These past few weeks, I have been very busy working on two creative projects simultaneously, and with the available free time I have for creative work, you can say I'm progressing slowly but surely on these. I'll be writing about the other project in another blog entry, but for this one, I'll talk about "Spinning" first.
"Spinning" is a delightful short story written by Irene Carolina A. Sarmiento (Teacher Irene) about Kuya who has autism, his sister, Tin-Tin and their family.
"Like a giant top, he spins, and spins, and spins for fun. Tin-Tin wants to help Kuya so that they can play together and learn new things. In this story about love and understanding, Kuya also has plenty to share with Tin-Tin and with the whole world."
The book aims to highlight what children with autism are capable of being and sharing with others as whole human beings. It seeks to look beyond their handicaps and differences, and see how special these children truly are, with their own special gifts and abilities. As far as I know, this is the first story for children that Irene has ever written (or will be published – I'm sure she's written lots, for that matter). Having read most of her previous works, some of which have already garnered prestigious literary awards (Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards and Philippine Free Press Literary Contest), I'm more accustomed to her work on science-fiction and fantasy mostly using modern twists on Filipino folklore. But after reading "Spinning," I knew she has written a heartwarming tale that families and teachers can relate to, and when she asked me if I could illustrate her book, I was MORE than willing to agree!
First, I had to convince the publisher (Anvil Publications) that I'm qualified in illustrating a children's book. It would have been a lot advantageous if I was a member of INK (Ilustrador ng Kabataan), since most publishers get their illustrators from such organizations (mental note to join next time they call for members!). But thanks to my online gallery in deviantART, Flickr, and my (unfinished) website, and most importantly my personal experience in working with kids with autism, the publisher gave me the green light. Here are just some of the sketches I sent them.
And so after signing the contract, I'm now in the slow and grueling (but FUN!) process of setting into pictures the words that inhabit Irene's story. After receiving the specifications of the book, I laid out the needed illustrations based on these. I'll be creating approximately 15 to 20 individual paintings. Irene and the publishers imagined a dreamy (almost pastel-like look), but boldly colorful style for the art and somehow I was more inclined to use watercolors as base with pencil, pen or acrylic highlights for the paintings to achieve this look. Hmmm, I used the word slow, because the process I imposed on myself would require stages before the final actual artwork, and so far, I've only finalized three plates, and each required 3-4 stages, each an artwork by itself already! And with the limited time I have to work on these (I have a day job by the way!), it will indeed be a slow process. But I'm getting there!
The characters are the heart of the story and I have to get them right. For the character of Tin-tin, you will notice that I started out with the cliché girl with the pigtails look, but somehow I felt that I have to infuse the character with the author's personality and look (since she was coursing herself through this character, I think). I asked for Irene's child pictures which I could use as reference.
For Kuya, I had to use a variety of references, from my kids in Quality Life Discoveries to my very own kiddy pictures.
For the cover, which we also intend to use for the promotional, I decided to work on a special customized font for the book. I initially did sketches for the cover to feature Tin-tin in the foreground; however, finally, we decided to put Kuya in front. Also, during this stage, I still wasn't decided on how Tin-tin would look like, but finally settled on a straight hair look to maintain constancy.
Using my initial sketches and mock-ups, I worked on a potential promotional poster which hopefully will be run soon pending approval from Anvil. But, you've seen it first here!
And here's a preview of how another spread is coming about...
And this ain't the final version yet!