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Illustrating my Picture Book: Old To Joy

Can you imagine a world without picture books? Oh how much we would miss. It is picture books that first pulled me into the world of wonder that are stories written for children. I was seven years old when I first wrote, illustrated and bound my own book. Who knew it would be another 50 years before my first author/illustrated book landed on books shelves and in stores. So when people ask me how long it took me to write and illustrate Old to Joy, my first response is about 57 years.

I first wrote this story in 1998 and I did not know it then, but I would go on to illustrate it myself. Even though I am an artist, I did not plan on illustrating picture books. Then Covid-19 struck. The lock down happened. In between teaching from home, I began creating fine art pieces related to children. Here are some of the illustrations I created during the summer of 2020.

I used pastels to create all of these drawings. The size of the paper ranged form 18X24 to 30X36, which led me to believe there was no way to illustrate a children's book in this medium. So I began learning how to illustrate digitally. I recreated parts of the original illustrations using procreate on my iPad.

For example the drawing on the left done traditionally with pastels and collage, became the drawing on the right which I experimented with color and texture and added elements.

Several of the illustrations in Old to Joy began as sketches or drawings or full illustrations that I then moved over to procreate and modified. I wanted to match the style and texture of pastels as closely as possible so I did a considerable amount of blending. The biggest challenge was maintaining the character continuity since I used a somewhat realistic style.

I also wanted to bring in some college elements and experimented with how that could work digitally as well. These next set of images show the pastel and collage elements and then the transformation once I imported them into procreate and continued to develop the final images - some of which are in Old to Joy.

This is a mermaid piece I worked on using pastels and collage. The mermaid outfit is collage. The turtle and snail shells are collage also. The background and extra fish were added in procreate. I also adjusted the mermaid hair and eyes once in procreate.

For this piece, which is in old to joy, I started with Joy and grandmomma in one position and using pastels and collage. Once in procreate I rearranged the composition and added other elements.

And the final spread in the book looks like this:

My final example begins with my model, my niece Ashlynn. She was about eight at the time. I wanted my main character, Joy, to have chubbiness to her. I also wanted her to have dimples and braids. The braids were challenging and took an awful long time, but it was well worth the extra effort. The final illustration includes the cat and house and leaves and is also in the book Old to Joy.

What follows is a time-laspe video of the process I used in procreate to make the final spread that you will see in the book before words are added.

All in all illustrating my first published children's book, Old to Joy, would not have been possible without the numerous people who supported and believed in me from that seven year old girl making books at the kitchen table up unto today and beyond. I thank God for the creativity and talent He has blessed me with. Many thanks to my publisher and editor, Sandra Sutter of Gnome Road Publishing who believed in this story from the very beginnng. And to my dear friend and mentor, Larissa Morant, who believed I could illustrate a children's book even before I believed it. And to my grandmother, Beatrice Washington who much of this story is based upon. A special thank you and loads of appreciation to my family, my husband and daughters and grandkids. This journey would not have been possible without their encouragement, love and unending support.

I hope there are blessing and moments of joy to all who read this OLD TO JOY

In stores wherever books are sold on September 5, 2023

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