My book Twelve Dancing Princesses is out this week, officially, in the world, for you to buy, and love and cherish!
So I thought I'd go back in time to when the book wasn't finished, to when it was barely just started, because it didn't just materialize out of thin air and Photoshop. Like most big projects, it developed in phases and rather slowly. There was lots of sketching and doodling and revising and things that didn't really look like anything that I'm surprised my editor could even understand!
Let's start at the beginning, when I chose what era I ought to place this far away kingdom in. I did NOT want to just do whatever-fantasy-far-far-away-princess-royalty-mashup. I love fashion history, and costumes, so I had to be specific. I liked the idea of doing an 18th century Mary Antoinette fanciful French style, but that has been done, and very beautifully, and one of my own favorite illustrators Kay Nielson, and I can't front Kay. I chose the 1830's-40's, because the kings were dapper, the ladies had big fantastic hoop dresses, and the shoes were appropriately similar to ballet slippers!
I love how GIANT the dresses in that era were! Can you imagine wearing something that big? Everyday? Fitting through doorways in it? Going to the bathroom in it??
I did a few very rough and tumble character designs, for proportion and stuff. All twelve princesses are basically the same princess with different hair and dresses. To design and re-draw and remember all the puny details of twelve separate princesses sounded very not fun to me. It was challenging enough just fitting all twelve into each composition!
Since the story was already written and given the a-okay by my editor, I moved along to thumbnail sketches. They are very rough, and very small: I drew them on 1"x1.5" post-it notes. I did that so that I could doodle a composition and then if I didn't care for it immediately peel it away and draw another one. I went through an enormous stack of tiny post-it's in such a way. The compositions changed very little from what you see here.
This is the whole book in post-its!
I did all the final illustrations in Photoshop. I had to BUY Photoshop, because I had previously had only bootlegged versions of it (from being a student and to be fair, no student can afford that schnazz), and it kept crashing and asking me for serial numbers, and finally just wouldn't open at all. SOOOO expensive, but worth it in the end for a version that actually WORKS. It was a serious crisis for me for about 3 days, back when I was just beginning to work on the final art.
Yes there's like 100 layers, and they are all labeled appropriately. Virgo style.
What I take away from making this book is basically this: I really love making books. I'm beginning work on a new one...but that's for later!