I recently had the incredible privilege of working on a truly special book and I wanted to share the process with you here today.
I was approached by Nicky Gluch of the Sydney Jewish Museum to create nine illustrations for a book she was editing: the autobiographical story of child Holocaust survivor, Jacqui Dale. Jacqui was a child living in Paris when the war broke out and her father was taken away. When the French police started coming for Jewish women and children, Jacqui, her mother and her little brother were forced to flee. Goodbye Maman recounts Jacqui’s family’s terrible separation and introduces younger readers to stories of the holocaust in an accessible way.
I was so honoured to be part of this project. It was not easy - I could not help but compare Jacqui's three-year-old brother to my own daughter of the same age - but it was worth every tear I shed along the way. The current state of the world makes it even more important to remember stories like Jacqui's and pass them on to our children.
Prior to the book launch, I explored the museum for the first time with my Jewish partner by my side. The children's memorial broke our hearts and I viewed the rest of the day through a haze of tears. My illustrations flashed on the wall as the wonderful Australian author, Jacky French, made an impassioned speech. When Jacqui Dale herself stood up to speak about her childhood, everything felt surreal, overwhelming and utterly unforgettable.
I'm so grateful to everyone who has supported the book and made it such a success. Nicky recently informed me that they have sold so many copies that they are going to have to reprint - a first for the Sydney Jewish Museum - and that they are also looking into a French translation.
In the meantime, you can take a peek at my illustration process for Goodbye Maman, starting with the train illustration you can see in situ in the photo above.
I like to start by sketching out tiny little thumbnail versions until I find a few compositions that could potentially work. I then move onto marginally more coherent roughs before starting work on the final illustration.
For this example, I was toying between two possible versions of this illustration; an interior or exterior scene. I wanted to go with the interior version but had to check in with Nicky that she was okay with the slightly more surreal approach.
Here are a few more examples of my illustrations developing. The play of light and shadow were especially important for these images so they were often worked out well before the larger elements of the illustrations.
And finally, the illustration that ended up both inside the book and as the cover art. This was an odd one. The thumbnail was very quick and simple to come up with, but I really had to fight with the final version. It took me days to sort out what I was going to do with the background. At various points, Jacqui and Charles had everything drawn in behind them from swirling wind to manicured gardens. It wasn't until I stripped it right back and added in those long shadows that the image finally worked.
And here it is on the cover...
I hope you enjoyed this little behind the scenes. Let me know if you'd like to see more posts like these, and be sure to keep your eye out for a copy of Goodbye Maman when it is back in stock!