Imagine if you will you get the manuscript for a book you’re hired to illustrate and you read a line as innocent as “…marching in formation in a Christmas parade…” Sounds innocent enough. Now think about what’s involved. Well you need a parade. That’s lots of people. You need a crowd. That’s even more people. You need a parade route so that’s going to be streets and buildings. Oh, and you’re going to need floats and giant balloons! Best part, in the end you’ll hardly notice any of it!
One of the things I learned from the first two books was to fully build my scenes in painstaking layers to make sure if at any point we wanted to reuse part of it or the author wanted something changed it wasn’t like I had to redo the entire backdrop.
I started with the shops. I was going to have to do lots of logos and signs. I was going to have to give it depth and a bit of a 3-D effect. I worked first on a rough sketch.
Once I got the buy-in from the author on what I was thinking I got to work on creating all of my false shops. One of the fun things with this is that I can use this opportunity to give subtle credit to real people. So for the restaurant I made made up a name using the Authors name, then the coffee shop next door is named after the boy in the book (it was a play on word Soren, Soarin’) and I used the space logo as the back drop for the coffee shop, then for the bank I named it after the authors husband. At the end of the street I did an office building that is “Aronofsky Creations” offices and next to it is the Thane Hotel which is my husbands middle name. You can also see the same hotel featured in the background for page 10 where Jet is being chased by a girl frog.
Coming down the other side of the street I knew I only needed one shop and that was going to be the giant toy store! For this I came up with the logo a bunch of wooden circles that in my imagination could bob around making it look like the Christmas character was dancing on the world, tying it into the “Toy World” name. I then stacked the windows with toys you’ll later see in the book when Jet is shopping in the toy store!
Then it was building out the roads, sidewalks, street lamps, and the skyline in the distance. Next came the fun part… the balloons. This might have been one of the funnest things I worked on of turning the sea creature from book 2 into both ornaments for the tree and the balloon bobbing through the parade.
Finally it was all about how to dress the marching band and for that I worked on coming up with an idea of how to dress both the nutcrackers in the living room and the marching band in almost identical outfits to tie it all together.
As for the crowd? Well for that and the marketing band I used every person I had caricatured so far to fill up the streets!