I’m about to press the button to launch my first book on Amazon. It’s a moment filled with excitement and not a little trepidation. Just how did I get here?
It all started about a year ago when I wrote a story called ‘Uncle Mungo and the Great Wallaby Painting Contest’ in one of my notebooks.
This was written pretty much all in one go and the story just seemed to flow onto the page. I stopped occasionally to sketch a scene from the story.
After I had scribbled down that first, very rough draft, I typed it up onto my favourite writing program, Scrivener (try it for free here).
I knew straightaway that, as this was a children’s book, it should have lots of lively and quirky illustrations. The main character, Uncle Mungo, I had written about many years ago and I had sketched him many times for a book that has yet to be completed.
One of the original Uncle Mungo drawings from many years ago.
So the next step was to decide which parts of the story to illustrate. Some scenes were crying out for a picture – Uncle Mungo paddling, Barney’s junk shop and the pirate ship through the telescope.
I liked this original sketch of Mungo on his bike so much that, try as I might, I couldn’t better it. So I used this one in the book.
Over the following weeks and months I did the artwork for the book in between other writing projects and doing oil paintings (that’s another story you can read about in a previous blog post entitled ‘Painting the Working Class Heroes of My Childhood’).
My illustration style is very loose and in some ways child-like. I start with a quick pencil drawing which I go over in permanent black ink, and then I apply a watercolour wash over that.
Very often I start the picture again to try to capture the flowing lines and spontaneity of the initial sketch.
Sometimes I’ll do the picture over and over – maybe a dozen times – until I get something I’m happy with. After all that, I occasionally like the sketch so much I’ll use that in the book.
The day eventually dawned when I thought, right, I’d better start working on a layout of the finished book. How exactly do I do that? What size book did I decide on? I tried lots of different templates before I found one I was happy with – but that’s for another blog.
Another original sketch that I preferred to any subsequent “polished” versions. Again, I used this in the final version of the book I’m publishing on Amazon.