Over the past two weeks I've been showing the process of how my children's book Snowy Valentine came to be published by Harper Collins. What started as a gift story for my wife about a mouse and a cardinal grabbed the interest of an editor and became a story about a rabbit visiting his forest neighbors in an attempt to figure out the perfect gift for his wife. Last week I showed the process of creating the layouts and final inks for the book.
Having finished the inks it was time to move on to color for the final artwork. My editor at Harper was familiar with my Mouse Guard work, but also liked a Wind in the Willows piece I had done in the past. When coloring that piece, I had thought back to the wonderful stop-motion-animation series of Wind in the Willows from Cosgrove Hall and the lovely textures and models used for that series. I manipulated photos of fabric to be in line with the drape and wrinkles of the drawing and tinted and layered them to get the effect I wanted.
Knowing Harper liked that image and since I wanted to do something a bit different with this book than what I do on Mouse Guard, I decided to replicate the technique for the illustrations. With the Willows piece, I used mostly stock photography I found online. For Snowy Valentine, Julia and I went to a fabric store and took photos of various textures, knits, and types of material (we also took a few photos of items around our house). Included in these swatch photos is a photo of our Dog Autumn's tail fur (which doubled as one of the many layers used to make fox fur), a antique glazed pottery (which became the frog's skin), and batting (which became the rabbit's fur).
Here are a few of the finished colored pages which use a blending of my Mouse Guard coloring technique and the various fabric swatches distorted, layered, and tinted.
The sketches became rougher and looser as I went forward trying to decide with the editors what image would be the best way to draw an audience in to the book, to convey the romantic theme, the setting, to be wintry and still warm. This series of sketches I did quick color studies for to help us understand what the finished look could be. It was already decided the cover would focus on the rabbit and his bride together, and these sketches narrowed down which pose to use.
And finally, here is the final wrap-around jacket art sans-text:
Snowy Valentine is available now through Amazon or can be ordered by your local bookstore.
London Super Con: Feb 25-26
Emerald City: March 30-April 1
Boston Comic Con: April 21-22