I made it
The decision to make an illustrated story is always very exciting yet scary: would I be able to do it well and on time? Book illustration was one of the main goals when I decided to study at university. I always thought it could be a really great way not only of earning a living but in a personal level: to be able to do my own books is like a dream, books in which you write life, you illustrate the world in order to understand it better. To do this book I had almost two months. It looks plenty of time but the truth is that time is never enough because there is more you can always do to improve the book. In this case I was able to stop just because there was a dead line. My initial idea was to produce twenty pages. How did I end working in the actual fifty? Simple: because I love doing it and many days I worked for about twelve hours. Always at the end of each project there is a sense of visual tiredness and a happy feeling of “things are happening” or “I’m there, I made it”….
So this is what had happened in those two months:
Finding a story
I first looked for a story that would be settle in our “Local Universe” This is an allocated area we have been working since the beginning of my last year course. After reading as fast I could as many stories as possible about this area I realized that I would much preferred to work in someone’s story, someone I could talk about what I’m doing, something I could feel similar to work as a commissioned project. I had to go to see my mum for a weekend and when telling her about this she gave me pile of stories she wrote many years ago. Paper were almost yellow and it was written in the typewriter she often used when I was a child. I first took them thinking of this sweet gesture of my mum (she was trying to help me) but did not have any hope that my story was going to be among them. She said “read the one about the girl”… so I did and I couldn’t believe it, the story was working perfectly well for what I was trying to do! It was a bitter-sweet story, and it had suspense. The story was working also well in the meanings of introduction, body, conclusion. And the main factor in this story is that it leaves the reader in a perturbed and unsettle state at the end inviting to end the story as one could think it would be the best moral outcome. Yet there is always the doubt.
Translating the story
Ideally this story should had been taken to a proper translator. But I decided to save this money and translate it from the Spanish by myself. I feel confident when translating things to people but when it comes to a proper narrative with expressions where the author means very particular things it can get more complicated. Yet I managed to sort out all these little things and then asked an English friend who likes writing to read my translation and to correct when necessary. Then, just to reassure, I asked two native English friends to read the story. It was all good so I could start with my research. Doing the translation helped me to immerse more deeply in the story.
Looking every single drawing or design that crosses my way in the street (shops, leaflets, magazines…) Looking at the university library. Especially at nights, when everyone sleeps at home I would be hours in internet looking. How can it be so much good work in the world!! And how lucky we are to be able to use internet to look at others work. I realized how some artists frame their own drawings inside the drawing as part of the design and I decided to focus and work on this peculiarity. There is a strange feeling of strength as well as protection in framing things. It’s an emphasis point.
Sketching was happening for some weeks every day and at any moment. It’s more like an on-going process. The important of putting down on a piece of paper a key idea to follow is absolutely crucial. When someone looks to an illustration that respond, enhance and strengthen the narrative is because there has been a good idea processed behind and this kind of graphic ideas come to the mind as in brainstorm fashion. As such you are doing your life but the story is occupying a huge part of your mind, it continues working alongside while you might be doing other things related to the story like researching in materials for example. The viewer does not realize how much a strong graphic idea, usually disguise in a metaphor, is helping to get a much better understanding of what he is reading. In this sense one could say that the job of the illustrator is very humble yet very important. And never to forget, at the service of the narrative.
There is something about the sketches that finished work misses. I am everyday more aware of this and for this project I tried to incorporate the sketches into the final pieces. It’s the first time I do this and I must say that it turns out very interesting. The sketch drawing is usually out of measurement, full of little marks from the rubber and loose strokes, notes… and the digital editing and correction of all this might very well take much longer than producing a new drawing. But it is precisely the loose what I am after and I am happy to pay the price for it. There were many more drawings that I could not use and they will be kept in my “bank of images” for other occasions. The making of a book has behind many hours of physical stillness… my life for days and days was the pencils, the watercolours, the papers, the scanner, the printer and Photoshop. The world was running in a different rhythm outside my studio window.