Tom Tinn-Disbury's HOW I TRAINED MY DOG IN 10 DAYS

I love this new book by Tom Tinn-Disbury, HOW I TRAINED MY DOG IN 10 DAYS. Anyone who has ever owned a dog can relate. You don't train them so much as they train you, as is so perfectly explained in this adorable book. Tom stopped by to talk about it...
e: What was your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
I always start with the characters, so once I have the brief I set to work just doodling the main character, varying hair lengths, clothes etc...I do this on paper, very loosely, then once I have a few options I scan them in and re-drawn them in a program called "Sketchbook Pro" on my drawing tablet.

The great thing is, once you have a version you like, you can copy and paste the character and just make small tweaks really quickly and efficiently. I will then narrow the versions down to a handful and colour them up in photoshop. These will usually be the ones I send to the editor or designer I'm working with, so Mara from Peter Pauper Press in this case and from there we will refine and select a version we're all happy with. I did the same with the dog and that was that!
Luckily there are only two characters in this story so that was a fairly quick process, sometimes this stage can involve a lot of too-ing and froo-ing if there are multiple charcters in a book.
As for putting the bulk of the book together, I will do a similar process with the spread layouts, very, very loosely on paper, just to get a sense of composition and what needs to be on the that particular page to convey the story. I like to do this on large bits of scrap paper, usually with storyboard like squares. I will then refine these digitally, then once I'm happy send them over for feedback. I was fortunate there wasn't a huge amount of feedback on this one, I like to think I "got" the feel of the story quite early on.

With final art, I like to do my final line art in the program mentioned earlier, Sketchbook Pro, this again allows room for error and correction, also helpful for tweaking artwork later on. I then move onto colour. What I like to do is paint loads of colours and textures using, oil, acrylic, watercolour, pastel, you name it and along with paper textures, wood grain etc, scan them all in and use that for 80% of the final colour, with slight tweaks and highlights with the digital paint. I started this process a couple of years ago and I really clicked with it. Thats how I do most of my artwork now.

e: What was your path to publication?
For this book it was quite interesting. Mara, the lovely editor at Peter Pauper Press who worked with me on this project, had seen a portfolio piece I had done via my agents. She had honed in on the little boy at the centre of the piece called Winston and thought he might be a good starting point for HOW I TRAINED MY DOG IN 10 DAYS. So I received the manuscript and the brief to make the boy of the story have the look and feel of Winston. So that was nice and straight forward for this book!
As for the way I personally got into professional illustration is a long and winding one but the short version is...About 10 to 12 years ago, after studying animation at university then graduating I actually set my sights on being a film editor! I love movies and this aspect always interested me. So I pursued that line of work for a few years and was actually progressing quite well when I just fell out of love with it, the work culture I was in and the environment wasn't for me. I had always loved drawing and illustrating, from a very early age, so I just thought, I've always loved this why not make this my job! Great, but its not that easy. So I got out of editing and found a job in broadcasting that was shift based, set hours, nice chunks of days off and I just worked and built up a portfolio in my spare time. I managed to get an agent and after more and more illustrating work came in, I took the leap and dropped the day job. It took a while and lots of hard work but I'm getting there!
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of HOW I TRAINED MY DOG IN 10 DAYS?
In terms of the story, you'll have to ask the author, Norma Lewis, I'm sure there is though! When my agent Beth emailed me the proposal for this book I think its the quickest I've said yes to a project. I LOVE dogs, we have a lovely dog called Wilma, she is getting on now (approximately 9 this year, she is a rescue so we didn't know her exact age when we got her, maybe 6 months-ish). There is a little picture of me and her in the book jacket. So the story of a boy and his dog was a no-brainer for me.
      There is one other thing, when it came time to think of a dedication, it coincided with the very sad and untimely death of my uncle. He was a big dog lover and he had owned a number of dogs in his life but his favourite was a springer spaniel called Harry, so that's who it is dedicated to - Martin and Harry.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Wow this is a big big question with no real definite answer, but for me, I love art and illustration that feels really created and hand made. Where you can see the artists lines and intentions behind them. So while I can admire the skill in a really slick, almost life like painting or picture I do feel something is lost in that exchange between the artist and the observer. But the wonderful thing that some people forget is that art is so subjective. If you love it, great, if not, who cares, someone else will.
e: How do you advertise yourself (or do you)?
I have a website, which is fairly straight forward and functional but it does the job. At least with an illustrators website there aren't that many moving parts to it, its just pictures so maintaining a site is pretty simple! I do a bit of instagram when I have the thought or energy to do it but I am truly rubbish at advertising myself, my wife is a whizz at that sort of stuff and is forever trying to explain it to me. I will get round to it one day.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
There are a few moments in projects that excite me, the first is stumbling across an idea and realising its not rubbish! The feeling of having a story or picture idea that is actually worth something is a great feeling, then to have that echoed by someone gets me pumping. My other favourite moment is starting the final artwork on something, once everything is set, people are happy with the idea and you have that nice chunk of time just to assemble it and put it together, I love getting lost in that period.
      The biggest challenge is self motivation, being my own boss is great and hard at the same time. Deadlines certainly help!
e: Is there something in particular about HOW I TRAINED MY DOG IN 10 DAYS you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
While I was making this book it did make me see my dog in a different light, I think it made me slow down and appreciate her a bit more. We can sometimes see them as burdens or a nuisance but hopefully readers will give their pet a bit of extra affection after finishing the book. Beyond that I just hope they enjoy Norma's wonderful story and find some humour in my pictures!
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I'm in the middle of two projects at the moment, an early reader book which is part of an ongoing series and a middle grade fiction book about a boy that turns into a monster which is great fun. I have also just accepted an offer for my 3rd author/illustrated picture book which I will start in the summer.
      As for my dream project, I have a picture book idea that is pretty mad but it has been floating around in my head for years, I would love a publisher to humour me one day and let me make it!

e: I hope so too!

1 comment:

Marcos said...

Hello Elizabeth! I am Marcos from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I follow most of your posts where you show your drawings (my nice and nephews like them very much for colouring!)
I first found you on YouTube (On your famous Tedtalk "Is your stuff stopping you?") Worth mentioning I HAVE WAtched ir More than a couple of times...
I write you today to thank YOU for the YouTube video AND for your drawings and all the Work you share with us through the networks.
My Best wishes for you and your family
Marcos Sánchez