If you've been following my posts on social media, you'll know I've got an exciting event coming up early next year. My first picture book, Marjorie Magic will be published by Dixi Books. One thing that made this experience so different from publishing adult fiction, was the fabulous opportunity to work with an illustrator.
For my manuscript the publisher selected Anushka Shenoy as the illustrator to bring my story and characters to life. I couldn't be more pleased with the process and can't wait to share the end product with you!
For now, I have the opportunity of introducing you to Anushka. I recently had the chance to ask her several questions about books, her craft, and the process of making Marjorie Magic. Please check out her responses below:
1. Hello Anushka! Could you share with us one of your favourite picture books growing up? What do you remember most about it?
The one picture book that I vividly remember is a small board book titled ‘Patch the Puppy.’ It was about a little puppy that dreamed of being a sheep dog like his uncle. It is quite memorable because I was so obsessed with that one little book, that I had memorised the whole story and used to narrate it to everyone of my family. I still can remember the first few lines like the back of my hand.
My mother had brought a whole collection of different picture books growing up which ranged from the ‘Bubbles’ series to Lion King to Indian mythological comics. I think that started out my love of reading books.
2. What techniques or medium do you enjoy working with the most?
Currently, I am a big fan of my IPad and the procreate app. It is the most versatile medium that can work for oil, watercolour, gouache and many more. My style mostly is working with crayon, and chalk brushes along with gouache. I love exploring and adding textures and layers to my artwork. Especially adding little textures like the blush red to characters cheeks and nose, simple but detailed hair textures. I like to use simple strokes and shapes to colour my art and not make it very realistic, hence giving it a unique and fun style.
3. What was your process for creating the illustrations for Marjorie Magic?
It was a very immersive process with both the Publisher, author and the illustrator working together giving inputs and bettering the product. I started out with reading through the whole story, imagining the character, where she lives? what kind of environment is it? What would she look like? How can I make her unique by adding some distinct characteristic to her outfit/hair/look? Here, it was the huge glasses for Marjorie, the chubby, cute cheeks for Mason, and the bell for Clara. Joy and Ayse’s inputs on making the character unique was very useful. I sketched out various different options for the Marjorie, with different looks and unique additions before finalizing on one.
Then came creating the environment, and how the story would flow in all the 32 pages. The storyboard went through a lot of changes, and different ways in which the words can be pictured on the page through images. Rough, preliminary sketches focusing on the story flow, rather than too much details was important in the first stage. After which feedback and back and forth resulted in a refined storyboard. The colour palette of each character as well as the book as a whole was very important to show that its a magical, fantasy kind of story.
Here is what the storyboard looked like for the first few pages of Marjorie Magic.
The colour palette of each character as well as the book as a whole was very important to show that its a magical, fantasy kind of story. Using vibrant hues of pinks, purples and teals I tried to make the palette Magical and exciting along with the addition of light and sparkle. The colour palette, characters and storyboard being the most important aspect of the process, made it quite smooth to move on to colouring and refining each individual image. We wanted the text and the illustrations to co-exist beautifully on the page by playing with the text highlighting, and giving the text some kind of flow and bounce in some pages.
Creating the magic book to make it feel old, and exciting with its serif typography and small drawings was really exciting. We wanted the reader to feel like they had actually opened the magic book and would be excited to turn the page and know what is going to happen next. Adding and depicting each emotion that Marjorie was going through in her facial expression was very important in order to depict the story correctly. Adding small checkboxes to each ingredients of the recipe while Marjorie is collecting each of them is a fun way for the kid to follow along as well. Overall it was fun to create this magical world that Marjorie is living in.
4. When did you know that you wanted to create illustrations as a career? What led you down this path?
When I was in design school, and even before that, I really liked drawing and sketching and I would try to emulate different designers style in order to develop my own. I came to know about illustration in design school. I worked on children’s books as part of my degree project for my final year, and really enjoyed the process of it, and aspired to get to illustrate for Children’s publishers. I also received the ‘Best Illustration’ award for those books in my final year. I have only worked on a few full picture book projects till now, but am looking forward to more such projects with amazing authors and publishers. I’m looking forward to working on more diverse, inclusive and fun children’s books in my career.
5. What advice do you have for emerging artists/illustrators of children's books?
I am also an emerging illustrator hoping to get to work on way more projects in future, but the advice I would give is to keep practising and drawing all the time, take the time to put your resume and work out there, send those emails to publishers, and you will get noticed and get to work on more projects.
To learn more about the fabulously talented Anushka Shenoy, please check out her instagram page, and if you are interested in preordering your own copy of Marjorie Magic, you can do so here.
Read how I answered these same questions in my interview over on the Picture Books, Eh? website.
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