We sat down with Alice to chat all about frogs - or rather chat about her latest picture book, This Rock Is Mine!published with Alison Green Books.
Hello! I just wanted to talk about what it was like working on This Rock Is Mine! by Kaye Unmanksy.
I cannot tell you how excited I was when I was asked to sample for the project. Reading the text made me laugh so much and I immediately had visual ideas in my head for how I wanted the book to look and how I wanted the characters to act. So it was a done deal (in my head anyway). I HAD to win this project. Not to mention I’d be working with the fabulous Alison Green and the incredible Zoe Tucker!
So I got drawing. Oh. I got drawing. A lot. Too much? Probably… but 137 frogs, a few coloured versions of my favourite character designs, and a sample of a book cover idea later, I GOT THE JOB! YES BUDDY! Let the work begin!
Just some of the frogs...
Early cover concepts
First stop: getting the characters down. I have found that sometimes you have to ask some weird questions when working in children's publishing. And “should the frogs be naked?” was one of them. In the end, we decided that a frog wearing a scarf but nothing on their bottom half might be a bit weird, so clothes it was! It was so much fun creating their unique personalities, right down to the lily pads on their swim shorts.
Next step, roughing out the book! There is a lot of problem solving that goes into making a book. So I often do super quick thumbnails as they can be a great way of figuring out what layout and composition work best before drawing them out as a proper rough.
Below you can see the same image, but with different layouts, so I could figure out what would give the most dynamic impact and suspense before the following page turn. In the end we did non of these. But we did do a zoomed out view so we could see the full body of the heron. (I think it was so kids would have a better idea of what the shadow was.)
Then, once the decision had been made, I did a more detailed rough that I could use as reference for the final art. As you can see it’s still pretty rough, but at least I knew where to put the deckchair!
Once approved, I worked up a digital colour rough, just to make sure the hues, saturations and values of the image were all working. (Bet you’re thinking that deck chair is looking preeeetty good now yeah?).
Finally it's time to start the final art! I got my watercolours out and I coloured in that deckchair. I also consumed an entire packet of biscuits, listened to the entirety of Circe in audio-book form whilst eye balling some paper and I probably forgot to blink for 2 days too. Pretty sure illustration is why I wear glasses…
Anyway! The process for This Rock is Mine! was a bit different from my previous projects. For a start, this book didn’t have a dog in it. But also, usually I do all of the artwork by hand on one bit of paper, and then scan it in and edit bits on photoshop.
But this time, I did all of the line work and watercolour texture separately. This allowed me to re-draw sections over and over until I got the line work that I liked the look of, without feeling the pressure of making mistakes.
As you can see here, I drew the heron’s eyes and hair three times. I then used photoshop to stick it all together and then do some digital tidying up and colouring. And as you can also see, the heron ended up with one eye, not three. Thank goodness. Those frogs have enough on their plate without looking at a heron from Mars.
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the process behind This Rock Is Mine! as much as I enjoyed illustrating it. And if you ever find your self being attacked by a heron, just remember to take your deckchair with you. Because it took me ages to draw it! Bye!