Laughter is the best medicine.
Just ask Penelope.
She dressed Snowie in a tutu…poor doggie.
And found the result hilarious–in a tears draining from eyes, giggle-fit kind of way.
Our hope today…that you would see the world through the eyes of a child and find happiness and laughter in your day.
Penelope peered at her friends through the crackling flames with a mischievous grin. “Once upon a time,” she lowered her voice, “there was a dark, dark forest.”
Gripping the hands of her chair, Eloise’s eyes widened with fear and anticipation.
“And inside the forest,” Penelope spread her arms wide, “there was a dark…,” she paused for effect, “dark tree.”
Above their heads, a large maple swayed, its limbs black next to the starlit sky.
“You can’t scare me!” scoffed Junjie.
She leaned closer. “And in the tree, was a dark,” she lingered on the word, “dark nest.”
“Ohh!” Eloise covered her mouth with a trembling hand.
Overhead, a branch creaked.
Junjie’s eyes shot toward the sound. “Nothing but a bird, I bet.”
“And in that nest,” Penelope’s words barely rose above a whisper, “there was a dark, dark….” Her body tensed.
Eloise and Junjie hung on her every word.
The pounding waves filled their silence.
Junjie almost fell out of his chair.
Penelope giggled. “Gotcha!”
Their laughter carried across their campsite.
“My turn,” said Eloise.
“Once upon a time….”
I never know when I’m going to get an idea that I need to remember … which is why I like to take my sketchbook everywhere I go.
Sometimes, however, I forget to bring it along. That’s when it’s time to get creative. Thankfully, most places will have something to write on, even if it is just a serviette.
Just a little while ago, I was out for lunch with some friends. If you’ve ever been to Montana’s, then you know how it is: a whole table covered in fresh kraft paper to doodle on!
So here is a little idea brought to life with a purple crayon on the table covering at a Montana’s somewhere in southern Ontario.
It’s not perfect, but it’s the start of something cute …
Junjie, as one of Penelope and Eloise’ close friends, will end up in many stories and pictures in our books.
Before drawing scenes to illustrate our book, I like to spend time getting to know the characters. I’ve done that with Penelope and Eloise so far, and now I’m doing that with Junjie.
I do this by drawing him (all of them, in fact) in as many positions, activities, and scenarios as I can imagine.
It’s a lot of fun to do, and it helps me build a history and rich personality for each character (besides the one that they were each created to have).
Below is an example from my sketchbook of some exploratory drawings of Junjie. As I draw, I become familiar with how he stands, sits, and moves … which allows me to focus more on the imaginative settings in the story .
Getting something right, often means a lot of repetition and practice!
Penelope is blonde and wears a lot of pink. Eloise has curly black hair and mostly wears green. What colours would Junjie have?
I think, there will be a variety of colours with Junjie. He will often be pictured with his trusty magnifying glass in the future … and his is a truly scientific mind. I think his colours will tend to change with his goals and pursuits :).
As for his eyes, I thought hazel would be nice …
The third of our irrepressible little trio is a boy, named Junjie.
Yesterday, I began to work out what he might look like, and how he and the girls might relate.
This is a first sketch … and I like it so far.
Pictured below are two stages of a drawing; first, the blue pencil drawing (it’s an erasable animation pencil), and second, the drawing after I’ve scanned and altered it on the computer so that it is an outline only, ready for colour to be painted on in a layer below the drawing.
I haven’t quite decided on his colours yet …
Now that Eloise is designed, it’s time to see what the dynamics of her friendship with Penelope will look like.
The writing will determine most of that of course, but there are subtleties in body language and activity that will speak volumes. Although it is time to begin serious work on the illustrations for the book, it will always be important to explore these characters more fully. They are as deep and as complex as you and I.
What I most like to keep, in any drawing, is a feeling of energy, or life. Sometimes that quality lies in the line work, other times in the colour, and yet other times, in the texture. Sometimes, it is found in all three. Each drawing needs to satisfy the eyes and the soul in some way.
Penelope and Eloise have been best friends for as long as they can remember …
which is FOREVER!
They share the same sense of bold adventure, curiosity, and mischief.
Eloise, like Penelope, wears a tutu and has a big bow in her hair. But Eloise is also a princess warrior! She carries her bow and arrows around with her wherever she can, because you never know when you might need them….
In order to draw scenes for our book, “Penelope Bloom AND THE NASTY, GHASTLY, DREADFUL SMELL”, I’ve had to envision Penelope in a variety of different settings.
Gradually imagining these places is much more fun than creating them all in a hurry. As such, I’ve spent the past few weeks dreaming up her environment. I am excited to delve into this process further as I create all sorts of places for Penelope and her friends to explore.
This scene is inspired by the many antics of one of my favorite comic strip characters, Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.
I’d decided Penelope’s basic proportions. Now it was time to try her out in various positions, activities, and moods.
In the sketchbook drawing below, I tested my basic concept of Penelope to see if her proportions would work sitting down, crossing her arms, and jumping in the air. I wanted to be able to exaggerate her proportions on a case by case basis (foreshortened and detailed feet with toes … bigger shoulders for a hunched up look when crossing arms) and was pleased with the result.
Next, Janna and I decided upon a hairstyle to match her character. Wild, carefree, stubborn, and loveable…her hair became an expressive part of her design. I wanted it to look generally the same, but be able to use it to indicate her mood and tell a story.
This drawing of Penelope is much closer to the final design, only her hair would be simplified over the next little bit.
This is also the first drawing of Penelope with her bunny and puppy (Snowflake).
But I still had questions. How would she look in her different environments. What would her house look like? How tall should she be in comparison to its front steps? How should I design her bedroom?
And what about the rest of her family? How should the rest of the Bloom family appear?
Every little girl imagines.
Every little girl is a princess in many wonderful, custom-made realities of her own.
It doesn’t really matter where she finds herself: she can enter those places from her backyard, the attic above the garage, her bedroom; even the classroom she’s supposed to be paying attention in …
Penelope has many such wonderful places. The forest near her house is one of them. When she and her bunny (and puppy of course) set out, there’s no telling what sorts of adventures will befall.
And anyways, it’s always a good day to do something exciting with your friends!!!
After brainstorming for a while, it was time to make some decisions. If our Penelope was to come alive, she would be a person with characteristics that did not change. No matter what she did – jumping, sitting, yawning, or climbing – her little self would always keep the same basic proportions and characteristics.
Below, is one page of charts from my sketchbook where I began to work those details out.
The drawings are rough and unfinished … but Penelope is starting to take shape 🙂
Somewhere in the middle of August, my sister approached me with an idea. She had written a charming children’s book about a little girl named Penelope. What she needed, was a visual world … and an illustrator to make that happen. A sister team. That sounded good … and then it was time to begin. But how?
Sometimes, the only way to start, is to just put the pencil to the paper, and go. That is what I did … and this is the first set of sketches to result. Penelope was to be quite young, an innocent rascal, creative, and impulsive. She has a big heart, big ideas, and very big plans.
A more orderly approach to character design would follow, but for now, it was simply about starting. I admit. I was curious to see who would emerge out of the scribbles … 🙂