Out today is my new picture book The Biggest Smallest Christmas present. Published by Penguin US.
It's a Christmas story about a miniature girl called Clementine, who is so small that she has to bathe in a teacup and sleep in a matchbox! Every year Santa leaves her presents but the presents are always too big. The story is about Clementine trying different ways to tell Santa that she is a miniature sized girl.
You can probably guess where my inspiration for this book came from - my love of all things tiny of course!
This book was actually quite a few years in the making. It is also my first full colour picture book in 2d not 3d so it was a learning curve.
I started by drawing out the dummy book and designing the character. At first she was actually called Arabella but I decided to change her name to Clementine later. She went though quite a few character designs.
I was very into the idea of making her look Cindy-Lou esque for a while (below) but the publisher suggested that she should look less 'made up' and I agree with that now.
I eventually came up with this version and everyone was happy.
Because the story in the book actually spans a few years, I had to be able to draw Clementine at different stages of her life. Starting with her as a baby.
Here I added some colour and I was also trying to work out which presents Clementine should be given at each stage of her life. I decided that she should always wear red or green to give a festive look.
The dummy book also went through quite a few changes and so did the story. Here are a couple of un used sketches from the book:
My favourite scenes in the book are the bathroom ones. I just love the idea of a tiny little person using the sink as a swimming pool. Originally Clementine was going to be older in these scenes but later she changed to being a baby in them.
This is the original sketch:
I must admit it was a bit of a challenge drawing the sink so close up! I think because there are so few definitive edges on a sink, just curves and shading. I ended up taking a photo of my actual sink and using it as reference to draw from.
The final version has baby Clementine in it. I think this double page spread is my favourite of the whole book. I was very pleased with how I managed to paint the sink in the end.
There were also some changes in the way I drew the illustrations during the process of creating this book. I ended up using pen and ink in the final illustrations but I did not start out like that. At the beginning I didn't use any black line at all except for pencil line round the character. You can see what I mean in the double page spread with the paintbox. That was my tester illustration!
I do actually quite like this one but I didn't go with this way of working in the end.
At one point I even experimented with painting Clementine with no black line either. I didn't really like it though.
Here's another example where I experimented. No black line at all on this one except for round Clementine and that was a bit too much of a juxtaposition.
This was the turning point, when I decided to use a dip pen and ink. I think it helped that I was working on Isadora Moon at the same time and using dip pen and ink for her. I felt very comfortable using that medium.
This is a rough painting when I was just experimenting with it.
And the final:
Again, that one actually started out with Clementine being not a baby!
As for the cover, that went through a couple of changes too. The idea was to have Clementine swinging on a Christmas bauble on the Christmas tree. So I did this sketch:
Can you guess why that one didn't get used? It looked too much like Miley Cyrus swinging on her wrecking ball! It made me laugh when the publishers came back with that comment. But it's true! I had to find a different way to draw Clementine. I actually felt quite annoyed with Miley Cyrus for scuppering my picture book cover plans, though I was happy with the end result anyway.
I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of my process for creating this book. Clementine does eventually manage to contact Santa and he realises that she is a miniature girl. After that, she gets the toy of her dreams - the biggest, smallest Christmas present! Can you guess what it is?