One of the awesome projects I got to work on this year was a new kid’s book, called Roger Nix, President at Six. The book was written by Nick Daze, who I met through my good friend Meg. It was funded through Kickstarter, which was the same way I self-published Gwendolyn and the Underworld.
The first step for me in a kid’s book project is to design the characters. This makes every other step in the process easier, even if the designs evolve and change a bit over time. Here are some of the very early character designs I worked on:
Of course, after all those different tests, we ended up going with the first design! (Trust your instincts, they’re usually right.)
And then on to a final color illustration:
Roger runs for president against Old Man Plee, and these two were the most important to establish. I actually did this character work over a year before starting on the book and before Nick got running on Kickstarter. Once we had these two nailed down, I wanted to figure out what Roger’s imaginary friends Abe and Jack would look like. (An elephant and a donkey, respectively.)
After the characters were basically nailed down I did a full color “style test” for Nick to use to sell the project on Kickstarter.
When I finally got the text of the book a year later, a couple new characters had been added that needed to be designed. The first was Adrienne Dardenne, Roger’s kindergarten teacher.
Originally, I was leaning more towards a middle aged or old lady teacher, but Nick’s sister is a teacher and he wanted to base the character on her. That ended up being a great idea, because the young teacher provided a nice contrast with the old “Mother Plee” character. I went with a take on “B” and modified her to look a bit more like his sister.
Next was Plee’s mother:
I had a few different ideas here. Nick had mentioned Estelle Getty (the oldest of the Golden Girls) as inspiration, so that’s what you see in A. B was based more on a crazy Las Vegas-loving, RV-driving kind of grandma. C was because I had just watched Downton Abby and couldn’t resist a Maggie Smith take.
I really like the final design, though looking back on it now, I’m not sure the “big head” part fits into the world as well as it could. The next step for me was to create basic turnarounds of all the characters so I could get a better sense of their form and how they would look in different poses/angles.
The final step was to get all the characters in a lineup and make sure they felt like they were all part of the same world. Cohesiveness is key!
Next up: Part 2 – Page Layout
Roger Nix, President at Six is available for sale from Three Bean Press or on the iBookstore if you’ve got an iOS device.