- Dennis DeRobertis
Be a Tyrant with Your Ideas
If you're really not happy with the final product, don't publish. Get it right and don't settle. Remember, once it's out there, it's out there.
When I first approached Cristian, picture book artist extraordinaire, I had already sketched the pages for the first two Little Brown Spider books. In fact, the sketches were done many years before we even met. Not only did I assume I wouldn't need to change any of the pages - after all, it's just a kid's picture book - I did not take into account the final layout/dimensions/length of the book or how everything would flow with the final artwork.
After getting the last of the final, colored pages, I put it all together. Everything was laid out correctly in the publishing software, the text was written and...I wasn't happy. Actually, several things bothered me (things you can only learn and uncover by doing), but one of the biggest was page 11.
It just didn't feel right.
That's the original page 11 up top. The scene shows Michael and the Little Brown Spider getting onto a school bus. The final artwork was a perfect rendition of my original sketch, but it didn't work. It didn't have the flow I wanted. It wasn't super obvious what was going on, either. Without the text, what was the Little Brown Spider doing? Swinging off the tree to avoid the bus? Trying to stop Michael from getting on the bus? Jumping from the tree to Michael's shoulder?
I sketched another version and sent to Cristian.
This version was a little better than the original, but still not right. For starters, LBS looked very strange. He has an odd backward glance going on and awkwardly positioned two front legs. He also didn't have the movement I wanted him to convey. Finally, the scene felt too compressed. So I thought about it some more. And then I did a few more sketches. And then I thought about it a little more. Finally, I sent Cristian a new sketch. This time, the scene changed from a single page to a double-page spread and LBS stopped being a contortionist.
Doing these updates did add costs to the book and delayed its release. Some may argue it's better to get a book out in the market sooner rather than later. And I can see that side of it. But for me, the books need to "feel" right in my head, from start to finish. No matter how insignificant a detail may be, if it's not right, it's not right. I'd rather try...and try again...and try again...to get something I'm happy with then to publish something that will probably gnaw at me for a very long time.
Be a tyrant with your ideas.