Since it just came out, I thought I'd do a few posts on the illustrations for It's Raining Bats & Frogs. I'll start with my early rough sketches and follow up with a couple of other posts outlining my approach to the layouts and some of the production techniques and tools.
I loved the humor and wit of Rebecca Colby's story the first time I read it. The situations and the pacing perfectly frame the "be careful what you wish for" messaging, and right away I started imagining what the characters might look like - starting with the main character of Delia.
At first I drew her like this:
Next I wondered how many witches should be in the parade. The book never really says. I decided to keep the group smallish, partly in order to give each witch a little bit of personality, and partly because I wanted to finish the book in my lifetime.
After I sketched out a series of seven dancing witches, I said to myself "Well, this looks fun... but it's hard to tell Delia apart from the others." I realized that, while it might be easy to assume that Delia is the lead witch here, it would be harder to pick her out in some of the busier scenes of the book. So I decided to make her smaller - the littlest witch. I hoped that this might also make her a little more relatable to kids. After talking with Liz and Rich at Feiwel & Friends, we decided to soften the look of all of the witches a bit as well.
Later on I would define the characters and their costumes even further. I ended up tacking this guide up near my drawing board so I could keep track of everyone:
I thought some more about what a young Delia might look like...
... and I decided she needed a sidekick. A pet crow seemed about right for a little witch.
Once I began to get a handle on what these characters might look like, I turned my attention to the world they lived in. I grew up in the foothills of the Cascade mountains where it rained a lot, so naturally I thought a rainy mountaintop village would be perfect.
Mushrooms huts and treehouses gave the scenes fairy tale vibe that seemed to work. A fantastic parade seemed to want a fantastic stage. Which, incidentally, is how I began to imagine this book: as a play on a stage with a giant scrolling background. I think it was the processional nature of a parade that suggested this.
Mixed with these landscapes you can see that I was beginning to work out some page layout ideas.