To celebrate the upcoming release of Toffle Towers book 3, I’ve prepped a bunch of behind-the-scenes blog posts. I’ll show you how I designed the hotel’s interior and exterior; how I designed the cover of book 1; and how I designed other elements like the shuttle bus and the title typography. But today, I’m showing you possibly the most important part of prepping for this series: how I designed the cast.
Toffle Towers is a chapter book series, fantastically written by Tim Harris and illustrated by me. Tim wrote a HUGE cast into the series, and I had to create all their character designs – partly based on descriptions Tim included in the text, and partly from my imagination.
Chegwin Toffle is the main character, so of course I started with him. Chegwin is a 10yo dreamer who inherits a hotel and becomes the manager.
Because I’d be drawing Chegwin so many times throughout the series, I drew a quick turnaround sheet for him too.
I’m illustrating a new chapter book series written by the very talented Tim Harris.
The series is called TOFFLE TOWERS, and the first book is out August 6th.
Here’s the cover …
… and here’s the official synopsis:
Toffle Towers hotel has been run by a Toffle for over one hundred years – and it’s about to be inherited by the next generation.
Chegwin Toffle is only ten years old. But he isn’t going to let that stop him from turning this run-down hotel into a success. Chegwin is determined to transform Toffle Towers from a boring hotel for grown-ups into an incredibly exciting destination for children (and their families).
But running a hotel isn’t easy. Chegwin has a lot to learn, and his tendency to drift off into daydreams isn’t helping.
Chegwin has plenty of ideas. But can he turn his madcap daydreams into reality?
Toffle Towers 1: Fully Booked is published by Penguin Books Australia, and available in all good bookshops from August 6th, 2019!
My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.
Today I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you how I designed the robots and vehicles in the story.
Quick recap: Sally Tinker is the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve. In Gastronauts, Sally’s baby brother Joe swallows her latest invention. So Sally and her friend Charli shrink themselves down in a tiny submarine and journey into Joe’s body.
Here’s how I designed the cover.
Step 1: really bad first sketches
Sometimes you get the cover idea pretty quickly and clearly from the start.
This was not one of those times.
I struggled with this a lot at first; I couldn’t figure out how to show the reader that Sally and Charli were inside a sub, inside Joe, and make Sally and Charli big enough so that they were recognisable, without being too big that the scale stopped being anatomically correct.
None of these ideas really work, but I’ve included them here to show you how a cover design process can go. There are usually lots of rejected, fairly ordinary ideas.
My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.
Today I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you how I designed the robots and submarine in the story.
Quick recap: Sally Tinker is the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve. In Gastronauts, Sally’s baby brother Joe swallows an invention called the smartCHIP, along with a bunch of tiny robots called smartbots, and also a tiny shrunken submarine containing Sally and her friend Charli.
Here’s how I designed Sally’s SUB and the smartbots. But:
I’ll discuss plot points for the book, so if you haven’t read the book yet, go do that first, then come back.
Have you gone and read the book?
Ok, here’s how I designed the SUB and the smartbots.
Earlier this year I got to illustrate a story written by Paul Jennings.
Yep, you heard right.
Back in May, authors Adrian Beck and Sally Rippin were putting together an anthology of funny short stories written by some of Australia’s best kids’ authors. They were calling it Total Quack Up. All the writers were donating their time, Penguin was publishing it, and all profits were going to Dymocks Children’s Charities. The only thing they didn’t have yet was an illustrator.
I caught up for coffee with Adrian in Melbourne. He explained the project, but he didn’t say who any of the authors were. He said everyone was donating their time, and whoever illustrated it would need to do it quick – they’d only have a month to do 30-40 illustrations including a cover.
I said PLEASE LET ME DO IT PLEASE YES IT SOUNDS AWESOME.
He said, ‘are you sure?’
I said YEP COUNT ME IN ALL GOOD LET’S DO IT PLEASE AWESOME THANKS YES.
So Adrian and Sally and Penguin said okay, and I’m glad they did, because Mr Paul Jennings was one of the authors contributing to the anthology.
… I got to illustrate a Paul Jennings story! OMG!!
I loved reading Paul Jennings’ stories as a kid; I would get chills from the spooky stories, and laugh myself silly at the funny stories. And of course I was glued to the TV whenever Round The Twist came on. So it was a fantastic surprise to find out that Paul was one of the authors in the anthology and that I’d get to illustrate one of his stories.
This is all a very long-winded way of telling you that I’ve illustrated an anthology called Total Quack Up!
It features stories from Paul Jennings, Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton.
It also includes a story written by Ella Wallace (aged 11 and three-quarters), whose story won out over 172 other entries in the Total Quack Up kids writing competition. It is an incredibly funny story and easily my favourite in the whole anthology. Ella is a young writer to watch.
I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out … though I do wonder if I crossed the grossness threshold with this one.
Here’s the synopsis:
Sally Tinker – the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve – has developed her greatest invention yet. But when Sally’s baby brother Joe swallows it with disastrous (and gaseous) consequences, Sally and her friend Charli must shrink themselves, venture into the very bowels of Joe, and shut down the invention before it’s too late. What could possibly go wrong?
Magpies magazine calls it ‘hilariously funny … it will be devoured by emerging readers. Perfect for school and public libraries.’ Cheers, Magpies!
My latest book, Brobot, was released in 2016. It’s a graphic novel for younger readers. I first started working on it in 2012. Over those four years I drew many different versions of the main characters – Sally, Joe and Brobot – and I’ll be sharing some of those over the next few months on this blog.
ABOVE: One of the earliest sketches of Sally Tinker. From 2012. This is from the very first draft picture book (well before we realised it needed to be a comic). She’s very cute here, and is in much the same style as Josh from The Last Viking. She has a tiny hint of the attitude she shows in the final book.
ABOVE: Another early sketch of Sally, from 2013, back when I was still trying to figure out her hairstyle and costume. Note that here she still has dots for eyes like Josh did in The Last Viking, rather than the cartoony circular eyes she has in the final book.
ABOVE: Another version of Sally, from 2015. Closer to her final version but not quite there. She now has circles for eyes, and her grumpy demeanour. The oversized rubber gloves didn’t make it to the final version.
ABOVE: Maquettes are super helpful when you want to figure out how a character looks in 3D. I was having particular trouble with Sally’s hairstyle and profile, and a maquette helped me figure that out. This is from January 2016, just as I started the final artwork.
ABOVE: The final version of Sally Tinker, Feb 2016. When you draw the character from different angles like this, it’s called a ‘turnaround’. It’s a reference you keep by your desk when you illustrate a story so that you can keep your character consistent (ie this is also called keeping your character “on model”). I drew this after I had completed the final illustrations for the book. Pro tip: you should really make your turnaround sheets BEFORE you do the final illustrations, not after 😉
Hello! I’ve pulled together some gifs to show you how I made some of the illustrations in Brobot. You can see how I got from the first rough drawing to the final artwork for each illustration. Check them out below.
(NB: if you’re receiving this post by email and the gifs don’t appear, just click on the post title above to view the original post on my website).