The Making of I've Loved You Since Forever
How do you go about illustrating a children's book? It's a big, open question - each process is as different as the artists themselves! This is how the book 'I've Loved You Since Forever', by Hoda Kotb, came into being, through the process of creating one of the spreads.
First things first is the text! The publishers sent over Hoda's words, plus their ideas for what the spread might have in it, along with the specifications of the size of each page. Then it's time to read, re-read and read it again, to get the flow and feel for the book. To me this is particularly important when the book is a passion project like this - Hoda wrote it as a love story to her amazing adopted baby daughter, and I wanted to make sure I brought her words to life. Being in England, I hadn't ever seen the Today Show that Hoda presents, and didn't know much about her or her daughter, so I took the opportunity to watch the videos made for the show about her adoption, and little Haley Joy. Watching those and then reading the words she wrote for her daughter made me cry!
To get ideas I looked up hundreds of images of owls using pinterest, google - you name it, I searched it! After a while I had pinned down several ideas that I liked. The concept for the book was to explore the love of a parent and baby on each animal page, so the main options I decided on were 'cosy' - parent and baby owl snuggled up, or 'action' - getting to see parent owl's majestic wings next to their small, sweet baby. I drew two different versions of each idea along with a little scribbled note about what was happening in it. If you can read my handwriting you are doing better than most! ;)
Depending on the book, I'll either draw my sketches digitally or in pencil on a good old sheet of A4 paper. At this stage it's nothing fancy - just some general shapes to give the idea of the layout (what is going where) and values (which sections will be light and which will be dark). When planning spreads you have to be careful to avoid putting the owls into the gutter (the central crease of the book) and losing them!
Because this book had a shorter deadline than some, I wanted to give the art director an idea of what I was planning for this page up front. So, along with the thumbnail sketches, I also sent them a very quick colour sketch. I picked one of the sketches and threw some colours and lighting into it so that they could quickly guage my plans. This shows the coloured version of thumbnail 4, one of the 'cosy' poses.
The thumbnail that Hoda and the team chose was number 1, as they liked the giant moon and the snuggled owls. From the intial colour sketch to the final I changed the colours of both the trees and the owls to be warmer and cosier. I also wanted to make sure that the spread's colour palette didn't look too visually similar to any of the other pages, and since several incorporated water this was a nice way to move away from that.
I make my artwork digitally in Photoshop and use lots of different layers and texture 'brushes' to get the effects. The moon's mottled texture was made using several watercolour 'stamps' which, when placed one on top of the other, build up to give an interesting random effect.
There were very few changes between the artwork I drew first time around and what was approved by the publishers. Here is the artwork as it appears in the book! Colours always print slightly differently to how they look on the screen of a drawing tablet, and I like how the textures really pop in the printed version.
I hope you found this little foray into the artwork of Hoda's wonderful story interesting! If you're interested in getting a copy of the book for yourself, you can buy it through the publisher here, or why not see if your local bookshop is stocking it? Thanks for checking it out, and I hope you enjoy :)