7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #443: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Amanda Driscoll

h1 August 2nd, 2015 by jules

“Together they battled sea monsters …
dodged icebergs …”

(Click to enlarge)


It’s the first Sunday of the month (welcome, August!), so I have a debut author-illustrator today. But she’s also local talent (local to 7-Imp Land, that is), and I always like to shine the spotlight when I can on local picture book-creators.

Amanda Driscoll’s first book, Duncan the Story Dragon (Knopf, June 2015), is the story of a dragon who loves to read. As you can probably guess, his problem is that, though his imagination catches fire when he reads, so do his books. Quite literally. All Duncan wants to do is finish a book. So many plots; so many questions. “I want to read those two wonderful words,” he says, “like the last sip of a chocolate milk shake … ‘The End.'” Eventually, Duncan finds a friend to read to him, but I won’t ruin the entire story for you.

Amanda is a graphic designer and artist and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. She’s here today to tell us more about herself, this debut picture book, and her work. I thank her for visiting.


On Duncan:

The Duncan story “spark” began long ago with my own love of reading. I remember as a child (and still today) being utterly transported by books. As a writer, I wanted to convey that feeling to kids. As an illustrator, I love visually interesting characters, and the image of a dragon lodged in my mind. Then one day, the two ideas merged and Duncan the fire-breathing, book-reading dragon was born. Once I had the character, the plot came easily. Sparks fly when you combine fire breath and flammable books!


Amanda: “A sketch of the original ‘early’ Duncan …”


Amanda: “The same page with the new Duncan character …”


Final spread: “After searching the entire countryside,
Duncan trudged back to this cottage.”

(Click to enlarge)


On the Illustrations:

I start with pencil sketches. First thumbnails, then larger, more detailed drawings. Once the sketch is finalized, I scan it and open it in Photoshop. I tweak it a bit, and then use the sketch as a background layer, applying color, texture, and line over top of it. I love working digitally, because corrections are so much easier. I have to admit, “undo” is a wonderful thing, and I use it liberally.

The process with Duncan was interesting, because the character changed a great deal (for the better) from my early sketches to the final dummy. Duncan began as a fairly traditional dragon, but transitioned into a more kid-friendly, child-like character. People often tell me they love his untied red high-top sneakers. So, of course, I wear red high-tops to my book signings. (Although I tie mine. I’m clumsy enough without untied shoes.)


Amanda: “A preliminary sketch for [a spread] …”


Amanda: “… then we decided a two-page spread would have more impact. …”


On Inspirations:

Story inspirations generally come from my children or from my own childhood. When I was a kid, if the sun was up, we were outside. Our imaginations transformed the world around us. I would love for my books to share some of that experience with today’s more electronically-connected generation. And although my kids are teenagers now, I frequently draw from the many memories of their younger years.

Regarding artists who inspire me, can I answer “everyone”? There are so many talented illustrators that it’s really difficult to narrow it down. I’m a big fan of Dan Santat and was thrilled Beekle won the Caldecott. It’s a beautiful book, and I love that he works digitally. I adore Patrice Barton’s expressive characters, texture, and line work. Marla Frazee’s talent is mind-boggling. I admire John Rocco, Jon Klassen, Loren Long, LeUyen Pham, Peter Brown, Peter Reynolds. … I could seriously go on for days.


“When Duncan read a book, the story came to life …”
(Click to enlarge)


On What’s Next:

I am currently illustrating my second book, Wally Does Not Want a Haircut, due out next summer from Knopf. It’s about a sheep who goes to great lengths to avoid his first shearing, which leads to some hair-raising situations. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) This story was directly inspired by my exploits with my own children’s haircuts, or lack thereof. The humor is wacky, but it still has the warmth and heart that I strive for in all my stories. It’s been wonderful working with the same editor and art director as I did with Duncan.


“Duncan tried everything to keep his cool.
Really. Truly.”


(Click to enlarge)


What Else?

I hope my stories have a positive message sent in a subtle manner. Kids are smart. They can spot a preachy story a mile away. But if you can teach them with subtlety and humor, there’s value in that. I’m a huge believer in kindness and compassion, and I hope my characters always convey those morals.

