Second in a feature of two posts by Deepthi Horagoda. The first post can be found here – Illustrating Children’s Books
The brief titled ‘Row, row, row your boat’ for the illustrating children’s books course that I am currently taking, was also a challenging assignment. It is an open brief, leaving us to come up with our interpretation of ‘life is but a dream’ from a child’s perspective. It was also challenging for me personally as I had not done such a large illustration before. However, all these factors ultimately made this brief a rewarding experience.
Initially I considered 3 different concepts. I finally decided to illustrate a child dreaming of a squirrel rowing down a river in a coconut shell ‘boat’ fantasizing about tropical fruits. The illustration could be described as ‘a dream within a dream’. The sleeping child on the top left serves as an introduction to the dream aspect of the story. The child’s tresses of hair depicted in stylized format acts as a border framing the child’s ‘dream’.
I decided to extend the whimsical nature of the squirrel and the ‘boat’ to the entire illustration. Consequently, the anatomical accuracy of the animals was retained whilst adding fanciful details such as a bandana, sun glasses and garlands. I felt these small additions would make the characters more appealing to children.
In the same vein I added juvenile characters to make them more relatable. A terrapin learning to swim indicated by the flippers and a baby elephant wearing a banana leaf bib were thus added. Since some children prefer animal characters and others prefer child characters I incorporated both into the illustration.
The elephant characters have been illustrated bearing in mind their behaviour patterns as well as their dietary habits. The two adult elephants have been illustrated as females since elephants live in a matriarchal society. I have used garlands and anklets to define the female elephants in the illustration.
The ‘fruit barrow’ is a part of an arecanut palm tree. Although it would be unfamiliar to many foreign readers, it would be easily identified by South Asian readers. In fact, taking a ride on such a ‘buggy’ pulled by an older child has been an integral part of childhood for many generations. I decided to include this item as it fits the overall concept of the elephants’ picnic since it is a part of their environment. Furthermore, its role as a cart can be appreciated by all regardless of their background or location.
The tree framing the right side of the illustration is based on a golden shower tree. This particular variety of trees come into bloom during the fruit season in the South Asian region. I added some whimsical elements to make it ‘come alive’. Hence the eye and nose, whilst the hollow in the tree’s trunk gives the impression of a mouth wide open in amazement.
Mrs.Maggy Roberts our tutor has described the illustration as “a really atmospheric piece of work… full of interest, engaging, a really charming piece”. She has stated that “The overall feel is suitable with some very original elements and suitable for the children’s market. You have done well here and produced an image that combines a child-friendly style with good observation and decorative elements that appear to lift it from the ordinary”.
I hope what I have written helps those who are beginning the illustrating children’s books course as well as those of you who maybe considering enrolling for the course. You cannot go wrong with an experienced professional like Maggy Roberts guiding you.