**The following post is written by Matthew Paul Mewhorter, the illustrator for my new children’s book, God Made Light… **
My name is Matthew Paul Mewhorter, and I had the sincere pleasure of illustrating God Made Light.
I’m writing this at the end of a mind-blowing opening week of God Made Light. In its peak, the book ranked #231 on Amazon and #2 in Christian children’s books.
The author of this overnight success and my good friend, Matthew Paul Turner, garnered a ton of well-deserved praise for his amazing writing style and beautiful message. But Matthew didn’t ask me to write about him. He wanted me to write about the other crucial piece of the book: the illustration.
So here are 4 things about the illustrating process of this book that you might find interesting or surprising.
1) Sometimes I was terrified of illustrating it
After reading Matthew’s original manuscript, I was left breathless with how beautiful it was. I also felt an enormous responsibility to do this book justice. I mean, it’s about…light. Not a person or place, but LIGHT, and how it not only takes form physically, but also in the spirits of children!
An illustrator spends crazy amounts of hours in isolation. What many people may not understand about doing something as insane as illustrating an entire book is that I never felt 100% certain that it was going to work, but I was determined to make it work. Sounds silly now that I have so much positive feedback about the art, but try convincing me of that with every revision and ink-splat at 1:30 in the morning.
Deep down, I knew it would be great (and for the record, I’m very happy with it), but I had to contend with the chance that it could fail miserably until this opening week.
2) The signature swirly-light style wasn’t created for the book (at first).
It was a happy accident, really, with a dash of artistic control. My daughter’s 1st year photographs were coming up, and I felt this (somewhat selfish) need to add artwork to her photographs. It was a Twinkle Twinkle Little Star theme, and I really wanted to add a personal touch, so I sketched something quick and sent it to the photographer. Then she sent me this:
Matthew Paul Turner and I were still in the early phases of design for the book when I sketched the swirls. When he saw the design posted on facebook, he and his wife Jessica were thrilled. Unexpectedly, it became the backbone for the theme and design of the entire book. It was the missing piece of the puzzle in connecting children to such a complex idea like light.
3) There were at least 6 major steps for each page of God Made Light.
Creating finished work for a children’s book is not the same as sketching a drawing in a sketchbook. It takes deliberate and careful construction, similar to designing blueprints for a building. Renowned artist Wayne White calls the process “ditch-digging”. It’s not as exciting as a spontaneous sketch while constructing it.
Each page or 2-page spread, from doodle to print, took anywhere between 8 and 30 hours of work to complete, depending on complexity, mistakes, and revision work. Every illustrator must decide the process in which he or she must work, and here was mine:
1) I drew 2-3 rough thumbnails to get the right idea.
2) A rough was created that was sized for the page for final approval before final work.
3) I traced the final rough with a col-erase blue pencil.
4) I inked the pencil using my own special pen/brush combo.
5) I scanned the image and did the tedious work of coloring the page, adding textures, effects, and color holds.
6) I then had to ensure that the copy was able to be fit onto the page, so here is a test run.
**And of course, 7, 8, 9, etc. were more revisions…
4) Talent and hard work made the pictures good, but criticism made them great.
Criticism is very hard for artists of all types. This is why few artists actually step out and attempt to make anything; why, despite having all the talent, end up doing anything but what they love.
That said, I absolutely hit the jackpot in getting to work with Matthew and Jessica, who are, by far, some of the most thoughtful, gracious and encouraging people I’ve ever known. Their feedback was done carefully, and I learned they even discussed, debated prayed together for hours before issuing any criticism. They understand the delicacy of critiquing an artist’s work, but moreover, understand the power of thoughtful and constructive criticism.
And wow, I am so glad that I welcomed the criticisms. Did I agree with every point? No. Was every criticism helpful? Absolutely. While I strongly advised to keep a few original images, I made nearly all of the requested edits. Here are a few examples:
After hours of careful development, I was thrilled to present this very first 2-page spread. And as I pushed send on the email, I thought, Get ready for your mind to be blown, Matthew!
Then the feedback came, and there were (gasp!) ways it could be improved. I had my little moment of deflated ego, then I sucked it up and went back to work. I changed some outfits, made the kids look happier, adjusted colors, gave the kids larger pupils, and readjusted my jumping boys legs until I had this:
This picture just went from good to GREAT!
And one more example. This was another spread I was anxious to show off, and I learned that my colors and use of the moon and sun were crowding the picture and confusing and a little off-putting to our focus group.
All in all this has a been fantastic experience for me as an artist. The hours, the careful steps, and the valuable feedback took my abilities to new heights. Doing this kind of work never really feels like work.
Now, I welcome new opportunities. Upon the release of this book, I officially opened myself up for freelance work so I can continue to do what I love. For more of my work and what I do, please check out www.idcreativestudios.com or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.