Robbi Draws

We all know what happens when I draw. Children cry. Grown men curse the heavens. Fortunately, this family also has an actual illustrator, and she spent yesterday doing what she does.

We are at work on the next Bobbledy title, called Hole in this Book. I’ll get deeper into its stunning philosophical depth in a future post. For now, let’s focus on the book’s main (and only) character (unless you count the goldfish and dozens of cheerful rubber duckies that fall from the sky.

Robbi created most of the book’s illustrations on her computer, building set pieces from sampled watercolor washes painted in advance. And the main character himself was born of sketches on Robbi’s tablet.

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But, for the final version that ends up in our books, Robbi likes the main characters to be actually drawn with pen and ink. And painted with watercolors. As good as the drawing tools and digital brushes on Photoshop have become, there’s nothing that can quite imitate that unpredictable, splattery line of a metal nib scratching its way across the porous surface of a piece of watercolor paper.

And so she prints out a copy of her sketches, places it on a light table, and places a piece of watercolor paper on top of it. The light illuminates the line beneath, offering a guide as Robbi creates a final inspired by, but inevitably different from, her original sketch. If Robbi has done her work well, there is something free and breathing about the line as it emerges from the actual pen. It’s that freedom, that inimitable expression that makes her unwilling to forsake the nib entirely.

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And if you are wondering why Robbi is drawing so many versions of this boy on one page, it’s because each of these, once scanned, will be placed on a different page. Once they enter the digital realm, anything goes.

But before they leave the paper, they need to be painted. For the sake of consistency, Robbi paints all the faces at once. Then all of the shirts at once, etc.

 

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And all of the cheeks at once, etc.

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Behind the hair is a little bit of blueish black.

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Presumably this boy will earn the right to colored pants and shirts at some point. I’m guessing that might happen later today.

But for now, the illustrator is at rest. For now, this boy lives on a single piece of paper, his various moods and thoughts, his observations and discoveries all waiting to be freed from the page and sent out across the story.