Happy Book Birthday – The Family Business Comes Out Today!
Today is a very special day because we are celebrating the launch of my latest children’s picture book THE FAMILY BUSINESS (Story by Lenore Appelhans and illustrations by Ken Lamug). This laugh-out-loud children’s book is about Lucky and his family of rascally raccoons.
Over the next few days, keep your eyes focused on this site as I reveal some of the behind the scenes process for illustrating the book.
This story came across my email on October and 2019 and was finished fall of 2021. As you might expect, Lenore and myself have been working diligently and waiting patiently for this day.
I’ll be sharing with you some of the early illustrations so hang tight and let’s get to it!
So what is The Family Business?
To answer that question, let me defer to the book synopsis which summarizes it quite well…
A young raccoon forges his path in this laugh-out-loud read-aloud picture book!
Lucky is a raccoon who loves to dance, watch TV, and dream of the day he’s big enough to join the family business. But when Lucky finally gets his chance, his first day on the job isn’t exactly what he expects.
And so begins a hilariously rude awakening as Lucky discovers exactly what his family has been up to this entire time. Is there a way to honor his family’s expectations while following his heart?
Author Lenore Appelhans’s well-paced story is full of refrains and builds to a surprising finish and Ken Lamug’s adorable artwork brings this special raccoon and his boisterous family to life. Perfect for fans of Gaston and Wolfie the Bunny, Lucky’s journey is about the difficulty of balancing family expectations and being true to yourself.
Finding inspiration and ideas for The Family Business
The first step I take as an artist is to read the manuscript and get a sense of the story. My job is to interpret the story and create a visual representation that enhances the text. My goal is to add depth, bring the characters to life and fully immerse the young readers into this world.
To accomplish this, I must ask myself a few questions as I read the manuscript:
- What kind of story is this? Is the story funny, light-hearted, spooky, scary, or emotional?
- Are the animal characters meant to be realistic, comic, or maybe a little bit of everything?
- What kind of motion, and emotion does the writer intend for the reader to feel and see?
Since Lucky, the raccoon is our central character, one of the first steps in the creative process is to come up with the “look” (for Lucky, the family, and the world they live in). I try to do something a little different in every book, which means doing something I haven’t done before.
To find inspiration for The Family Business, I looked at:
- Photos reference of raccoons, chipmunks, pandas, foxes, and other small furry animals
- Anthropomorphic illustrations of animals and how they move or posed
- Illustration styles from various artists and how they approach drawing animals
- It’s also important to see how animals are dressed like humans because our raccoon family have very much people personalities and sensibilities
- Ideas for colors, atmosphere, attitude, and personality.
The beginning sketches of Lucky
After absorbing and marinating in these inspiring images, the next logical step is to attempt my take, resulting in the following early sketches.
Many artists have a defined style – something they’ve honed over the years. My style changes a little depending on the project I’m working on. I very much enjoy doing it this way. It’s like trying out different flavors of ice cream and seeing what I’m in the mood for. This keeps things interesting and fun!
Here are some character sketches:
Here’s a version that looks bubbly. Lucky has a rounded face and comic book look due to the use of black outlines.
While color is not very important at this stage, I will play around with them to get a sense of Lucky’s personality. Red will often show vibrancy, fun, and liveliness.
Different poses and movements give the character emotion.
This one uses a more “sketchy” style. Loose lines and duo-tone coloring gives Lucky a subdued/softer look.
This one has a very simplified style with lots of solid colors, almost no shading, and no outlines.
The arms and legs are thin while the body and head are either a circle or rectangular to keep the basic shapes.
This one is a little closer to the final design.
If you look closely, it combines elements from the previous versions.
The loose feel works well for their fur, while solid outlines work well for their outfits.
The outlines are later removed or colorized to give the book an even softer look.
A few more revisions and this one will work.
Below is the refined sketch of Lucky and his family.
While it’s not the final version, it is close. The emotions are more evident, the shading gives our character depth and each character carries a unique personality.
Another critical question: Should raccoons wear underwear?
The next step is to determine the colors that go with each character.
What do you think so far? In the next post, we’ll look at the inside pages! Make sure to get your copy!
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