Shout Out to the Girls, process + cover
Early on in the year I was wandering through a book shop and I noticed some cool non-fiction titles in the kids section and I wondered if I’d ever get to contribute to something like those. And then in July I got an email inviting me to create some portraits for a book celebrating Australian women. (Everyone always says that publishing houses just contact you out of the blue, but I didn’t really believe it. It’s a hard thing to believe. You especially don’t believe they’re gonna contact you about your dream project.)
Anyway, one thing I didn’t consider in my dream-fantasies (because you never have anxiety when you’re imagining all the cool opportunities you might have) was the weight of responsibility of illustrating a non-fiction book for kids. It was only once I’d signed my contract that I started to panic. For a whole bunch of reasons. But mostly because Nancy Wake and Elizabeth Blackburn are not recognisably iconic women. Which means that there will be lots of kids (who grow into adults) for whom my illustrations of these women will be the way they imagine them. A fixed image on paper, created by me, will anchor their interpretation of entire other humans. So that’s terrifying.
I spent a lot of time sketching them, which helped. This was easier for Blackburn, who lives in a time of digital photos, than for Wake, but I dredged up enough photos of Wake to eventually feel comfortable with my drawings of her too. And I tried to get to know them, by reading interviews, so I could compose the images in ways that made sense for who they were and what they’d done.
Eventually the fear went away and I’m pretty happy, in the end, that they feel *right*. I can always improve artistically, and that’s not a problem. I’m never going to see a picture of mine and think “ah yes, this is perfect, no errors at all! couldn’t be better!” But I can look at my own work and think that overall, at its essence, it feels like it’s trying to do the right things. And that’s how these feel.
Lemme know if you have any Qs about my process. I’m never really sure what of the BTS stuff is interesting, but I thought some of the face sketches would be cool so I popped some up there 🙂