Collaborations come and go; as one chapter ends, another begins. Illustration is the central chapter in the life of a children’s book, and it has been the focus of the last few years of production of “Misho of the Mountain.”

One of the most challenging parts to the illustration process is finding the right medium that suits the story. My original illustrator had planned to create Misho in watercolor with other mixed media such as colored pencil and ink.

Back to the drawing board

After playing around with that for several months, she discovered she just wasn’t getting the colors she wanted. So, she moved to digital and played with textures to emulate the look of the paper below the color. More experimentation ensued, and we unveiled a suitable prototype cover on social media.

A misalignment of stars

Slowly and painstakingly, the thumbnails and sketches were revealed. Unfortunately, after multiple years’ delay in the launch date, I had to pull the plug. Our schedules and stars were not aligned. At the end of February of 2017, there were no color illustrations for the interior yet and no launch date in the foreseeable future. We had been working on “Misho of the Mountain” illustrations since late 2013.  It was a sad parting after years of weekly meetings and sketches that were adorable. However, time waits for no one.

A chapter ends — new beginnings

As painful as beginning anew can be, it offers a chance to rethink directions. I took some time for research and reflection. The core message and themes of my book remained the same. “Misho of the Mountain” is still about grit and gratitude, failure and friendship. It’s a book about preserving nature and the power of perseverance.

However, the way I would position it in the marketplace changed. I restructured Misho’s layout from a 64-page book of 2-page spreads to a new format: a 48-page book with denser text and more strategically placed illustrations. It would more closely match other early chapter books.

The Quest

Next came the search for a new illustrator. My quest was a journey of many stages with many conversations via email, face-to-face visits, and phone calls. I cast a wide net:

  • Poring over the portfolios of art agencies in the U.S. and abroad
  • Evaluating styles and artists online at Deviant Art, Behance, RedBubble, and many more
  • Poring over samples in the SCBWI illustrator gallery
  • Advertising through and visiting art schools
  • Talking one-on-one to illustrators at conventions, art stores, and exhibits

I met many talented artists along the way. My search ended near the end of 2017 when I was introduced to my current illustrator through another artist. I meet the most wonderful people at conventions! At Wondercon 2017, I met Mia Araujo. She in turn told me about an artist in her Facebook artists’ group who was looking for a project. Daria Theodora had a style she was sure would lend itself well to my story.

I immediately fell in love with Daria’s creativity, whimsy, and pathos. We’ve been working on the imagery of Misho’s journey ever since.

The project has been a protracted one. But I feel sure I can promise a launch date in 2018. Wish me luck!

Composite image from photographs by Steve Halama on Unsplash and Mario Taferner on Unsplash

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