Working on a new style for an early graphic novel has been liberating. And frightening. After all, this style seems limited to the project. But none of my old methods fit for it, so . . ..
This long initial stage already had me feeling vulnerable, but knowing the character and not being able to catch his/her/their face was completely unsettling. Should I submit the dummy and say, well, someone else should illustrate the book? There are so few words, the manuscript would be mostly illustration notes to show what was happening.
No, who would want to trust that? I’m an author-illustrator at heart, thinking in scenes. All my stories for young children are spare with the words. Character shown visually is a big part of how I write. When you do that, words need to work extra hard with strong support from the pictures. It needed to be me.
Turned out, it was a good idea to complete the 64-page dummy. It gave me a certainty about the feel and pacing of its three stories. It also clarified what I needed in the missing face (which looks suspiciously like a certain rescue cat.)
Here’s part of a sketchbook page with a possible good one. I like the innocence and playfulness plus the potential to be very catlike—which is to say at the very least a teensy bit troublemaker-ish.
The main cat’s face is starting to feel right. I’m going to try it out and see if it works.
Sometimes I wish I studied cartooning along with illustration and graphic design. I would already be used to something like this new style I’m attempting. Maybe then I wouldn’t have such pesky difficulties to struggle over.
But for my early graphic novel, I’m aspiring to a slightly cartoony style for younger children—different from the odd not-quite-cartoony style used long ago for Boston Magazine and my regular not-quite-realistic children’s illustration styles.
Going for a specific level of grunge and bad drawing with over-enthusiastic claws and tiny fangs is chancey stuff. It tends to be a difficult leap from 22 years of illustrating children's educational, trade nonfiction, and magazines . . . mostly done on tight schedules . . .. Actually, practically everything . . . except my own illustrations and writing . . . was done on tight schedules . . ..
Yep, there it is. I’m illusplaining. Making excuses. In case this doesn’t pan out.
But a funkier look seems to fit the project. For now, I’m going with a claim of “outsider’s style.” Perhaps it will be new and interesting to those jaded by good cartooning.
Got to try, anyway.
Works in Progress: