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- author Jackie French

Sunday 14 March 2021

Guest Post: AlphaKid - My Illustration Process

Love behind-the-scenes peeks at the picture book illustration process? KBR Founder, Tania McCartney, joins us to talk through her process for the creation of her recent book AlphaKid: An A to Z of Antics.

An alphabet book has long been on my bucket list, and - like many of my book ideas - the concept dropped in unannounced - a clatter of hooves and trumpet toots. 

Noisy koalas? Of course. Teeth-brushing orangtans? Natch. And yes, giraffes do eat pancakes, they really do. Towers of pancakes with rivers of syrup.

The pandas were the first to arrive. They actually arrived many years ago - I was experimenting with digital art at the time, and, along with the lizards and the flamingos (A is for Annoying and C is for Creative, respectively), mum and her two 'B is for Bored' babies sat, finished, on my Mac for quite some time before I finally found time to revisit this entire ABC book concept. 

I wanted AlphaKid to be as much for adults as for kids. Each page has a thread that will appeal to both sides of the generation gap. Kids will find their own slice of humour/relatability, and adults the same - I mean, who hasn't made a mad dash for the lid-less blender about to be whizzed - and who hasn't tried to dodge the parental hand wielding a loaded toothbrush? 

The remaining 22 pages descended quite quickly once the AlphaKid concept fell into place. I then passed the four illustrations featured here past my publisher at Windy Hollow Books - on a whim - and within a year, my alphabet book dream was finally in hand.

The illustrations for this book were actually created in Adobe Illustrator. I've since moved my entire digital production process onto my iPad, using the genius of Procreate. Working on the computer was putting enormous strain on my body, and after creating three major books in a row - Fauna, This is Home and Australia's Wild Weird Wonderful Weather - my body nearly packed it in after AlphaKid. 

I still potter in AI, but Procreate is the way forward for me now, as it's so much easier on the body.

My process for creating these AlphaKid images in Illustrator was to create shapes using the pen/vector tool and sometimes the shapes tools, manipulating the vector points. I then used clipping masks on a series of hand-painted and -printed textures, adding overlays and filters to create the looks you see here. At the bottom of this post, you can see a video on how I actually put the pandas together.

For the colour palette, I used colours plucked from photographs of retro advertisements and TV shows from the 1950s and '60s. I often do this and it ever results in a delicious combination. When using greens and browns, I'll also eyedropper hues from photos I take of plants and trees, as they make for such authentic colour.

Below are two of my favourite images from the book, and scroll down to see my YouTube video. You can also view it right here.

See www.taniamccartney.com for more on Tania's work, and click here to read more about Alphakid.

Title: AlphaKid: An A to Z of Antics
Author: Tania McCartney
Illustrator: Tania McCartney
Publisher: Windy Hollow Books, $25.99
Publication Date: 1 November 2020
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781922081865
For ages: 0+
Type: Picture Book