From the Salty Stories archive

Pulled from the Salty Stories website – Interview with Kay Slater, illustrator of Josephine’s Saltine (April 16th, 2014).

I’ll get more into the features we programmed later this week in my next post. For now, I want to focus on the biggest similarity our app has with a regular children’s book. The artwork.

For that I’m going to talk with Kay, our illustrator and get her to show you the different steps she went through in creating the visual aspects of Josephine’s Saltine.

C: Hello Kay. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to answer my questions.

K: Hey, I’m glad to participate! I’m excited to share Josephine’s Saltine with everyone.

C: So, can you tell us a little bit about the process you through in visualizing and illustrating Josephine?

K: My first step was to cut up the poem into pieces and start doing something called thumbnails. Thumbnails are quick sketches that allow artists to determine the best placement or composition of a frame, space, or page. When we first started brainstorming on the project, I had planned to do the work in a portrait layout (vertical) and so all of my thumbnails were designed like book pages. When we started working with our developers, we decided to move to a landscape (horizontal) layout and so I either chopped up my thumbnails or quickly sketched new layouts. It’s always a good practice to do quick planning drawing before starting to draw anything.

C: What about these sketches (shown below)?  What can you tell us about them?


K: I wanted to share 3 Josephine milestones (in this case meaning an important stage or development in a project) so that you could see how much Josephine has changed throughout the process. While I did do character studies (drawing how a character looks from the front, side, back, and looking in different ways) before the formal drawing process began, I learned a lot as we worked on the project and so Josephine’s look really changed. 

I started by sketching Josephine and the scenes by hand, which is how I was originally trained in art school. Moving onto the computer, I then painstakingly scanned and then traced (WITH MY MOUSE) the images onto my computer.

The middle images show how very basic the images look using my mouse. It would take me between 2-3 days to complete a page using my mouse and the drawings looked like they had been cut with scissors and then pasted into the scene. It was my developer that secured me a graphics tablet. I had been hesitant to use one because of how expensive they were (and because I hadn’t really liked them the first time I used them 10 years ago!)

However, once I got my new tablet, drawing pages became a fun exercise and I was able to complete 1-2 pages a DAY! With the drawing processes going much quicker, I was able to go back and make each drawing look much nicer using techniques that I would usually use with my paintbrush or drawing pens.

C: What was the funnest thing to draw in this project?

K: Wow – that’s a really excellent question. I really had a great time drawing every page, and while Josephine’s expression was sometimes difficult to capture, when it would all come together, I wouldn’t want to leave the page! I think my favourite page is Page 3 where Josephine has given into her hunger and she’s laying on the rug moaning. I giggle whenever I see the page and it was great fun to draw. I also really liked drawing the last story page (page 17) and the messy counter.

C: The most difficult?

K: I’ve talked about how difficult it was to get Josephine’s expression jussst right on some pages. I was very lucky to have the help of my young friend Claudia Hancock who posed for some of Josephine’s scenes. Once I got those pictures, it was fun to do, but before I would ask for a shot I would sometimes redo Josephine’s face 5 or 6 times!


C: So not only did you illustrate Josephine and her mother and all the food in the story, just like you would if it were a story book, but you also had to design the graphics for the app? How is that different?

K: Graphic design and illustration are very different. I have been a graphic designer for 6 years, but I’ll admit I prefer working as an illustrator. There are some amazing graphic designers out there and I am so impressed by their work. Much of graphic design is knowing typefaces (the letters and spacing) and while I continue to study typography (the study of typefaces and fonts), I have to work very hard at it. I do have a background in marketing so I approach graphics, layout, and design more like a business person than as an artist. I have to think about things like how someone is going to use or see an image, versus in illustration it’s usually about telling a story.

C: Very cool! Well that’s about all the time we have for today, kids! Thanks for chatting with me Kay!

K: Thanks for asking me these questions Chris. I love talking about drawing!

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