Next month we’re delighted to be publishing The Wide, Wide Sea, written by Anna Wilson and illustrated by Jenny Løvlie – an inspiring new picture book about protecting our coastlines from plastic pollution.
Today we’re pleased to share a guest post by Jenny on developing the artwork of The Wide, Wide Sea and her personal connection to this story and the visual landscape of the book.
The first time I read The Wide Wide Sea, I wept. It was so beautiful and tender, and a subject close to my heart – I grew up on Ekkerøy by the Barents Sea in Northern Norway and loved seals most of all the creatures living in the sea.
My most memorable encounter was with a Greenland seal. I must have been about four or five years old and I had woken up very early on a Saturday morning. I decided to go down to the beach, only a stone’s throw away from our house and there it was. A lovely black and white seal, sunning itself on the beach. I had just watched a film about a baby seal being rescued and tried my best to drag this enormous adult seal down to the water, but I couldn’t shift it. It must have weighed about 250kg! I told Anna, the author of The Wide Wide Sea, about this in our first meeting at Nosy Crow and she, in turn, told me of the seals in Cornwall.
Having grown up by the sea, I found that the ideas flowed pretty freely with this wonderfully visual and dreamlike text. I love drawing animals and underwater landscapes! If I could have a superpower it would be to be able to breathe and see well underwater.
The human character development was actually the most challenging task in this book: it took a few rounds before we landed on a set of characters that complemented the landscapes and animals.
The landscape is a mix of the landscape on Ekkerøy where I grew up, and the Cornish coast where Anna lives. The underwater scenes are largely from my imagination. The grandmother character is based on my old neighbour, Jack. She taught me a lot about nature and animals when I was a child. I tried to imagine what she might have looked like as a child and used that as a basis for the child.
When I start a new project I usually do a lot of research first: I read, I watch videos and films, and I look at a lot of pictures for reference to flood my brain with the imagery I want to create. I find this especially helpful when working on narrative non-fiction because when I feel confident that I know what the world looks like, it makes it easier to populate it with characters.
Then I start doing some quick, loose sketches in my sketchbook. I let inspiration take the lead – sometimes the characters emerge first and other times the landscapes and world-building come first.
Once I feel like I’ve developed a visual language for the book I make a set of thumbnails of all the pages. I find it liberating to work small to start with, having the small boxes to fill allows for more of an overview of the flow of the composition and the page turns.
Once I’m happy with the thumbnails I blow them up to the actual size and start working them over, making sure that the composition still works on a larger scale. Then I’ll start colouring. I make a colour palette for every book I make, I work digitally in Photoshop and find that if I don’t limit my palette I can easily get lost in all the myriads of colours that are available. Similarly, I will limit myself to a selection of ten brushes or so to create the textures. It’s so easy to get carried away!
Thank you Jenny for that insightful blog and for sharing your early sketches with us!
Take a look inside the book: