Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


A Favorite Illustrator

One of my favorite illustrators (and also dear friend) is Susan Detwiler.  I like all of her work, but the book I turn to most often when my grandchildren are clamoring for a bedtime story is One Wolf Howls (Sylvan Dell, 2009), written by Scotti Cohn and illustrated by Susan.  It's a wonderful concept book for learning the months and seasons of the year, for counting, for learning about wolves and their habitat, and, simply, for a good read.

And here's my favorite spread in the book:

"Eight wolves dance in the August twilight--
splash feet, paddle feet, prance by the lake.
Eight wolves dance in the August twilight
deep in the woods as the owls awake."

Here's what Susan had to say about her creative process:

"I study the manuscript and keep notes on my visual impressions. I gather research material including clippings I have on file, books at home and from the library, and photos from the internet. This part can be time-consuming but I try not to rush it because as I read and search I am learning about my subject in depth. I keep notes on all the photo references (i.e., sleeping, eating, seen from above) so that I can find them again easily. 
The thumbnail sketches come next. I reduce the size of the rough layout to fit all the spreads on one page and print it; I sketch right on that print and compose the book in storyboard fashion. From my tiny thumbnail sketches I make more detailed sketches at about one third the finished size and these are scanned and sent to the editor for approval. I make revisions and submit a new sketch if necessary, then proceed to final art.

Using an overhead projector, I transfer the sketch to the illustration board in pencil at finished size and then apply the color. One Wolf Howls was done in watercolor and so it took many layers of paint, from light to dark. I add highlights last with white gouache (the glints of sunlight on the water in this piece) and always scan my artwork when it is finished. The whole picture book illustration process takes me eight to nine months. When I read "Eight wolves dance..." in the manuscript, I immediately pictured this scene in my mind; then it was just a matter of finding the references to help me depict it accurately."

Just in case you're wondering if the children like it as much as I do, here's a picture of my 9-year-old granddaughter, Mairin, reading to her two younger siblings, Annabel (5) and Gareth (3) before bedtime at Grammy's house.  Thank you, Susan Detwiler!


Christy said...

I love Susan's work, too! This is a beautiful book and matching text. I'm so glad I was introduced to her at that Maryland SCBWI Conference.

Susan said...

Thank you, Edie! It warms my heart that your beautiful grandchildren enjoy my book.

Stephanie said...

Love the photo of you all enjoying such a lovely book:)