Tillie Time

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration | 0 comments

I recently illustrated the cover of Mary Atkinson’s second middle grade novel, Tillie Heart and Soul, that just earned a starred review from Kirkus!

As soon as I heard that Tillie was a roller skater, I was into it. After reading the manuscript, I began a little page of doodles.


Then I began doing my homework for visual research on skater culture. And did more sketches. Tillie is a fifth grade girl living with her Uncle Fred. She’s an awkward but tough kid, and gets her share of scrapes.


I wanted to show energy here, with hair and limbs flying out of the image frame.


A new girl arrives and Tillie’s so-called best friend seems to ditch her for totally cool Gloria.


Here Tillie’s coming right at the viewer, fiercely determined.


I tried eliminating the need to define Tillie’s features by just showing her skates, heading pell-mell out of the image.


Here she’s skating past the piano factory where she lives in a loft with Fred, a painter. I keep sticking with the striped socks!


I tried Tillie looking at the viewer, unsure, as the two other girls skate away. The whole composition is off balance, suggesting the dynamic in her life.


Mary liked Tillie skating at the viewer, so I refined my sketch and put in some type for placement, as well as the piano factory in the background.


I added some color.


Mary wanted Tillie to look “kind of like” Punky Brewster, which threw me off for awhile. I did a weekend of sketches of just Tillie’s face, trying to capture the right expression and attitude. Finally, we landed on this.


And now they are published! There is nothing like a box of brand new books.


photo by Mary Atkinson

Join Mary this Saturday at Print: A Bookstore when she celebrates the launch of her book, from 3 – 4 PM!


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