Reference pictures are always useful when doing an illustration. Lots of the things we have to draw we have never seen them before or at least we don´t have a clear image of them in our mind, so external references are needed many times when you work.
For illustrating the children´s book “Cosas de Niños” (released by Sony Music last June) I used many references and really enjoyed playing with them. The book is based on classic tales told in a modern way, so we needed to give the characters and locations a feel of our times: I´m going to show you some of them so you can know my working process a little better and enjoy the book much more.
Three Little Pigs.
In the book the piggies play jazz in a band, so I immediately thought about a city I love: New Orleans. Its houses and artists where a fantastic reference for the book, and I think they gave the story much more personality.
Every visual detail can help the reader to get into the story and believe those characters and locations are or could be real. Here you have some examples of how to give more personality to our characters using some features from characters or people who really exist: Dr John is a fantastic musician from New Orleans. He is jazz, voodoo and style. He is dangerous. He IS the wolf.
The same for the good guys: Buddy Rich (1917-1987) was probably the best jazz drummer ever and famous also for his initials on his bass drum. Ah! And don´t forget the important detail of making the drummer pig take the drumstick the “old way”, with only three fingers!
Phineas Newborn Jr (1931-1989) was a fantastic pianist who used to wear his thick glasses on the cover of his records. Drawing those glasses on the pig won´t make him look like Phineas, but will give him the retro jazzy look we are looking for.
Locations need references, too: the right location will give our story much more depth and credibility:
And using classic references will make us get the perfect atmosphere: when you talk about illustration in jazz you are talking about Jim Flora (1914-1998). He made the posters and album covers in jazz history, and has inspired lots of great artists today like Shag.
Hansel & Gretel
Even when we need to create a location that doesn´t exist, lots of real places will help us. This is a good example: I took this picture of this amazing house in Fire Island NY more than a year ago, and used it to create the long path that I needed when Hansel and Gretel get to the witch´s house. Obvious advise: take pictures of the things that call your attention, you will be creating a great library of images that you will use someday.
I really enjoy giving winks to the reader: small details that make them think and go beyond the evident. In this case I put a pair of classic Chanel shoes to the witch so the reader can create his own parallel story…
And who can beat a master piece? Nobody, so we better get inspired by them when we need them. Spanish painter Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) helped me on this:
El Ratoncito Pérez
I don´t know how to translate this one because I think it only exists in Spain: it tells the story of a little prince who loses a tooth and a small mouse comes to his palace to change it for a present, but before he turns him into a mouse and makes him see all the poverty in his reign.
Again I´m using a master, Vincent Van Gogh: I remember how his painting “Room in Arles” impressed me when I saw it at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. He wanted to show how humble and tiny his room was in that time and used a fantastic perspective to get that.
Because the story takes place during the Middle Age, I created the front cover of this tale based on a stained glass window. This is about teeth, so used a typical image you see at the dentist´s office (kind of window shape) and broke one glass for the missing tooth.
So this is how fun and interesting creating a book can be!
I hope you enjoyed it, more to come and thanks for reading!
NOTE: the book is only published in Spain, but email me if you want it and I´ll tell you how to get it from any other country.