During the long process of mental wandering and rejected story ideas in my sketchbook, the idea for the Hunters of the Great Forest happened, as most of my picture books, as a complete and instantaneous thought. I scrawled it out across a single page storyboard before I lost the narrative as it played out in my mind like an animated film. The final very much resembles my very first rapidly drawn conception, yet only after many frustrating attempts at putting together a story that felt complete and rounded. Constructing the book, designing characters and architecture, deciding on the particular bird to use, experimenting with a palette of colors and whether to use pen and ink or pencil, took considerably longer than the flash of inspiration that revealed the story.
With the storyline in place, I began the process of discovering who would populate the great forest, at first trying human like proportions, but after many versions, settling on inch high hunters composed of spheres and spindly legs that were a bit more insect like and allowed for gestures and postures that would add a humorous component to their character.
I drew many hunters, young, old, male, female, heroic, and silly, before choosing the ones who would take the long journey into the giant trees. Keeping their personalities, costumes, colors, extra gear and weapons, distinct and unique helped to propel the action and enliven each illustration. I filled a sketchbook with designs of characters, toads, birds, ants, and mushrooms.
I built inch high hunters from wire and polymer clay and they were set among the landscape for scale helping me to envision the final images. I sculpted each hunter again in clay, at considerably larger than one inch tall, so I might understand their anatomy and proportions, but in the end had to be realized through gesture drawings and quick sketches.
After trying a number of fonts for the display type I decided on hand lettering that also added to the overall character of the book.
Me: And we're fortunate to have the lovely results! THE HUNTERS OF THE GREAT FOREST feels like a classic to me along the lines of Chris Van Allsburg's JUMANJI, James Gurney's DINOTOPIA, or Maurice Sendak's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Check it out and I know you'll love it as much as I do!