Today I am honored and thrilled to have Jennifer Gray Olson here to talk about the process behind creating the illustrations and story for Ninja Bunny. This book is one of my son’s favorites and it’s read at least a few times a week around my house. It’s such a great book and I absolutely love the illustrations. Each time I’m reading the book I find another little detail to laugh over.
Guest Post: From Sketch to Picture Book
Every day I do a warm-up drawing before I begin illustration assignments. I call it my “mental commute to work.” It’s my way of clearing out my head so that I can focus on what needs my attention. Every character or picture book idea I’ve ever had has come from this process. It was the same with Ninja Bunny.
After drawing the first sketch of Ninja Bunny, I loved him so much that I decided to write him a story so we could hang out a bit longer. Only my first attempt was pretty awful! So I wrote another. And another. And another two after that, until I finally came up with a story concept that I felt was successful. Here are two of the five thumbnail pages I created to come up with Ninja Bunny.
Once I have a character and a concept in mind, my next step in creating a picture book is to “thumbnail” the story. It’s mainly just light scribbles and illegible notes to myself, but hey, it works for me. Once I feel that I have the story locked down, I move on to larger sketches based on my thumbnails and notes, and I combine these into a book dummy, or mock-up. I usually illustrate the cover and two or three interior spreads in full color so that the publisher can get an idea of the illustration direction I plan to go in. This is the original cover of the book dummy that I sent to my now-agent, the fabulous Kerry Sparks. After some editing, Kerry sent the book dummy out on submission, and it was acquired by Allison Wortche at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Yay! With the help of my amazing editor, Allison, and art director Sarah Hokanson, our little friend Ninja Bunny was revised further, down to the shape of his ears, the size of his feet, and even the fluffiness of his tail.
I don’t know if most authors or illustrators would agree with me, but I love the editorial process. I really enjoy collaborating and bouncing ideas back and forth. I tend to play well with others.
We edited the book for a while longer, and it began to take on its final shape. Ninja Bunny lost a few of his ninja friends, but he gained some pretty awesome bunny ones in their place, so it all worked out in the end. You can never have too many bunnies, after all.
Once the final draft was completed, I was able to begin my favorite part of the process, which is creating the final art. I start by lightly transferring my sketches with a blue Col-erase pencil onto 90lb Stonehenge watercolor paper using a light table. I then go over the sketch with a range of graphite pencils to add more shadow and depth. Once I feel that the composition is successful, I begin inking the drawing. No going back at this point. I do the majority of my line work with a 005 black Micron pen. I also employ a stippling technique to further enhance the shadows and values. Because the Micron ink is waterproof, I’m able to move right on to the watercolor. I do my first layer in yellow ocre and then lay my other colors in directly after so that they can bleed into each other while the paint is still wet. My final step is to scan the illustration and make alterations in Photoshop if necessary. Voilà!
Creating Ninja Bunny was such an amazing experience! I’m so grateful to everyone who made it possible.
About the Book
About the Author
JENNIFER GRAY OLSON is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in art education. She is a glassblower and sculptor. In addition to writing and illustrating, Jennifer is also the co-coordinator of the SCBWI Orange /Riverside/San Bernardino illustrators’ schmooze. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two boys, and baby girl. Learn more about Jennifer and view her illustrations at JenniferGrayOlson.com.
Blog Tour Schedule
- Monday, 6/8: Mundie Kids, Review and Giveaway
- Tuesday, 6/9: Jenuine Cupcakes, Author Guest Post
- Wednesday, 6/10: My Friends Are Fiction, Author Guest Post
- Thursday, 6/11: Book Rock Betty, Review w/ Kids and Fun Post!
- Friday, 6/12: The Starry-Eyed Review, Interview and Review
- Monday, 6/15: A Dream Within a Dream, Review and Giveaway
- Tuesday, 6/16: Vi3tbabe, Review w/ Daughters
- Wednesday, 6/17: The Forest of Words and Pages, Review w/ Son
- Thursday, 6/18: Love Is Not a Triangle, Review w/ Children
- Friday, 6/19: Kidlist, Review