This is a mistake.
That's what I kept saying throughout the creation of this book. But when you give yourself no choice it's amazing what your able to accomplish.
|Hardback copy. This was the first illustration completed for the book. Often publishers need the cover before the book is complete so they can feature it in their catalog.|
It was March 2015 when I sat in The Palm with John discussing The Nutcracker. The more we spoke the more impossible it seemed. The more sips of wine I had the more I was talking myself out of it. The holiday release schedule coupled with my full freelance schedule was only one hurdle to consider. That alone was a very tall hurdle.
As I left the building the thought of attempting to complete this 64 page behemoth in the next nine months was terrifing. I'm a notoriously slow painter. I like creating detail and it doesn't matter if I'm working digitally or in oils. I'm simply ... just ... slow.
|The second completed illustration. This is a four page gatefold featured at the end of the book. This image alone took over 30 days to illustrate.|
I wanted to do it. It was a perfect combination of narrative, history, fantasy, animals, humans and decorative elements. It was everything I loved to illustrate....and all the mice! Yes!
However, I was afraid to commit.
|Detail of mice coming out of the floorboards.|
Maybe it was the crisp Spring air promising warmth or maybe it was the fog in my head from the last semester of an overloaded teaching schedule because I eventually said yes. Yes, I'll take on a 64 page children's book in 9 months. Yes, I'll complete over 35 paintings...in under...nine...months.
I gave myself no choice. And I wasn't going to pass up a dream job because of fear and uncertainty.
|I always wanted to paint a castle. Check!|
I won't go into the angsty details of doubt, hair pulling and constant anxiety but I will say that it was a long several months. Although there were many all nighters and countless paint filled weekends I was covering new ground. I was finding inventive ways to tackle fresh challenges. This process was invigorating. I was riding the Yin Yang Rollercoaster that my colleagues know so well. (I know your nodding)
|Queen Mouserinks makes her entrance.|
Always seeking to educate myself and take away new information that I can add to my arsenal of skill sets this project quadrupled my abilities. Environments, text/design marriage, multiple figure scenes were some of the new elements I encountered. It wasn't a surprise that as a constant student I had more questions at the end of the project than I did at the beginning. But that explanation belongs in a separate post. ;)
|Don't scare the children. My initial sketch was a bit scary so I redrew the mice eating sugar plums as they fought.|
|My original text placement was alright but Ali from Tango Media made it fantastic.|
|Big wooden castle was super fun to create.|
Working on The Nutcracker catapulted me into another world of possibilities which focused my attention on new goals for the future. And wow...do I have new goals!
My final take on this project? Taking on this job was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
* A super big thank you to John Whalen and Alexandra Lewis for being such great publishers at Cider Mill Press. And Ali Freile at Tango Media for being great to work with (as she always is) and doing a spectacular job on the design of the book.