Like so many people, I’ve had book ideas floating around in my head from a very young age. When I was little, I used to write and illustrate short stories all the time – often featuring my pet mice (yes, I had mice…and gerbils…I couldn’t afford a pony so I had to make do. Don’t judge). Around age 11, I worked on a full-length novel idea, and finally finished it when I was about 14. Of course, that first draft is pretty entertaining to read when I look back on it now, but the idea has stuck. Occasionally, I pick it up again and write a few paragraphs.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve looked into other forms of this idea – including comics and graphic novels – and have come up with a few short story ideas. Last year, I decided to finally pick one story idea and run with it. And, I wanted to make it into a picture book.
Then I got stuck. See, I’m a teensy bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my art/projects/ideas/goals/life/okay-so-I’m-actually-a-ton-perfectionist. I’m always looking to improve and make things better. So, I can’t just draw Crumble and Avery and be fine with it – nope, I need to settle on a particular look and feel that will remain cohesive throughout the story.
Many of you have seen my Crumble art, especially if you follow Because Pony on social media, or if you followed this blog back when it was A Blond, Brunette, and a Redhead. Here’s an example of one of my early cartoons:
Having been a fan of Disney and other animated films for my whole life, I knew I wanted to achieve that same feel – I want people to be able to read my picture book and feel as though they are looking at stills from an animated film. To achieve this, I knew I needed:
- To simplify everything (mostly shading, number of colors)
- To nail down what the features of my characters would look like (namely eyes)
- To find out which brushes and techniques worked best for me in whatever software I’d be using to paint/draw
- Make sure that my “style” (that elusive thing that makes your art your own) still comes through
I spent hours pouring over tutorials online and watching YouTube videos. I stumbled across some incredible artists (like Aaron Blaise, who used to work for Disney…I’m so in love with his art). I started applying the things I was learning.
One of my biggest inspirations comes from browsing DeviantArt. If you aren’t into artsy stuff, you might not have ever known it existed. But to some artists, it’s a whole world of its own. In many ways, it’s like social media for artists. You can create your profile, have a gallery of your work, join groups, sell your art, like/comment on other artists’ work, and be as active or as inactive as you want.
I spent my time on DeviantArt reading through tutorials created by some of my favorite DA artists, as well as just plain staring at their art, trying to determine how they do it (or just drooling and saying to myself, “GAH this is SO BEAUTIFUL”).
Throughout this time, I’ve been painting with Photoshop, an immensely powerful program that, while intended more for photo editing/manipulation, works beautifully as a drawing/painting program, too. During my many hours of droo-ahem, looking with no drool whatsoever at DeviantArt, I had read about a program called Paint Tool SAI, and decided to download a free trial.
As I used it, something started to click.
Things I love about this:
- Simplicity Crisp lines
- So. Close. To. My. Idea.
Things I hate:
- Other people can put eyebrows on their cartoons and make them look awesome. I can’t.
- Just…something about makes me not want to look at it.
Despite not really liking this piece, it taught me more about what I didn’t want, and what my style really is. I pushed through, until I arrived here:
At last! This is something I can work with.
And lest you think that this was a quick process, keep in mind that I’ve been drawing these guys for almost as long as I’ve had them in my life. When I really buckled down, determined to develop them into something personable and recognizable for my book idea, it was a matter of drawing them almost every day for about two months. I have sketches upon sketches in my notebooks, where I jotted down ideas when I was away from my computer. Practice, practice, practice.
Now, I’ve just gotta draw them approximately 1 bajillion more times as I create my book.
That, my friends, is my process for creating these characters.
Oh, but wait – to celebrate this momentous occasion…my new Avery character has his own fun new line of products! That’s right, you can find this little Fitness Corgi in my Redbubble shop now, on phone cases, apparel, and stickers. Go check him out by following the links above (dropdown menu under “Shop” – “Apparel & Misc) or by clicking here.