Frankie and Finn, written by Klay and Mark Lamprell

Last year I was approached by Suzanne O’Sullivan at Hachette to see if I’d be interested in illustrating a sweet and original ‘boy meets fish’ tale by husband and wife team Klay and Mark Lamprell.

This was to be my FIRST EVER PICTURE BOOK CONTRACT. Woop woop! Erm, but first of course, as a new illustrator, I had to demonstrate I may actually be able to DO the job. And it wasn’t a straightforward text. There are two concurrent stories: one that takes place underwater – Finn’s and his fish family’s story – and one that takes place on land – Frankie and his human family’s storyline.

I went in a few wrong directions: developing some rather stiff-looking characters and a possibly-inspired, but rather precipitous, colour script.

Suzanne gave me a little more time, and I was able to submit these layouts:

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After this, the ball started rolling and I put my first storyboard together, which was accepted with a few minor alterations.

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Now for the roughs. I was checking illustrator blogs online, desperately trying to work out how much detail was expected in a set of rough drawings. Should they be colour? Should all the characters be fully realised? I would now (with three other books completed and a year of hindsight) advise this: roughs are and should be gruelling work; put in as much detail as you will possibly can at the time as this will make final art a comparative breeze, and should help ensure everyone has the same vision for the book.

The roughs were accepted, after a few alterations, but the characters – particularly those of the children – really weren’t fully developed. If they had been, I would have saved myself hours and hours of to-and-fro. I was also still working in my advertising job 3 days a week, and starting to go slightly screwy!

Here are some examples of roughs to final artwork (click to go through slides):

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There were times where I struggled to keep the lively line of the early drawings, and preferred the storyboard versions to my roughs (click to go through slides):

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But we got there in the end! And I’m happy with the watery effects in particular. For these, I sketched the page layout very lightly onto watercolour paper, swirled ink around on the appropriate areas (I have some lovely, bright acrylic inks), scanned the inky swirls in and added to a layered PhotoShop file. I had hand-sketched the line for each layout, but ended up going over this with a digital tool, as I wanted to vary the colours of different outlines. Ultimately – I like the way it worked out, especially for the end-papers:

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Covers were tricky, especially as the name of the book changed, at the eleventh hour, from ‘The Round Red Rock and the Five-Headed Monster” to “Frankie and Finn”. Here are some cover designs: those pitched by me (thought to be too scary) and the super-professional early and final designs by talented designer Ingrid Kwong (who also put the whole book together). Click to go through slides…

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And the final production of the book is just lovely. I’m particularly happy with how the colours came out – as my final ‘colour script’ was very much influenced by the Hayao Miyazaki movie ‘Ponyo’…

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“Frankie and Finn” is out this month (August 2015). And can be found in children’s bookshops throughout Australia and online here.