a donut after...weird, huh? :) ~Andi

    1. Thanks Andi! I know The Life of Bud is your favorite!!! And ... I'm glad I always get a Muffin!