What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring
Peter Brown, Michael Emberley, and Adam Gudeon

h1 August 24th, 2011 by jules


Michael Emberley’s color sketch for Barbara Bottner’s An Annoying ABC

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Tomorrow morning at Kirkus, I’ll weigh in on Lane Smith’s newest picture book, Grandpa Green. The link will be here. {Edited to add on Friday: The link is here.}

Also up tomorrow will be my QRANK quiz on Must-Reads for School-Aged Children. Trivia fun! Good times. Come on, you know you wanna play! That will be here.

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If you missed last week’s Kirkus column, I discussed the newest picture book titles from Peter Brown, Michael Emberley, and Adam Gudeon. But you know I can’t talk about picture books without also showing lots of art and sketches, so here I am this morning to indulge in that. Peter Brown also treats us all this morning, via images and words, to a detailed description of his process, so let’s get right to it. Oh, here is last week’s column if you want to know a summary of the books and my thoughts on them, but below is all the art. We’ll start with Peter (though pictured above left are the serenading stars of Adam’s Me and Meow). Enjoy.

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Note: You can click each image below from Peter Brown’s discussion of the art for You Will Be My Friend! (Little, Brown, September 2011) to enlarge and see in more detail.

Peter: Everything starts in my sketchbook, with story webs and doodles.

Once I’ve figured out my story arc, I’m ready to begin sketching. For You Will Be My Friend!, I did most of my sketching in Photoshop, where I also added text and borders to the sketch for each page. Then I printed those pages out and put them up on my wall so I could see how all the pages looked together as a whole.

I marked up those printouts with notes on revisions I wanted to make on the art and words, and then I go back to Photoshop to implement those changes. After going through a few rounds of that revision process, I finally had each individual page looking just as I wanted it, and I also had the sketches for the whole book working well as a group.

I used a lightbox to trace the final sketches and the text for hand-lettering.

Once I had a final sketch transferred to paper, I’d begin work on the final drawing.

I used a paper towel as a chamois and rubbed the graphite to get texture and shades of gray.

Using a paper towel chamois, mechanical pencil, and erasers, I’d eventually end up with a finished drawing. However, in many cases I’d draw some of a character’s facial features separately, and would combine the different drawings later in Photoshop. I did this, because I didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good drawing by botching one of the very last details.

I cut construction paper to make word balloons, strips for the narration text, and the background paper that would eventually be placed behind the drawings. I knew that I could use Photoshop to control the color of the paper in the final illustrations, so although you see me cutting green paper in this photo, I probably changed it to pink later on.

Finally, I used Photoshop to combine different drawings, cut paper, and images of wood grain. I adjusted the placement and color of the different elements, tinted the drawings, and added transparent color. For this photo, I deliberately removed half of the transparent color simply to show you what the tinted drawing looked like underneath.

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You can also click each spread below from Adam Gudeon’s Me and Meow (HarperCollins, September 2011) to enlarge and see in more detail. Also, you can visit this post for a 2010 visit with Adam, in which he shared early images from this book and discussed creating the art.


“Yum, Me. Yum, Meow. Go, Me. Go, Meow.”


“Stump jumping. Leaf leaping. Slip sliding. Hide hiding.”


“I will find my Me . . . ow!”


“Fine dining. Dish washing.”


“Moon dancing. Stargazing.”


“Night night, Me. Night night, Meow.”

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These are Michael Emberley’s thumbnails and early sketches from Barbara Bottner’s An Annoying ABC (Knopf Books for Young Readers, September 2011).



Jacket thumbnails


Final sketch for book jacket


(Click to enlarge)









Above: sketches for the book (click each to enlarge)


Color sketch for book

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AN ANNOYING ABC. Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Bottner. Illustration © 2011 Michael Emberley. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Images reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

ME AND MEOW. Copyright © 2011 by Adam Gudeon. Published by HarperCollins, New York. Spreads reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! Copyright © 2011 by Peter Brown. Published by Little Brown, New York. Images reproduced by permission of the illustrator.

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16 comments to “What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring
Peter Brown, Michael Emberley, and Adam Gudeon”

  1. I absolutely adore Peter Brown’s work! This post is a lovely read.
    Also, the whole blog is amazing, I’m addicted to it. Thank you for all your work!


  2. Wow! This is an inspiring collection of sketches and technique images. I especially love seeing Peter’s process because it’s a blend of traditional and digital art that feels completely organic.
    Thanks for being so generous with your hard-earned trade secrets.


  3. Wow! That Annoying ABC book looks great…makes me want to get out my sketchbook again. Since school started and busyness took over, I’ve forsaken it. :-P


  4. I just got YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND in the mail this morning and can’t wait to share it! I am doing some workshops with early teachers in the upcoming weeks, and it will definitely be on my list. Now, I just need to get my hands on the other two…thanks so much for sharing them.


  5. Wowzers! Thanks for the behind-the-scenes peek.


  6. Thanks for enjoying the images with me, you all.

    Sally, I LOVE that you’ll be using that with teachers. There are lots of ways to use the info at this blog, but that makes the school librarian in me the happiest.


  7. Thank you thank yoooooou! Along with being super inspiring (as always) for the great shared art, can I send super-appreciation for the “behind the scenes” break down on how Peter creates his amazing work? Because I think after you have left art school far behind, sometimes you need a little peek into how many great techniques you can continue to learn and use. I love the way he works back and forth with Photoshop, and is ok to say that he would rather create expressions on Photoshop (as a safety guard) than on his paper-drawn characters. Thanks for the generosity in sharing all of this Jules and Peter.


  8. Thank YOU, Jess. Glad it’s inspiring!


  9. I have been hearing lovely things about your blog for a long time and finally came to visit. What a treasure! Thank you so much!!


  10. Very interesting to see how you start a picture story thanks a lot. nice stuff Michael.Regards Kevin


  11. really fantastic to see how it all gets together !!
    love it !!


  12. I love behind-the-scenes features such as this. Thank you both for sharing these. Once again, I salute the use of tutu and the inclusion of cats. :)


  13. Very interesting to see how each artist goes about it.
    This is such an informative blog, thanks.


  14. [...] missed last week’s Kirkus column, I discussed the newest picture book titles from Peter Brown, Michael Emberley, and Adam Gudeon. But you know I can’t talk about picture books without also showing lots of art [...]


  15. this is great good to see your going at it still .


  16. [...] Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast- the lost art of Peter Brown, Ed Emberley, etc. Very [...]


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