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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Hinde

What's happening in the studio

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Well, time is ticking along and not much progress has been made on my own children's picture book titles, so I've decided to blog about my process as a way to keep me on target with my deadline. I'll share with you what I do once I receive a manuscript and how I turn those initial thoughts when reading through the picture book manuscript for the first time, into a full colour, with surround sound (well maybe not quite that) book that will (hopefully) delight children and parents alike. And with multiple readings picture books do need to become an adult's favourite as well as a child's.

Thumbnails The first step I take with working on a book is to quickly sketch out my initial response to the manuscript using 'thumbnail' sketches. Thumbnails are something I've done for a long time even before I started illustrating picture books. We used them to work out layouts for adverts and other marketing material when I worked as a designer many years ago. Nowadays of course 'thumbnails' are no longer exclusive to design or illustration - when you search a title on Amazon and it comes up with those little pics of covers - yep you got it, those are 'thumbnails'.

I do all my roughs in a sketch book, or on bits of paper or whatever is to hand at the time. These 'hairy' sketches are purely my reaction to what I'm reading. I'm not wanting any detail at this stage - what I'm after is the positioning of the major characters and how the story flows from page to page. Where I can slow the story down by having static characters or characters looking to the left. And where the text will sit. My partner often looks at these sketches and says "It might as well be code!" and he's right of course, but for me the marks are like shorthand. I know that oval squiggle there is a mouse, and those rough lines are text. One of the important things about thumbnails is they give me a world view of the entire book - whereas if I work roughing up one page spread at a time I'm unable to see the overall effect at a glance.

The story I'm currently working on is a 32 page book about Hodge a hedgehog, and his two friends Maddie, a mouse and Basil, a rabbit. The storyline will be revealed as we go along - I can't give too much away at the moment although I've already had some help from my Facebook fans around one or two of the characters, but more on that later.

Here's an image of my initial thumbnails.

You can see that one of the 'spreads' has been crossed out as I wasn't happy with what I was coming up with. This may change as I rework the thumbnails before going to larger roughs, which I do on the computer. I also note down ideas about what I'd like to see in the images, for example in the fourth thumbnail I've noted 'matchbox drawers' and 'doily mat'. And at the moment I'm thinking the timeframe for the story could be from night with a moon on the title and imprint/2nd title page and winding through the day to late afternoon at the end of the story. The cover design may impact on that idea - so we shall see.

Detail has always been important to me. Kids notice a lot of things that parents sometimes miss and I've always liked the idea of a story going on within the main story. Perhaps some of the 'extras' could be doing something... not sure yet.

Okay so that's enough on thumbnails. Next month I'll be taking you through my process of character development and the start of storyboarding. Don't forget to comment or ask questions.

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