David: I illustrated this book with traditional media. I used a dip pen to draw the line onto cold press watercolor paper, and then I painted it in watercolors. After that, I scanned the paintings, cleaned them up, and color-corrected the files in Photoshop. I’ve tried so many media over the years, including digital, and I really want my drawing to be visible in the final art, so the ink and watercolor combo works well. I like the ability to fix up things in Photoshop if I have to. That flexibility allows me to relax a little bit in the painting process.
David: Two things came together: First, I love to draw alligators. And second, I send out postcards a couple times a year, and the art director contacted me for this book not too long after a mailing. The publisher asked to see some gator samples from my portfolio, so I had a bunch to show. A wacky story about a misbehaving gator is definitely in my sweet spot.
David: Well, I didn’t write the story, but I know the author lives in Florida and was inspired by all the gators down there. The structure of the story is based on the song, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” I’m definitely fascinated by gators, and they’re fun to draw—I love all those scales and teeth. My main goal was to try to give him personality and not just make him seem mean, because he does, you know, eat a lot of animals throughout the story.
David: As far as getting the reader to want to come back for another look, I try to include lots of details for folks to notice after multiple readings. For instance, on one page of the “Gator” book, you see Gator coughing, and way up in the right hand corner there’s a pelican flying away, which is not mentioned in the text. You turn the page and that’s the spread in which the poor pelican gets eaten. On the spread after that, you see Gator sneaking up on a panther. But way in the background you can see a brown pelican feather floating in the water behind Gator.
David: A few postcard mailings a year, an extensive website, going to SCBWI conferences and participating in the portfolio shows, and social media (Twitter and Instagram, mainly).
David: My favorite part is drawing, painting, and telling stories. I really like the children’s book community, too. The challenge is, well, making a living doing it.
David: I added a couple things to the story that are not in the text. The story starts out, “There was an old gator who swallowed a moth. I don’t know why he swallowed the moth.” But, if you look closely at the preceding illustrations, I hinted at a reason. And on the “Author’s Note” page—after the story ends—I have a small, oval illustration, in which the gator is staring at a concerned dragonfly. Maybe the story cycle starts all over again, or maybe the gator has learned a lesson. It’s up to the reader to decide what’s going to happen next.
David: I really want to write and illustrate my own books. I’m working with an agent who is shopping around a picture book for me right now, and I’m developing some other ideas. I’ll let you know…
e: Please do, and good luck! :)