For any art-lover, the book is worth buying simply for the double page spread where naughty Fred, chased by his exhausted zoo-keeper, escapes through a gallery filled with cleverly panda-ized art and artefacts... from Egyptian panda deities and Warholed versions to Mona-Bear and the Bear with a Pearl Earring. If you look closely through the story, you can also spot the Beatles and other cultural cameos.
For his guest blog post, we asked Steven to tell us about where the inspiration came from for his book, and how the creative process works. He's also treated us to a glimpse of some of his early sketches and concept designs. I love looking at these images - they are an unparalleled chance to see where picture book illustrations begin, and give us a glimpse of the hand of the creator behind the polished result we only usually get to see.
"Let’s Find Fred was created from an original concept by Scholastic and my fun animal character designs that they spotted in both my earlier picture books and greeting card designs.
Over the years I have loved visiting zoos and have drawn lots and lots of animals in both my sketchbooks and final artwork for picture books. I love drawing and designing animals so when Scholastic approached me with this project I leapt at it like Fred at a Candy Floss factory!Creating the aesthetic for Fred was a very collaborative process and I really enjoyed designing a new Panda character.
Here are some early concept designs:
I always start my books with lots of pencil sketches of the main character, then any subsidiary characters, in this case Stanley the Zoo keeper and the other animals.
The large, round fluffiness of Fred works nicely with Stanley who is very angular and sharp – inspired by the Mr Man, Mr Rush – his triangular nose always pointing in the way of the chase!
Once I have designed the characters in my sketchbook in black and white (VERY handy for a Panda!) I then move on to colour – in this case I thought it would be great to give Fred a red accessory and a tie seemed to be the perfect fit for Fred – I tried a regular tie but it made him look too much like a business panda and was a bit too serious, so a bow tie it was!
The Scholastic team and I wanted to create a fresh, bold look for Fred and I researched lots of ‘Spot the…’ genre of books to get an idea of the kind of styles that work well with this kind of book. I decided on a colourful, minimal-lined style, not dissimilar to my usual work but with a simpler, less chalky edge. This was mainly because, as there a lot of small details and characters among the varied city scenes, bold silhouettes, clear to read expressions and acting were essential.
The background elements such as vehicles, signage and foliage were fairly simple to design once the characters had been set – bold, simple lines and colours with a varied palette on each spread to enhance the atmosphere and theme of each scene.
The final look and feel is hopefully a nice combination of contemporary design and a warm, cuddly, fun collection of characters, vehicles, environments and narrative. I hope everyone enjoys the book – it really was such fun to create!"
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