One Hundred Lilies

Last month I confessed to a bout of nerves before starting on a new picture book project. I have gained some calm as I have delved into defining the imagery for the book. I am no longer on the shore. I am wading in.

Of the two primary characters in the book (a dog and a child), it is the dog that I have been working on the most so far.

I have a dog. He is a rat terrier. My initial drawings for Lily were based on him.

But they were rejected for not being cute and cuddly enough. I admit, Nik is a bit angular and bony and he doesn’t have much of a tail.

So I drew a dog very unlike Nik; a furry pooch with a more expressive tail (as I showed you in my last post).

That Lily thankfully got the go-ahead.

Even though Lily the dog appears in less than half of the imagery, I want to be sure of what she looks like and how she moves. The best way for me to do this is to draw lots of character studies. This is how I familiarize my brain with characters so that I can draw them without having to actually see them. I mostly draw characters from my imagination and then seek reference to augment the drawings. It may seem like an ass-backwards approach, but it’s how I feel most comfortable working.

I have drawn a lot of children. Usually I do about five to ten studies per character before starting on illustrations for a book. But I have not drawn a lot of dogs, so I set myself a goal of one hundred Lily drawings. Here are a few of them.

After I had drawn about seventy imaginary Lilies, I thought it was time to find a real dog to look at. Then one day, while walking in the park with Nik, I met Romeo.

I introduced myself to Romeo’s family and they let my take photos of him. Those pictures helped get me up to my three-digit goal.

Now I feel like I know this Lily. She becomes more real to me, each time I draw her.

13 responses to “One Hundred Lilies

  1. Deirdre O'Sullivan from Australia

    You’ve got the bones beneath the furry coat, just right -and you’ve captured the endearing chubbiness of the pooch! That’s not easy to do, but your deft sketches make it look easy. And you’re right about familiarizing your brain with lots of images of the dog – that’s the only way to make the sketches flow quickly from your pencil, without over-working it. I love the confidence in your line work – this makes the sketches hum!

  2. Deirdre O'Sullivan from Australia

    P.S. I forgot to add – I think these rough sketches would make brilliant endpapers for the finished book! They show how this charming pooch has grown in your imagination.

  3. Absolutely lovely process Margaret. I love seeing your sketches here and understanding your approach. Diligence to this detail is what makes Lily come alive!

  4. Your doggie is so cute!!

  5. I love Deirdre’s idea of using your sketches for the end-papers – they are darling. 100 sketches before starting with the illustrations? Oh, my gosh!

  6. Ms. Becker, I enjoyed this posting, but too bad about that little Rat Terrier, for we had a character who could not stop making music, he was a Rat Terrier. He loved our cat for 8 months, they both liked a musical dog toy that played three songs for Christmas. The dog, his name is too special to write down for I miss him, well he punched the musical toy with his snout and different songs came out. The two, Carmel tiger cat and the silly little R Terrier liked: We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The two big 250 dogs of ours used to watch the cat and dog play their musical toy. Then the Mastiff took the toy away to the corner, bored he left the toy, and his brother the Shepard Mix dog got the toy and punched the sounding noise maker. The story of your little Rat is quite fetching. atk

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