Creating the artwork for Abracadabra, It’s Spring!
by Susan Gal
Abracadabra, It’s Spring! came to me as a manuscript. I immediately fell in love with the jaunty text and the playful, magic-themed words. Sometimes the text tells an illustrator what to draw, but more often than not its my job to bring the text to life. That’s the fun part for me--how do I bring a fresh, interesting perspective to words on a page? In art school I was trained to push past my initial solution to a problem and come up with my own unique interpretation. So…. spring is about nature; snowmelt and sunny days filled with flower buds bursting and the air humming with butterflies, birds, and bees. Animals awakening from their winter rests and gardens waiting to be planted. My job is to interpret these impressions and visually weave them with the text.
I began my career illustrating for magazines, newspapers, posters, and calendars. I also worked briefly in animation as an ‘in-betweener’ for Disney Animation Florida. But my first love has always been both writing and illustrating children’s picture books. In 2010 I took the plunge with my first book, Night Lights. When I write and illustrate a book the pictures and characters come to me before the words arrive. I formulate a story in my head before putting pencil to paper. Then I jot down the story and begin to rewrite and refine it. From there I staple together a small paper dummy and start to lay out the pace and timing of the story. I don’t let myself start to sketch until I feel okay with the sentence structure. For me, the easier part of the process is creating the artwork, so I don’t allow myself the joy of drawing until the story is developed. Once the sentence structure is in place the real fun begins!
Character development and design is the most exciting part of storytelling for me. While working in animation I learned how important it is to know your characters. If they aren’t real to me, then there’s no point in spending time with them and bringing them to life in my story. Sometimes a character’s personality and body language is pretty complete from the start. Other times the character evolves as the dummy evolves. I spend a lot of time sketching the characters to get a feel for them. I like to stay very loose at this stage to keep the drawings fresh and allow for spontaneous things to happen.
Abracadabra, It's Spring! by Anne Sibley O'Brien and illustrated by Susan Gal, published by Abrams Appleseed (£8.99) - CLICK HERE to purchase the book from Abrams.