DUNCAN THE STORY DRAGON. Copyright © 2015 by Amanda Driscoll. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. All images reproduced by permission of Amanda Driscoll.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

It’s been a looooong week—you know those weeks, right?—so my kick right now is that I’m going to take a bubble bath with a good novel. (I’m finally reading this one, after many, many years of both my husband and best friend telling me I should.) And that’s kick enough to make up for seven.

What are YOUR kicks this week? Please do tell.

8 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #443: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Amanda Driscoll”

  1. Thank you for sharing Amanda’s work. This could be a perfect for read aloud for the year.
    Jules, I hear you about settling in with a good novel. Enjoy.
    1. Reading Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra.
    2. Coming home to Buster. (he escaped his caretaker when we were on our trip and luckily was found but we had to get back)
    3. Swimming.
    4. Looking forward to our family beach trip tomorrow.
    5. Clouds.
    6. Connecting with friends.
    7. Full moon.
    Have a great week.

  2. Jone, the moon was particularly awesome every night this week, wasn’t it? I’m glad Buster is okay, and have a great trip!

  3. Lovelovelove Amanda and Duncan! So glad to see them featured here!
    1. Going swimming with friends at a beautiful outdoor pool on a nice day.
    2. Having friends over for dinner, firepit s’mores and backyard play with glowsticks.
    3. Seeing all the smiley-faced pictures of friends from the SCBWI conference in L.A. this weekend. (Next best thing to being there!)
    4. Revising an old picture book manuscript.
    5. Coming home after being away for a week.
    6. Picking so many cherry tomatoes from the garden.
    7. Discovering this post!

    Yay for bubble baths, novels, full moons, and beach trips!

  4. Good morning, Imps! Happy August!

    Amanda Driscoll: Duncan the Story Dragon looks and sounds adorable! 🙂 I’m a huge believer in kindness and compassion as well.

    Jules: Let me know what you think of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

    Jone: Thank goodness Buster was returned after busting out!

    Jessica: Sounds like good visits and good times.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Singing
    2) Sending
    3) Bonus
    4) Treat
    5) Decisions
    6) Unblocked
    7) True

  5. Duncan looks so cute and so funny! Thank you Amanda for sharing your process – love the red high tops on both of you!

    Jules – enjoy that bubble bath and novel!

    Jone – so glad Buster is ok and safely home. Enjoy the beach! And the moon has been stunning this week.

    Jessica – Swimming with friends, dinner with friends and s’mores and glow sticks – what a summery, fun week!

    LW – love your singing, bonus, treat, unblocked and true kicks best of all!

    My kicks this week –
    1) A fun work problem to solve – happily solved.
    2) Clearing the air after a disagreement with a friend – always good, even better if done over dinner and drinks.
    3) Made gazpacho with tomatoes from the garden – its pretty good!
    4) Nights in the backyard with Daisy.
    5) A last minute invite to meet a couple of friends for drinks.
    6) Some good social media pr for work – always nice.
    7) Late night walks with Daisy to look at the moon, enjoy the breeze, and chat with the neighbors. Last night she made 2 new friends.

    Have a wonderful week everyone!

  6. Thank you for this lovely post Amanda and for introducing us to Duncan. I look forward to reading about how fired up he is about reading.

    Jules: You have listed two wonderful things. I hope you enjoyed both.
    Jone: I am so happy Buster was found. Whew!
    Jessica: I envy you the tomatoes. The deer came through two nights ago and ate the top 1/3 of my plant along with the tomatoes. (sigh)
    Little Willow: Singing is s soul-lifter.
    Rachel: Glad you are having good times with Daisy.

    My kicks:
    1. Rain
    2. Hours outside with Xena
    3. Full moon
    4. Books in the mail
    5. Finished YA Shadowshaper Great read
    6. Chats with kidlit colleagues
    7. More rain

    Enjoy your week you all.

  7. I’m here, finally!

    Jess, welcome back!

    LW: “Unblocked.” I like it. Makes me think of, I dunno, surges of energy.

    Rachel: Sounds like you had a good week. Late-night walks with the moon grinning at you — can’t get much better.

    Margie; Hmmm. I might have to look into Shadowshaper. I always like to hear book recs.

    Have a good week, all!

  8. I love Duncan, and I haven’t even read it. It’s on order. I love the red tennis. They’re totally kid-fun! Hopefully it’ll make it to my website as a book review.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.