A Close Up look at Illustrating a Double Page Spread

I've spent the last 3 weeks developing characters for my MATS Illustrating Children's Books Class. It's been a pretty intense workload doing everything from initial character design to making sure I can draw them over and over again from every angle doing whatever they might happen to need to do in the story.

So much goes into this process, and I haven't even done a whole book yet! (Get ready for a whopper of a blog post.)

But I love it. And this past week we plopped our fully developed characters into the worlds of their stories with full double-page spreads!

I went back and forth a LOT on this assignment--it was so hard to choose just one spread from the text that would capture an art director's attention, show off elements I need to add to my portfolio, and be something I could pull off in a short amount of time. 

Did you know this part of the process involves pages and pages of thumbnails (little tiny rough sketches to sort out the layout of the final piece)? 

It's actually not so different from the custom portraits or other commission pieces I do. The same process applies, and most people don't realize so much goes into the development of the story before the final artwork even begins.

This is just a fraction of the thumbnails I actually did for this spread.

 Here I've roughed out the entire book so I can get a feel of the pacing for the whole book and make sure it's working. I won't be doing all spreads for this book in class, but it seemed a logical step to me so I would know exactly where I was jumping in with any given spread.  

Here I've roughed out the entire book so I can get a feel of the pacing for the whole book and make sure it's working. I won't be doing all spreads for this book in class, but it seemed a logical step to me so I would know exactly where I was jumping in with any given spread.  

 Originally I was going to do Eleanor standing at her window, enjoying the view for the part of the text that explains her dilemma of wanting a pet but living in a tiny 27th floor apartment. Here's a rough version I started after doing pages of thumbnails. At this point I'd already put hours of work into it, but it just didn't feel right, so I moved on. 

Originally I was going to do Eleanor standing at her window, enjoying the view for the part of the text that explains her dilemma of wanting a pet but living in a tiny 27th floor apartment. Here's a rough version I started after doing pages of thumbnails. At this point I'd already put hours of work into it, but it just didn't feel right, so I moved on. 

Then at some point I switched to showing her in her teeny tiny apartment, sad because she none of the animals she had tried turned out to be good fits. That went through several iterations as well, but I finally settled on a spread with four vignettes and a half bleed (illustration that covers one page).

This was my scratch page for designing the whole spread layout, plus the individual scenes in the four vignettes on the left page.

I knew I wanted to mix my usual graphite linework with more gouache. I planned out each scene carefully, and hand painted the backgrounds and some elements. Below you can see each vignette at various stages (minus linework!):

The Chair Flop:

 Thumbnail sketch

Thumbnail sketch

painted wallpaper

Chair scene plan and painted background

The Final Vignette illustration

 

Sad Bathtime:

 Thumbnail Sketch

Thumbnail Sketch

Painted bathroom close up

Plan and painted background for the bathroom

The final vignette illustration

 

All Tucked In:

 Thumbnail sketch

Thumbnail sketch

Plan and painted background

The final vignette illustration

 

At the Window:

 Thumbnail sketch

Thumbnail sketch

Plan and painted background.

The final vignette illustration

 

The View from the Zoo (half bleed):

 Thumbnail sketch

Thumbnail sketch

Painted elements and background

 Painted elements.

Painted elements.

The final half bleed illustration

Whew! You're still with me? Virtual high fives to you, friend!

Next comes the final spread, all put together:

The spread I turned in for the assignment.

 

But wait! There's more! (I know, can you believe it?)

My spread got featured in the review this week, which means I got actual personal feedback on it from art agent Lilla Rogers and art director Zoe Tucker! I was so excited, folks, I could hardly even listen to what they were saying! A few re-watches later I managed to absorb that although they loved the feel of the piece, and thought it was good storytelling, they thought my vignettes were a bit crowded and could use some more room. They loved the piece with Eleanor at the window and wanted that to fill a half bleed all on its own, so...

Some edits later, and I finally present to you the actual final spread!

Can you believe how much goes into this? If you're all the way down here I applaud you and hope you'll remember this for the next time you commission art from someone. It's a labor of love... ...and skill and practice and edits and hard work and crumpled paper and tons of pencil sharpening and paint mixing and redrawing and scanning and squinting at the screen and it's the best thing ever, but it really takes a lot!

But gosh, I love it. I'm so glad I'm taking this class.

The edited final spread