Wednesday, March 13, 2019

10 Steps of Illustrating Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons

A behind the scenes look at my process of illustrating the children's picture book Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons written by Joseph Goodrich.

The project begins:

1. Manuscript cut up into text dummy

2. Thumbnails and exploratory sketches

Text dummy for Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons by Traci Van WagonerText dummy for Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons by Traci Van Wagoner
Thumbnails for Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons by Traci Van Wagoner

3. Character development

I love drawing dragons and so this project was particularly fun since it has FOUR of them! And I just had to create Ellie as an elephant, and since the four dragon's colors match up to emotions, blue, green, red and orange, that lead me to a purple elephant. Plus, I love purple.

Illustrating Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons by Traci Van Wagoner


4. The painting splattering begins

After developing characters and getting approval I did this rough color sketch to establish my basic color palette. I didn’t end up using this spread, but it still holds a special place in my heart.

Ellie spread color sketch by Traci Van Wagoner @2018
First color study to establish my palette



"I am speechless.  And there are only a few times in my life where I remember being moved to tears (of joy). Marines usually have a tough time with showing emotions. This is PERFECT!  Exactly what I was going for. I have accomplished many interesting and challenging feats in my life but this has to be at the top for one of the most proud accomplishments.  Thank you for helping me make Ellie and her Emotional Dragons a reality!

~Joseph Goodrich, author


I tried a new painting process born from my experiences with #paintplay which I started when I got Procreate on my iPad Pro. I use the Apple pencil sometimes and my finger a lot too. Over the last couple years, I’ve been pushing my color palettes (#colour_collective) and loosening up my style. I finally had a chance to put this experimenting to the rigorous test of illustrating a full picture book.

I've always loved the idea of splatter painting, but never had the courage to let loose and do it. Until now. I love how paint splatters encourages the imagination and how shapes emerge and inspire the next step of painting. There’s such energy and playfulness. I loved breaking out of confines of my previous painting style. It helps also to have the freedom to paint on the couch, or comfy chair, in bed, or up on the roof in the garden — Even at my nephews graduation from High School. Shhh. (They announced like 1000 students. Yeah, huge.)

5. Just keep painting

I worked on all of the spreads in stages. I couldn’t finish just one since I was still figuring out what finished was. It drove my business partner (who is also my husband) crazy that I didn’t finish at least one piece so he could see where I was going. I didn’t even touch the cover until I thought I was sort of, maybe, kind of, a little bit close to the final of one of the spreads. They’re never really done for me until I’ve sent the final file and the book is in print and even then I’m afraid to look at the printed book for fear of hating what I did.

I’m happy to say in this case that — well, in pretty all my picture books, I’ve never hated what I did. I always see ways and things I could have done better, but I think that’s a good thing. That means I’m growing, developing and always exploring and getting better — or at least different and hopefully … ugh, this word — marketable. I’m not a trend chaser, but I have been trying to freshen up my style.

I digress.
Meanwhile back on the drawing board...

6. Finalizing the art

Once I figured I was reasonably finished, I transferred the files to my big Magic Machine Mac and opened them all in Photoshop where I finalized details and cleaned up some of the splatter using my Cintiq. I did at least one or two more rounds (some spreads more than others) to finish and polish and make sure I had consistency with the characters (her hair butterfly), nose lines, clothes colors, etc. I had a long list I made sure to check off as well as character pages for quick reference.

I didn’t do the cover until the very end when I was satisfied with the style and knew what I was shooting for at the finished level. Originally I had a different cover in mind, but this image spoke to me and begged to be the cover, and then I had to add the neighbors (read to book to find out why) next to them on the back cover.

I was happy with the family, the houses, the neighbors and trees and turned in this one.

Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons cover art by Traci Van Wagoner @2018
Something is missing...

Can you see what’s missing from the final cover?

Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons cover art final by Traci Van Wagoner
Dragons!

Sometimes I think too literally, and I figured the dragons would be waiting for Ellie in her bedroom closet since that’s where they exist — they’re magical. I was going to have them out on the balconies and in the windows of the house, but that just didn’t work. I had to shake logic loose. These are dragons. They’re her friends. They should be front and center, same as the family.

