I'm always working on a million different things behind the scenes so it's always exciting when one of the projects I've worked hard on finally comes to fruition. The latest completed venture is my first ever children's book: A Good Night for Mr. Coleman, which I illustrated in Fall 2018 (which was a crazy fast turnaround time). I shared bits and pieces on my instagram story back when I was working, but thought I'd share more here for those who missed it.
How the opportunity came about
After years of working out of small one bedroom apartments, I decided to start renting a nearby office/studio space (read more about that here). One year later, another room opened up in the building and a writer (Kathy Izard) moved in one door down. Kathy (pictured far left above) was in the process of turning her memoir The Hundred Story Home into a children's book and wanted to know if I was interested in illustrating. OBVIOUSLY! First of all, I'm always interested in new challenges so I jumped at the chance to try out the world of book illustration. It's one of those things I always knew I wanted to try at some point in my career. It was also at the forefront of my mind because I had just finished creating this book of rocky (a fun gift for my sisters that I completed just before he passed away). Second of all, I have always loved inventing imaginary worlds. When I was younger, I would spend hours typing stories on my Grandmother's typewriter and drawing corresponding artwork for them. I love developing characters and bringing them to life with words and colors. I think this comes across in a lot of what I do---see the #rockyhenson hashtag for an example of the world I've created for him.
What the process looked like
I of course didn't know where to begin for this, but I just thought about what made sense for me and my typical workflow. I split the project into three parts: character illustrations, sketches, and the final pages. I wanted to begin by doing a few different character sketches to make sure Kathy liked what the three main characters all looked like. I wanted to get the details right before fully diving into the project. Once I got the characters down and in line with Kathy's vision, I started sketching out each page (some shown above). Kathy provided really insightful notes and ideas for each page that gave me plenty of direction. We worked together to edit the sketches before I moved on to the final color versions. From there, I measured out each page to the correct dimensions before sketching and painting each one. My goal was to do one full page spread per day (I think each one took me about 1/2 a day, some more depending on the detail). The last part I did was the cover and the two patterns for the inside cover pages. I then passed off the art to Kathy and the publisher Helen (pictured far right above) who had it scanned and turned into a book.
What the book is about
A Good Night for Mr. Coleman is a story about believing in yourself and something bigger. This children's book is based on the true story of Eugene Coleman who was homeless for over twenty years in Charlotte, NC and a young girl, Grace, determined to help him. Suitable for all ages, this compelling, heart-warming book is meant to encourage kids to dream big and Do Good.
Thanks so much for your support and interest in this new venture! If you live in CLT, we're having a launch party Friday February 8th and I'd love for you to drop by. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you'd like to learn more about the true story behind the book, visit the author Kathy Izard's website here.