Hootie the Cutie - How I made this book - part 1
Hootie the Cutie, written by Michelle Worthington and published by New Frontier Publishing in 2014, was my first published book. I was so excited when I was contacted by Sophia from New Frontier... I didn't know how to respond! "Do I have time in my schedule?" was a question asked of me. Schedule? I didn't even have one! It was like suddenly by this small email I was invited over the wondrous wall that many aspiring Authors and Illustrators dream of crossing over into the 'garden-of-those-who-are-published'. And with this small email that monstrous wall - mysteriously thick, tenaciously unsurmountable and inconceivably impenetrable (it may seem to many aspiring people) - was suddenly a thin small line, that I had just realised I had now crossed. I'll never forget that day.
So... why am I writing this? Well... I'm writing this for those who feel that wall is far more than a thin small line. I'm writing it for the little kids (and big kids) who dream of one day being an author or illustrator or artist. I'm doing it because people think what I do is magical.... and whilst I'm so grateful for their comments.... I want to reach out and say 'do you want to do this too?' and if they say 'yes'... I want to be able to help them and show them that it's not magic... it's just a whole stack of little steps in a long wonderful journey.
So... why am I doing this now? I've been holding off on this for a long time because I was scared of failing and making a mess of it. I was too busy. I was scared of being preachy. There are so many others that are far better than me. I've been justifying not starting this until recently - a boy at kindergarten loved our book, Marvellous Mummy, so much that he made a medal for my wife and I, the teacher-librarian at school made a big display of the behind the scenes process for Marvellous Mummy, a friend shared some fan-art of Hootie the Cutie and the artist wants to see how I made it, and my children are glowing with enthusiasm as I share my artistic tools and process with them. Time to take another little step Mr Poli :-)
Enough talk... it's go time.
There is so much to share and I won't have time or space to do it in this one post... but I'll start and continue Hootie the Cutie over a number of posts. I can't wait to share some behind the scenes for Young MacDonald (my Author Illustrator debut) - I'll start that soon too.
Hootie the Cutie was my first published book. I was scared of making a mess of it. I remember thinking to myself that this was going to be my business card... my portfolio. I also remember that I wanted to create an experience. I wanted readers to be pulled into this wonderful magical forest. I had two main things to figure out.... 1) design of the world and 2) design of the book.
Here are some super early sketches trying to answer the first topic - design of the world. Art is about decisions and answers. I didn't have any answers in the beginning except for a few key things.... I wanted this to be a win for me as an artist and a win for the reader and a win for the publisher. I wasn't going to aim for a compromise. I needed to grow as an artist and storyteller and I had to make sure that what I created was also wonderful for the readers. So... I was going to aim for images that I desperately wanted to make even if I didn't know how I was going to do it. As I said before... Art is about decisions and answers... you just need to find the questions. So here's my process and my questions...
Question - How do I start? Draw something.
Question - What should I use? You're going to make lots of mistakes. I drew most of these on the back of used paper with a HB pencil. My goal was to just create as many answers as I could.
Question - What do the characters look like? I made a few sketches and this one was very early and became a reference for me. You can see hootie as the smallest blob next to Papa Owl (under the bear's nose)
Question - What does Hootie look like? An early design. I was trying to answer scale. How do you make something look small? Put it next to something small... eg: lady beetles and a leaf. I liked the pose of this design but it didn't feel fluffy enough.
Question - What does Hootie look like when she meets the Dragon? I wanted the Dragon to feel scared and lonely. I had this triangular face design that I then changed to the softer design.
Question - What does Hootie and her father look like? Here are some early designs. These were based on an artwork I had made previously which the publisher really liked. I liked the designs. Hootie still felt too slick.
Question - So if those are the designs, what do they look like in a pose? Here's Papa Owl trying to keep Hootie from something.
Answers lead to more questions and so at this stage I was still feeling anxious. I really needed to answer... 'Why don't I completely like my designs for Hootie?' and 'What is the experience of this book?'. I'll share my answers in another blog post... because I've run out of time for this one.
Thanks for reading. I hope you have found something in this. I'm really keen to share more. If you have any questions or requests let me know via the comments.
Cheers and chat soon,