7. Publication

Final Cover front and Back for Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons illustrated by Traci Van WagonerThe dragons added a fun pop of color to the front. Which the folks at Wisdom House took and ran with when designing the cover with the playful and colorful type to bring together an appealing cover that hopefully will draw attention and pull readers in to enjoy Ellie’s story in learning to deal with her emotions with the help of her colorful dragon friends.




I hope you enjoy this touching story. It was a joy to illustrate. I would love to hear what you think of my process or feel free to ask any questions.

If you'd like to hire me to illustrate your book, please check out my post on Hiring an Illustrator and please contact me.


8. Official Release

November 16, 2018 was the official release date and Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons is out in the world!

Ellie and Nalie illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner
Ellie and Nali, @2018 Traci Van Wagoner

9. Buy it Now

Buy it now :

Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons by Joseph Goodrich, illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner
©2018 Traci Van Wagoner

10. Reveling in the great reviews



I'm very happy to say that Ellie and dragons are getting a lot of great attention, including a star review from Kirkus Review (see the review).  And several great reviews from Readers' Favorite.

"What an absolutely enchanting story! I fell in love with the artwork from the first page. The illustrations by Traci Van Wagoner are just fantastic, done in a style I have never seen before. The ink spatter style gives sweeping movements and is filled with energy, and I felt myself being carried along by the events. Young readers will be swept up into this tale by becoming visually engaged. There is so much to discover in each brightly colored panel, including subtle references to the colors of the little dragons."
~ Fiona Ingram for Readers' Favorite

I will share more great news in a separate post, so stay tuned.

Thank you for joining me here and celebrating my creative journey along with me. I'd love to hear what you think of this book that helps children learn to deal with the emotions. Feel free to share.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Brown Paper Packages

Holiday Traditions: Brown Paper Packages

Traci Van Wagoner illustration
Every year for many, many years now, my husband and I wrap our Christmas gifts in plain brown paper. We started with using green string as the only decoration with a simple gift tag. It has evolved into a fun Christmas tradition of drawing on the packages, at first with simple pen, then some color marker and then full blown art with color pencils. At some point in this process, I started to pick a theme for each holiday. One year was all about snowmen, another Santa and his elves, another reindeer.... And a new tradition was born.

I love creating these packages. Besides helping get into the festive mood, it's non-stress artwork, where I can draw whatever I want without any expectations of having to be perfect. This was something I did for fun and for the enjoyment of the receivers. I didn't take pictures most of the years, because I didn't really care, and as an artist of many years, I'm not that attached to every piece of art I do, so I let it go out into the world to suffer the fate of being ripped open, or whatever. Not until later when it became more of a thing that people always mentioned and loved about getting gifts from us, that my husband decided to start photographing the packages. I've shared a few of those with you. Enjoy!



Traci Van Wagoner illustration

Traci Van Wagoner
Traci Van Wagoner
Traci Van Wagoner art

Traci Van Wagoner art
 Traci Van Wagoner art
Traci Van Wagoner art



This year will be a little different however, since we are not really doing gifts. To get my holiday artistic fix, we will be decorating sugar cookies with artistic style. Or so we hope. I've decorated cookies in a basic way, but we're going to try do do this the fancy way and make one-of-a-kind cookies for people on our gift list. I'll share the results, so stay tuned.


What are your favorite holiday traditions? Feel free to share in the comments what family traditions you enjoy.


Happy holidays!


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

IF: Vote

Yes, I should have posted this yesterday, but I was busy actually leaving my studio -- in the rain -- to go vote. I was at first concerned that there was no line. I even took a book with me in case. I was concerned the rain had scared people away, but when I asked, the woman assured me that they had been busy all morning and they were just having an afternoon lull. So it was perfect timing for me.

Thanks to Illustration Friday for the kick in the seat of the pants to actually create this piece of art. I painted this using Procreate with my iPad Pro and mostly my finger to paint with details added using the Apple Pencil.

Did you vote? Do you think it's important to raise our children to be involved in politics and the decisions being made in our country?
Traci Van Wagoner paint play Vote
©2018 Traci Van Wagoner

Thursday, November 1, 2018

IF: Witch

Illustration Friday: Witch

I know, I know, I should have posted this yesterday for Halloween, but as you may or may not know by now, I firmly believe in procrastination. This is NYC Witch I created a while ago. I had another witch painting I was working on, but I haven't had a chance to finish it since other work stuff got in the way. Pesky work stuff. This was created in Photoshop using my signature texture colors which were originally created in Painter.

