To see more of Aaron's work, please visit
creating the art for:
DREAMING OF YOU
by Aaron DeWitt
Every illustrator’s process is different, and each illustrator must figure out a process that best aligns with his or her own creativity. From project to project, this can vary. As an artist learns and grows, this can change.
For DREAMING OF YOU, I started with thumbnail sketches. Thumbnail sketches are appropriately named because they are meant to be very, very small and lack detail. At the beginning, I do many of these quickly. As an illustrator, I think about how each spread relates to the next while I block in primary shapes. I am not concerned with making a pretty picture, but rather with thinking about the cohesion of the images and strength of the visual story from beginning to end. The goal is to try multiple variations, as even though I may THINK my first idea is the strongest, sometimes it is not.
I worked digitally at this stage because it’s a lot easier to manipulate, move, and change digital work than it is more traditional media. Thumbnail sketches may not look as if they are an important part of the process because of what appears to be a lack of attention, but they’re actually one of the most important parts for me. I can really struggle and question my artistic decisions later on if I don’t have a clear direction and a solid foundation. A successful spread, I believe, has a hierarchy. The characters and action are most important, and everything else plays a supporting role.
My next decision centered on the general style and medium for the illustrations. At this point of illustrating DREAMING OF YOU, I asked myself questions including: How much detail will I need or want to show? and What’s the tone of the author’s writing? and Which medium best convey that tone?”
I then picked a single spread, one I thought would be a good representation of my intention, and worked on it to show a more finished representation of my vision. I worked with both color palette and character design on one spread first. I painted in gouache, scanning my paintings and adding other elements either digitally or by hand drawing and scanning. Then I paused before venturing too far down a path without feedback or communication. This is all part of the larger discussion.
Once I decided on layouts and had a more flushed outspread, I checked back in with Boyds Mills Press, the publisher of DREAMING OF YOU. Our goal was to try to identify any glaring problems up front in order to minimize rework down the road. Even though the thumbnails were rough, we were able to have a conversation about the look and feel of the book and how finished pages would develop given the direction I was headed.
The bulk of my time was spent on executing each spread. This whole process requires balance. Clear communication with the publisher as to an illustrator’s plan is important, but so is flexibility. An illustrator must make necessary changes along the way in order to arrive at the best possible solution in the end.
I handed in my fished pieces and anxiously waited for feedback. The editor and the fantastic team at Boyds Mills Press went through the book and offered their thoughts, suggestions, and changes, and we had a discussion around the work and possible solutions to get the best end product. I worked out the changes and almost a year after signing the contract, I passed off the final artwork.