I’ve been posting regularly to social media (Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/jayfleckartist/ Instagram – @jayafleck) and while I feel that is a great way to reach a large audience, my posts are limited to smaller, bite-size pieces of content. So I decided to start a blog in order to go a little more in-depth into the work that I’ve done, my process, etc. and maybe offer a bit of insight that I can’t share through social media.
I thought I’d start by taking a quick look at the process of illustrating a children’s book. First, a publisher/author finds my work (through my agent, on-line, etc) and thinks “Hey, Jay does some cute stuff, he’d be perfect for my book!” Then I receive an email with their text, asking for my thoughts and whether I’d have any interest in doing the illustrations. I read the text and try to visualize a look and feel that would match. I wouldn’t want to commit to a book if I didn’t feel like I’d be a good fit. Doing a picture book can be a long (and sometimes frustrating) process. Best not to start down that road if I have no idea where I’m going.
Once I say “you want me?… really?… sure!” and the contractual stuff is out of the way I start drawing. I start with very rough pencil sketches for each spread (two side-by-side pages). Once I have sketches for the entire text, I send them off to the publisher for feedback. Ideally they’d say “Fantastic work Jay, now just add some color and we’re done!” But in reality a good number of pages require significant work, multiple need to be reworked entirely, and maybe a scant few require only minor changes. I then work on the sketches- adding color, detail and refinement and send the updated layout back to the publisher. Each book requires multiple rounds of illustration, feedback, and adjustments for each and every page. Some pages require 5 or 6 rounds of tweaks (Double Take), some change only slightly from my initial sketches (Everything You). Once that process is complete I breathe a big sigh of relief and send the publisher the final art.
The designer at the publisher adds the text to my illustrations and completes the layout- the cover, backcover, endpapers, etc. When done I’m sent pdfs of the final book to review. I look those over, make any last-minute changes, and off the book goes to the printer for printed proofs. When the proofs are ready they’re mailed to me so I can review colors, look for mistakes we may have missed, and basically just get a better idea of how the book will appear in printed form. For Double Take the colors were adjusted slightly- the saturation increased and green toned down. Black Belt Bunny required a little more work and adjustment from the proofs. The yellow that appears in the title and the jacket took a few rounds of tweaking before I was happy with it. In the end maybe I’m just not that demanding or the printer has done good work with my proofs because not many changes have been necessary. I can’t wait for you to see the finished books!