Thursday, 21 November 2013

Drawing on the Magnificient

I started my blog earlier this year with the intention of regular entries showcasing some of my artworks with some personal musings - however, I do realise there's been somewhat of an hiatus. In early spring, a friend asked whether I could illustrate a children's book that she had written - she explained her intention with the book, and naively, having never illustrated a book before, I said yes. Without previous experience, both of us really didn't understand the magnitude of the undertaking at the time - literally it has taken us all summer...and autumn!

Magnificent Me, Magnificent You - The Grand Canyon
A Children's Activity book. Front Cover.
Click on the images for larger versions.

She initially saw my drawings/paintings and liked the way I worked and felt we would make a great team for her ideas. I work from the heart and explore love and light, and her ethos is to support children both physically and spiritually. She focuses on well-being through yoga - not just bendy stretches, but healthy mind, body and spirit. I always feel that any focus on health through any tradition has to be good thing, but because of my beliefs, we agreed that there would not be a religious aspect to what we did.

Illustration for The Grand Canyon children's book

I instantly loved her book's storyline, ethos and idea. The story focus's on twins Crystal and Leo who have a wishing mirror that transports them to a new place and follows their journey of discovery, not only of themselves, but of the world around them.  They learn about spiritual traditions from different cultures and discover how to bring these practices into their everyday lives.

The book explores different places, people and cultures.

Initially, I thought I could just loosely throw a few new drawings together to illustrate her text and that would be that, but gradually we both realised that we had to approach this from a very business minded point of view. Books, brochures, advertising, corporate PR...not a problem for me...children's books, well I have no children myself or experience in this field, so I was a bit clueless at first! Without a prior publishing deal, we decided to put the book together completely ourselves, to showcase it if nothing else, and our first major decision was to decide what size the book should be. I then realised that I was going to have to lay the book out as well as illustrate it. Having left my job as a graphic designer last year, I thought there would be an end to all that, but no - it actually stood me in very good stead, as they say. It was much more fun to do than laying out financial charts and reports!

I've felt my way forward and developed my own style of illustration using pen outlines and water colour pencils and wash, combined with digital art backgrounds. I felt the water colour pencils lent a very organic, earthy feel to the drawings and the digital background lent the images a punch - but it was very time consuming. Hence, for the exercises, I drew the images and digitally coloured each drawing.

I've tried to add humour and use my observations of people and nature in my illustrations.
Crystal and Leo try to tiptoe past a bear...whilst Leo pretends to be a tree!

I have always had a natural aptitude for drawing animals, but her book focused on two children as the main characters, so my first challenge was to practice drawing people. The demographic for the book is 6 to 11 year olds (plus anyone older like parents!), so I knew I wanted to have the figures to look fairly realistic. Integrated thoughout the storyline are activities, games, meditations and yoga exercises - so we both wanted the poses to be accurate so that they could be followed precisely. After many years of visiting a chiropractor, I know how important it is to make sure the body is in correct alignment when exercising. Our research showed that of the children's yoga resources available, many although attractive, were illustrated in quite a naive and inaccurate style. Some resources only show the end pose, but my partner emphasised how important it was to show each stage of the pose correctly with instructions.

Although way-laying me from my earlier intention of developing my own art, illustrating this children's book and working as a focused business partnership, has been very rewarding and therapeutic. I loved taking her words and expressing them visually, and to see week by week, how the story slowly unfolded graphically. As a client, she gave me a very freehand letting me express myself as I saw fit - which is how it should be. If you employ an artist, you should trust to their vision and artistic expression. The book has turned out better than both of us could have thought and we're both really pleased with what we have achieved.

All yoga poses are accurate to help guide users to perform them correctly.

We showcased it at a Yoga trade fair in London recently, and had very positive feedback - it seems that as kids yoga is a growing area of development there is a greater need for new, innovative, well thought through and designed resources such as our book. 

If you would like to know more about Holistic World Yoga Kids, I designed a flyer for the trade fair explaining who we are what we do. Download pdf flyer.  You may also like to join our Facebook page at where any future developments will be added. It's also a great resource for those of you interested in yoga...and kids!  I hope you enjoyed reading about these illustrations as much as I enjoyed creating them. Namaste!