In the third semester, we had to come up with our own brief — I decided I wanted to work more on animal character development and improve my watercolour skills. I made a picture book about a little bunny who organises a big sports day.
Lots of colour tests…
This test was just to check that my palette was harmonious — I wanted to simplify things by only using three colours. But actually I liked the bunnies and they ended up on my endpapers. It’s always a surprise what you get out of experimenting.
Here are the first two pages of final artwork.
And a close-up vignette of my bunny doing some planning.
Various stages of development.
And something silly from the sketchbook — I had a lot of fun trying to come up with sports that rabbits might enjoy.
This was a tricky project to do, because in September I got a job as an administrator in an infants school. It’s a great job and I really enjoy it — but there was so much to learn at first, I got overwhelmed by trying to do too much. For my project, I just had some observational sketches of rabbits, lots of ideas of things for them to do, and a clunky sequence that didn’t tell much of a story. It wasn’t turning into anything coherent. I’d really needed a job for a-g-e-s and then one came along — it would seem to be perfect, and you’d think it would contribute in a positive way to studying children’s book illustration. But in effect it meant I was trying to learn how to do two jobs at the same time, both brand new to me and needing quite different skills. (And I’d just started learning to drive!) It was all a bit much.
Then I got the flu and couldn’t go in to uni one week, so I spent that whole day sitting at home creating a fresh storyboard, and the next few evenings rapidly putting together a revised dummy book. The next week was our final class of the semester and we had to present our work to everyone. It was so good to be able to show everyone a picture book that worked, even though it was just scruffy pencil roughs, especially as it was such a leap forward from the last time I’d been in.
I think the story needs some tweaks, it doesn’t have enough surprises. On the whole, the places where there are issues are the places where text and image aren’t cooperating well enough. But that’s to be expected from a rushed job — I’m relieved I got anything together, it’s a bit much to hope for it to be perfect the first time. Yet I think I’m more confident with my story-writing than I was before, and I’ve figured out what I’ve got to work on.
I think the main thing I learned was not to panic and have a bit of faith in myself. Not to think, “I’ve got no time left and this is a disaster,” but to think, “Right, I have a limited amount of time left and let’s see what I can do if I focus.”
The university extended my deadline by a fortnight and I managed to do everything else — colour artwork, printing and presentation, an essay — in that time, so it just goes to show what you can achieve if you put your mind to it. Which also happens to be the message of my book!