What I’m Up To at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Dan Yaccarino

h1 February 15th, 2013 by jules

Doug Unplugged had been buzzing around my brain for a very long time before I actually created the book dummy. My sketchbook was filled with images of a little robot boy [pictured left], whom I originally called Digi Doug. I’d been wrestling with the idea of a character who unplugs from electronic devices in order to use his senses (other than to see and hear) to experience and learn about the world.

Those words are from author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino, whose newest picture book, Doug Unplugged, is out and about in the world, as of this week.

And it was the subject of my Kirkus column last week, so I’m following up today with some art and sketches from the book (below). I thank Dan for sharing.

Today at Kirkus, I take a look at a chapter book import, Rose Lagercrantz’s My Happy Life, illustrated by Eva Eriksson. Originally published in Sweden in 2010 (both author and illustrator are Swedish, too), it was released here in the U.S. at the end of last month. That column is here.

Dan: First, I tried to figure out what [Doug] was able to do as a robot. I love robots, so this was a lot of fun to do!

I thought about things he could learn about the world, if he unplugged from his computer. This was also fun.

Once the dummy was worked out and the sketches approved, I started the book. Doug Unplugged is the first book I’ve done digitally. Yes, I know, it’s kind of odd that a book about unplugging was done using a computer, but I had a specific look in mind. I adore [Roger] Duvoisin’s Petunia books, as well as other books from that era, and wanted to evoke the simple shapes and clear black lines. I can’t imagine doing the illustrations for this book any other way.

Here’s the color chart I developed while creating the images.

And here’s the cover:

I wanted to show him plugged in and learning facts via his computer. The brilliant designer Sarah Hockenson at Knopf came up with this beautiful layout to show what Doug learns and what he’ll ultimately encounter when he goes out into the city.

(Click to enlarge)

And here is Doug out in the world for the first time.

(Click to enlarge)

I wanted him to experience the world around him using his senses.

(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)

This image is not part of the book. I just did it for myself.

* * * * * * *

DOUG UNPLUGGED. Copyright © 2013 by Dan Yaccarino. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Images used with permission of Dan Yaccarino.

9 comments to “What I’m Up To at Kirkus This Week,
Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Dan Yaccarino”

  1. Hey, Dan. Another illustrator asked (at a social media network platform thingy, to be precise): “That’s an intriguing way of planning out a limited palette. I wonder how he made some of these choices? It looks like he gave himself a full range of value for gray, and then the rest are single value colors.”

    I told him maybe you could address that here, if you’re so inclined?

  2. I think having characters identified by color works really well for this kind of cartoony style, really pulls you into the symbol vocabulary of the book, giving the reader that instant identification. But the rest of the palette–I could never make these kinds of choices personally without a little experimentation to see how they’d look on the images, particularly limiting yourself in the value department.

  3. Thanks Jules and Dan. As always, it’s wonderful to see other how other illustrators come up with ideas and who they are influenced by. I love, Love, LOVE that Dan was so influenced by Petunia….one of my ALL TIME FAVS!!! DOUG UNPLUGGED looks like a great one to own!

  4. To reply to the first comment- I made the color choices as I went through the art. Once I established a certain color, say, red, I liked, I would use that specific red whenever I needed to use red. Of course it took many tries before I arrived at that specific red.

  5. Not only fantastic to see your process, Dan, but amazing to see the ideas you came up for the story itself. As I struggle through my own story lines, it’s always refreshing and encouraging to see someone solve theirs in such clever ways. A great concept and looking forward to seeing the whole book.

  6. Wonderful concept. Beautiful colors. Exquisite simplicity. Looking forward to getting my hands on it.

  7. Thanks for sharing the creation of Doug with us! I never thought about the color palette before, but I guess that is why I am a librarian and not an artist. That and I can’t draw. Anything.

    Love meditating Doug.


  8. Thanks for posting this! Normally I miss the human hand when it comes to art, but this is an instance where it’s a perfect fit. You’ve made the little robot into a sympathetic character and I want MORE!!!! Bravo! Anne

    Thanks so much for sharing Dan and Doug with us!

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