Wouldn't you just love to be able to fly over New York City on a broomstick? I know I would. I hope you all had a spooktacular Halloween. Since I don't have kids, I don't do the trick or treat thing, and so, I have no candy. Boo. I'd love to hear about your Halloween escapades in the comments below.

Illustration Friday Witch created by Traci Van Wagoner
©2014 Traci Van Wagoner,  NYC Witch

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

IF: Ghost

BOO!

'Tis that time of year again with ghosts roaming about. So I'm sharing (again) my Balloon Lift Off Spooky for this week's Illustration Friday prompt Ghost. The house on the hill is haunted.

This painting is part of my Red Balloon series. If you're interested getting this as a print, let me know.

Happy Halloween!

Illustration Friday Ghost by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner

Monday, October 15, 2018

Magical

Have a MAGICAL Monday!

It's been a while since I've shared here. I thought I'd dive back in with the Illustration Friday challenge word, Magical. Oh yeah, that's my kind of word. Doesn't everyone want a fairy godmother to turn them into a princess or prince? Or a mouse into a carriage horse? A pumpkin into the carriage? Bippity-boppity-boo! The transformation has begun.

I created this using Procreate on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. Part of my #paintplay exploration and fun painting adventure. Please let me know if you would like to purchase this as a print.

If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?
Magical IF Traci Van Wagoner
Fairy Godmother, @2018 Traci Van Wagoner


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Illustration Friday: Green

Sunny Green 

I haven't had a chance to participate in Illustration Friday for a while. I couldn't pass up on the prompt word, Green. So, as I took a few moments to relax between deadlines and paint play in my iPad Pro with Procreate and my finger and this pretty scene of rolling green hills is what came out. And a castle is always fun, and a warm, bright sun, yeah. So, there you have it, Sunny Green.

What do you think of when you hear the word Green?
Sunny Green fantasy painting by Traci Van Wagoner
©2018 Traci Van Wagoner

Friday, May 25, 2018

Balloon Lift Off Painting Series

The Full 5 Red Balloon Adventure by Traci Van Wagoner

I have been remiss in updating you on my Balloon Lift Off Series. I thought it would be fun to show them all here in a full set of 10 paintings in the series so far. Most of them are available as prints, cards, and more on my Redbubble Store. If there is a paint here you don't see there, and you'd like to get a print or other item, please contact me.

I'm letting the wind take me where it will on these. If you have any place specific you'd like to see her fly over or through, let me know. If you feel so inclined, post a photo of a place you'd like to see her visit. I hope you're enjoying the journey.

Live, Laugh, Learn -- and Fly!


Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
Balloon Lift Off ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
Up, Up and Away ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner




Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
Washed Out to Sea ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
The Lighthouse ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner


Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
Wild ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
Balloon Crossing ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner


Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
Spooky ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
Thanksgiving Day Parade ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner



Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
Full Moon Balloons ©2018 Traci Van Wagoner
Balloon Lift Off Series of paintings by Traci Van Wagoner
Reflections ©2018 Traci Van Wagoner

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Piano Recital Then and Now

When I saw the prompt for Illustration Friday this week of piano, I had to have a go at this painting again, Piano Recital. The girl is all grown up now with a bigger audience and perhaps more refined color and a not so heavy handed feel overall. I've always loved this painting, and over the last year I've been playing with loosening up my paint style and have explored with a ton of new tools, so I thought it would be fun to recreate this.

Improvement in style or not?

New - painted in Procreate with iPadPro


Piano Concert Now by Traci Van Wagoner
©2018 Traci Van Wagoner

 Old - painted many many years ago using Corel Painter (probably version 1 or close to it) and a Wacom tablet on a Mac.


Piano Concert Then by Traci Van Wagoner
©2012 Traci Van Wagoner

Thursday, February 22, 2018

IF: House

House in the Hills


Illustration Friday provided the lovely prompt of House this week, and this house (and little house friends) popped up in my paint play in Procreate while chilling. I had started the fall colored trees and rolling hills a while ago (in Autumn to be specific), but nothing came of it until the big house showed up. Thanks for the prompt, IF! Things fell into place and I quite like the result. I'd love to hear what you think of this style.

House in the Hills art by Traci Van Wagoner, for prompt House by IF
©2018 Traci Van Wagoner