It begins with a story idea. The story takes shape through numerous drafts of text and storyboard sketches. These are improved time after time with research into factual information, finding image references for my drawings, and input from friends. I am very fortunate to have an amazing group of editors to review each draft - Chrissy, Athena, and Rob. They challenge my story-lines and debate my word choices, all the while helping me keep my voice and style but making it better with each rewrite. For example, Simone in France had 8 drafts.
Once I am happy with the story, I begin the final illustrations. This is where the story starts to become a book. Storyboard sketches are redrawn at a larger size and with greater detail. These drawings are inked, scanned, cleaned up, and vectorised using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Turning the ink drawings into digital files makes it easier for me to cut and paste in small amendments. I find it easier to draw by hand versus drawing by computer and have redrawn full illustrations two or three times to correct bigger mistakes.
When I'm satisfied with the digital image, I print the illustration out on watercolour paper. Using image references, I pick and choose colours for each element of the illustration. I mix and blend different watercolour pencils (from a set of 72) on scrap paper until I reach a desired effect and record each colour combination. I can now apply colour to the final illustration. If any colour mishaps occur, I will either reprint the illustration to start again, or reprint sections of the illustration to recolour and paste in using Photoshop. Simone in France has 28 illustrations but I probably completed closer to 40.
When all 28 illustrations are complete, they are scanned, cleaned up, and sized in Photoshop. I then import the illustrations into InDesign and format them with the text. Sometimes the text doesn't fit quite right in the illustration and I have to go back and do a redraw of part, or all, of an illustration. When the formatting is done, I share the file with my editors for a final proofread. With their approval, I assign a new ISBN and add a barcode to the cover. For the French versions, I mail a hard copy of the book to Mathieu, my French translator, who then sends me a brilliant translation in keeping with the spirit of the story.
The final file is sent to a local print company to print and bind hard copies of the book. I receive a mock-up of the book to okay before printing the final product. This usually takes 2 weeks. Once I have the books in hand, I visit local bookstores to see if they will stock copies on their shelves.
And that is how I make a picture book.