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Who Am I? The Process

Updated: Sep 28

Many people ask about the process of construction a visual narrative. What does it really take to produce a spread in a children’s book? The truth is there is there is not unified answer to a process. Each and every artist and illustrator has her own ‘steps’ to creating an image. However, there are certain steps that need to be done to make sure that the illustration is visually appealing. I am going to show the process of creating one spread from my recent book “Who Am I?”





This spread is actually a dedication spread that precedes the title page, but I wanted it to contribute to the narrative visually. I wanted a significant character in the narrative to dedicate the book, so I picked the oryx-snake-eagle-like character. I also imagined it to exist in a mysterious, lush, yet culturally related jungle. So I started doodling. Notice that here I am only exploring ideas and my lines are non-committal. Ideally, I would doodle six or seven thumbnails before picking one, but the image was so strong in my mind I went ahead and doodled it the way I thought it.





Once I was happy with a doodle, my next step was refining the doodle and turn it to a finalized sketch. This would include a heavy image search, given that character design, style and medium was already figured out, for image props and elements. For example, since I wanted to emphasize the exoticness of the forest, yet still make it look local, I researched palm trees with two or three trunks so that they are familiar, but different. In this stage, I research every element and I do commit to my lines and make sure that they are final.





After the sketch is finalized, I make tonal studies using three or four shades of grey. I picked number two for this specific image because I wanted to emphasize the darkness of the forest and the whiteness of the creature, So that it visually stands out and gives a larger depth to the forest forest.




Inking came next as I inked the illustration with waterproof india ink making sure that the pen strokes are heavy in areas and light in others to provoke a naive atmosphere to the image.


Finally I colored the image using a darker palette with sepia-yellowish colors evoking the feel of a fairy tale or a vintage book page.



The text was hand drawn (with a drawing pad) to make it more child-like.



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© 2020 by Ibtihaj Al Harthi