It’s no secret that I have a hardcore love of children’s books, right? It’s a borderline obsession made less weird by the fact that I have two small children. But, the truth? My love for them would still be pretty freaking mighty with or without kids (check out this free printable of 30 of my favorites).
I also have a strange love of getting glimpses into the processes that go into creating things. It’s one thing to look at and appreciate a final product, but I think you understand it so much better when you get a good look at how it came to be. I thought it would be really fun to take a behind the scenes look at how one illustrator brought her kids book to life.
As a visual storyteller, the first thing I do when I come up with an idea for a book is start sketching characters and world-building elements. When I started writing my first illustrated children’s book The Lion, I knew I wanted a story set in the woods so I drew an idea I had for a “Map of Pine Camp.”
Mapping out the story world helped me visualize the type of adventures my characters would have. My character sketches were somewhat inspired by interesting students and other children I’ve encountered as a teacher and nanny. I wanted my story to focus on a boy who is attached to his lion costume, which he wears everywhere and has become a crucial part of his identity.
Once I have a good idea of the story I want to tell, I start painting. I spent several hours painting each page of the book in watercolor, and traced over details with fine point drawing pens. For this book, I drew each character on a separate sheet of paper in colored pencils, carefully cut out the characters with an X-Acto knife, and glued them directly into the watercolor scenes.
Lastly, I scanned each illustration into my computer where I captioned the scenes with words. Since I rely on my illustrations to tell most of the story, the writing aspect consumes far less time than the visual element.
Pretty stinking cool, right? If you create things for a living, I’d love to share the story of your process! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk!
PS I’ve mentioned that I’m working on my own children’s book. While I’ve written the whole thing, it’s still in the very early stages of coming to life. I would totally appreciate any and all good vibes and the crossing of fingers, toes, and limbs. 😉
Brianna Baker is a 23 year old graduate of George Mason University. Her first children’s book received a positive review from Kirkus Reviews and she hopes to pursue more ambitious projects in the future. Her books are available on Amazon. Contact her for a free reading at your school, bookstore, or family event: email@example.com.