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26 November 2015

Laura Ljungkvist's SEARCH AND SPOT ANIMALS - Guest Post

Search and Spot, Animals!
by Laura Ljungkvist

      I can’t believe that search Search and Spot, Animals! Is my tenth book. It takes such a long time between completion and publication of a book, that getting the box with your 20 copies is a moment full of excitement and a little angst. What if I don’t like it?
      Going back to my editorial illustrating days, I always had a hard time looking at my things after they are just published in a publication or wherever it was. I am so hard on myself. So, after a quick glance, I put it away in a drawer in my flat files and when some time had passed and I look at it again, I can be more neutral and less emotional.
      So it was with sweaty palms that I opened the box Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt. What if the colors were off. What if the bugs were impossible to find, what if….?
      Of my ten published children’s books, 9 are written by me. I was asked to illustrate Mem Fox's book, Yoo-Hoo, Lady Bug! a couple of years ago. It was a search and find book but with Mem’s beautiful writing. I enjoyed doing that so much that I got the idea to do my own “search and find book”.
      One of my teachers in art school once said to me that I have a fear of white space. He was right. If you look at my body of work, the art tends to fill up the space. As a child I was drawing patterns and obsessively filling page after page.
      I also drew lots of animals, especially horses. I have many, many animal drawings, in my drawers going back to my childhood. So, my “search and find” book was going to be a work of love – patterns and animals! Voila – Search and Spot, Animals!
           When everything has been approved and agreed on with my publishers team on a book project, it usually takes me about 3 months to do all the final artwork for a children’s book.
      However, my first 2 children’s books are painted in gouache, and it took me a whole day just to paint half a background or the pattern on a dress. When I got a MAC computer and started working in Photoshop things went much faster. Unless I scan in a drawing made on paper, I have a drawing tablet with a special pen that acts just like a mouse, so I am still drawing, I’m just using a different pen - “Digitally drawn”!
      Very often I find that things “come to me”, and I get ideas and inspiration as I am working and going to final on a book. That’s why I try keep sketches quite general, so I am not too “locked in” but can allow those ideas to flourish.
      One of my favorite spreads in the book are the horses. That spread is a perfect example of doing something that I think is beautiful, and getting that extra idea for the text, concept and questions as I am working.
     I like the challenge on this spread. Readers are asked to find different colored horses. Some horses have a solid color and some are drawn in just a line. Could lead to some interesting questions for children? I a horse really pink if it’s drawn with a just a pink line?
      And then there are the dogs! Try and find the photographed French Bulldog!

     My goal was to make different kinds of challenges for the reader. In some searches you have to turn the page and find what you are asked to look for on the next spread. In some cases there are some animals shown and you have to find them on the same spread. Then there are searches were you are told in the text what to look for.
      And then, there is my favorite thing that I try to do in all my books. One final search that makes the reader go back and search through the whole book again! So much fun!
      The follow up to “Animals!” is just completed, Search and Spot, Go! It’s full of boats, helicopters, busses, bikes and tractors. So now I’m waiting to open open another package with sweaty palms - test prints (or f&g’s as we say).
     Oh, BTW, I loved “Animals!” when I opened the box! It accomplished just what I set out to do and I had so much fun doing it!
Check out Laura's groovy studio space with her dog Lola:

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