Today I am delighted to welcome Emma Reynolds to the blog for a special guest post to celebrate the release of her first illustrated book, ‘Rescuing Mrs. Birdley,’ written by Aaron Reynolds. This hilarious book features self proclaimed animal expert Miranda, whose obsession with the Nature Joe Animal Show convinces her that her destiny is to return creatures to their natural habitat. So when she spies her teacher, shockingly not at school but in a supermarket she is determined to capture her and return her back to where she belongs, at school. Emma’s vibrant and humorous illustrations brilliantly show the chaos and carnage Miranda causes in her quest to return her teacher to school. Younger children are bound to be entertained by the lengths she goes to on her mission to rescue her teacher.
Emma shares with us the illustrative process behind creating this wonderful book.
Emma Reynolds – Illustrating, ‘Rescuing Mrs. Birdley’
When I received the manuscript from Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster written by author Aaron Reynolds about an adventurous, wildly fantastic little girl Miranda and lots of animals, it was an instant yes from me! This was in August 2018, and I worked on the book over a year until summer 2019, and the book is out now in summer 2020.
This was my first ever illustrated book, and I learnt so much along the journey!
I’m going to show you how I made the book –
Now the first step for me as the illustrator was to figure out what the characters looked like! I went to my favourite cafe and started sketching – Here are the first character concepts for Mrs. Birdley and Nature Joe
I use a mixture of paper and pencil and sketching in Procreate on the iPad.
Here is one of the first sketches I did of Miranda, which ended up actually appearing in the final book on the opening spread!
I wanted to capture her lively energy and pure joy and excitement about rushing to watch her favourite TV show about animal rescuer, Nature Joe! From the Nature Joe Animal Show, where he rescues lost animals and returns them to their natural habitats!
This was another early character development sketch of Miranda, that also ended up being very close in the final artwork. I remember being encapsulated with my favourite shows and animations, and her cuddly toy animals are joining in too – love a plushie me!
I wanted to capture her here glued to the TV and intently watching her hero! The whole book is about how Miranda sees her teacher Mrs. Birdley in the grocery store, so she assumes she is ‘out of her natural habitat’, and must be returned to school where she belongs! So this establishing shot is very important 🙂
Now I’m going to talk you through the stages of how I made one of the spreads in the book!
I start SUPER rough, as you can see here! The first round of thumbnails are just about basic blocking and communicating what is going to be on each page. It’s not about being super neat at this point, and I used annotations to express my ideas.
I worked closely with my lovely and amazing art director & designer Lizzy Bromley throughout this whole process. Some of the thumbnails don’t change that much until final art, but a lot did.
For example, on this thumbnail, we ended up splitting these two into two separate spreads.
1.More refined sketch 2.Colour key rough 3. Final Outlines 4. Final Artwork
I did colour keys for the entire book – not too much detail, but it showed me how the book would look as a whole, and was an invaluable guide throughout!
We had three main palettes in the book – the warm natural palette of her ‘real world’ suburbia, the limited palette of green tones and flashes of yellow to show the ‘Nature Joe World’ where Miranda is imagining that, and then the supermarket cool colours.
Nature Joe palette on the left where she is setting her trap for Mrs. Birdley. Supermarket reality palette on the right where the trap fails and the poor Deli Man gets caught up in the action!!
I hope you enjoyed a little window into my book making process!
Huge thank you to my agent Thao Le, my editor Justin Chanda and my art director and designer Lizzy Bromley!
Thank you to Emma for this really insightful guest post and for sending me a gifted copy of this wonderful picture book. ‘Rescuing Mrs. Birdley is available to buy now online or from your local bookshop. If you can please support your local indie bookshop.