I recently received the 8th completed art page, marking the halfway point of the story. I’ll share one of my favorite pages at the end of the post, but first I’ll continue describing my journey to this point.
During the hunt for literary agents described in Part 1 of this blog, I tried to implement Plan B for the artwork – do the artwork myself. While I freely admit to having no artistic ability, I do have some basic graphic design and photo manipulation skills. Could I take existing photos, apply some artistic filters, and manipulate those images to serve as my artwork? As we’ve taken thousands of photos of the kids and pups over the years, I had a lot of material to choose from.
Lots of late nights into the process, the answer was no, unfortunately. While I could take an existing person or pup, apply a filter, and change backgrounds, I realized that I wouldn’t have enough material to work with for the fantasy series. How would I show the heroes descending a well to save a dog? How could the heroes evade a chasing dinosaur? How could the pups drop a net over a dragon? There were just too many scenes that I wouldn’t be able to depict how I wanted. This approach would end up limiting my stories to fit the artwork, rather than the writing and artwork coming together to create the strongest story possible. For fun, I included below one of my test images, showing Isabella in a stormtrooper uniform – something I did on a greenscreen for a family photo. Crystal City originally had a medieval theme, which changed over time, so the background I used was more medieval inspired.
After the lackluster output of my own efforts and hitting a dead end with literary agents, I went back to searching for an artist. Google searches helped me in making a list of possible artists, but I eventually decided to find someone local as a partner.
Going back to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) website, I searched for local artists. I don’t remember exactly how many illustrator profiles SCBWI has in the Southwest United States, but I looked through a bunch of them. I finally had a short list of potential artists.
I contacted Tony in September 2021 using the contact form on his website. This was 21 months after I contacted my first potential artist. I mentioned that I found him on SCBWI, that I liked his portfolio, and I shared the overview of the story. We exchanged a few emails, discussed rates, and I asked him to send me a sketch to see how he’d represent the main characters. I liked this sketch and signed the contract. Even from his initial sketch, I think he had a great handle on the representation of the pups. A future blog post discussing this Journey will focus on the artwork process after we signed the contract.
Shown below: a sample of my attempt to illustrate the story, and one of my favorite pages from the first story.
You can read the next blog in this series here: Book 1 is Done (the Journey So Far Part 3)