"Zoës Welt - Das war ich nicht, das war schon so" - working with words!

Artwork by Cathy Ionescu
A couple of days ago a new book hit the book shelves. And this one is a first and very very special to me, as it is the first chapter book I've written and published and NOT illustrated! Yes, no colours involved, just words!
The book is titled "Zoës Welt - Das war ich nicht, das war schon so" and is a fun story about a girl who wants to have a pet and has some funny and also sad moments on the way to her perfect pet. I am not going to give away too much here :-).

I wrote the first draft of this book ages ago. And I literally mean ages. I sent it to two publishers back then, who rejected it. As one of the rejections was rather harsh I believed that maybe I must have had a crazy moment to assume I was capable of telling stories with Words! But it was in a folder on my desktop and I never quite brought myself to abandoned it fully. So when I had finished illustrating a project with my later to be editor, I was very brave and sent her my manuscript. I told myself not to expect too much, but was sure even her "no" would sound nice. Which was the reason for being brave in the first place. No one likes to have your heart ripped out twice. But how surprised and over the moon I was, when receiving a "Yes"! Of course it needed some work, but I was more than happy to give it a go and edit my story. Not knowing this side of the book project was excitingly new and refreshing and with an enthusiastic and encouraging editor working with me, it was simply wonderful!

Of course initially I also wanted to illustrate my story and was a bit sad when learning this was not the plan my publisher cbj RandomHouse had in mind. A look at my already full schedule actually made it easy to pass. It was even easier after I learned, who was to illustrate my book - Catherine Gabrielle Ionescu, a very talented artist, who has the gift to create the lively illustrations I had envisioned for the book. I told my editor that I did not want to see any illustrations before they were done. I trusted the two of them to do just the right thing and not wanted to have any say in the creative process of the illustrations. Being an illustrator myself I know how freeing it can be if one is given the trust to simply do ones magic. And it totally payed off! Cathy created her vision that adds wonderfully to my words, just as it is supposed to be. The book is in German, of course, as this is my native tongue and such a long text was easier and naturally coming to me in my first language. So maybe this blog post should have been in German also.

Ich hoffe, dass "
Zoës Welt - Das war ich nicht, das war schon so", vielen kleinen Lesern gefällt und, dass ich das ein oder andere Lachen aus euch heraus kitzele :-)!

A very special coloring book - "Blütenzauber"



I did something just for the fun of it - a coloring book. Another one, I hear you say - well, that was my thought too, to be honest. When the idea grew I was pondering just the same question, why do yet another coloring book?

And then the next question popped up, what could I do to make my coloring book stand out from the crowd? It is a question basically every creative bumps into when developing a product. What is it that I have that no one else has?

Well, it took me a lot of pondering and pulling my hair until I had an idea. And I believe this idea is great, without wanting to sound too big headed, but after months of pacing the floor in the spare minutes between commissioned projects and running a family of five, this is what I came up with - a coloring book you can piece together to a big full artwork. Something you can frame and hang on the wall and even make more unique with additional elements to glue to. So we are talking approximately 30.5inches x 30 inches final art here (76cmx74cm) even the book measures only 5.25inches x 8inches. Isn't that great?



This project has been very dear to me for many reasons, but one of them being, and maybe this is even the most important one, this is something I did just by myself and for myself. No restrictions other than the ones I gave myself due to the mere idea and concept of the coloring book. This is so very exiting, believe me. So when I had uploaded all my files to Amazon and received my proof copies, the natural thing to do ,was call my spouse and squeal this very excitement into his ear. Yes, I know, poor guy, but he knew it had to be good and I needed to share, otherwise I do not squeal at him, I promise. (And be glad you could not hear it also!)

So here it is, my special take on a coloring book titled "Blütenzauber" (German edition). It really is a small book with a big surprise. I've tested the gluing part right after calling my spouse and you know what it is like to be over excited and do something that needs calm hands and concentration. You kind of cannot piece it together quick enough. Take it from me, better take your time and calm down. I managed it and it works nicely, so I could hit the publish button, knowing I did all my homework and hopefully get a few of you squealing too, when you have colored the pages and cut them from the book and pieced all of them together. Make sure to send me pictures so I can squeal with you :-)!

https://www.amazon.de/dp/1540497828/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1480592725&sr=8-4&keywords=maria+bogade




let's explore style together - Part 1

I've been wanting to write a blog post about style for a long time. The very topic and it's sheer endless way of answering and approaching it somehow felt a bit intimidating, though. But here I am giving it a go and adding my two cents to the style issue.

My digital style when I first started out as an illustrator

It is not really an issue, if you ask me, but something every artists struggles with from time to time. I think especially artists starting out and making their first leaps into the business feel heavily intimidated by the style question.
What style am I and do I have a style?
The good thing is - everyone has a style. Style is like your unique handwriting. The moment you start drawing you start creating your style.
Too simple you say?
Not in my humble opinion. But like learning how to write and developing your own unique handwriting, style develops over time too. When you draw your first pieces, be it fine art or illustration or pattern design, you mostly do not know the direction your creativity will lead you. You might have an idea or a passion towards a certain art form and of course with this the masters you look up too. Here is the point were you start out, your style but a tiny dot in the many great pieces you study that will influence you quite a bit at the very beginning. And as long as you don't copy, but really just let those masters inspire you and explore your own "artistic handwriting" you are fine.
And I guess, this is the point when it gets a bit spooky or intimidating. Copying is a big thing among artists  and looked very badly upon and let me tell you, it is bad. Simple as that! If you are a copy cat word will get out and it will eventually lead to you not being able to even start a career in arts. But if you stay true to yourself, your style will evolve!

This was one of the first postcards I sent to publishers
Let me tell you how I started out and maybe this will make the point I am trying to get across a bit clearer. When I first started to build a portfolio I felt heavily insecure. Especially when having to draw traditionally. Hence, I decided to go the digital route first. By picking a medium I set the first step for the art style I was to develop. The second decision I had to make was the market I wanted my art to appeal too. That was a simple choice - kids books :-)!

I then experimented with environments. How detailed and realistic did I want to go? How reduced and graphic maybe even? I came up with a background design approach I felt comfortable with and this is what I took as the next step for my style, the third step, in the equation of creating, or maybe rather getting to know, my own style.

Next I tackled characters, number four if you want to put it in extra into the whole picture I am trying to conjure up. As I was aiming for the children's market it was of course kids I needed to practice and study. I needed to come up with a kind of scheme my characters would follow. Publishers need to see you can draw a figure more than just one time and in different angles, so studying figures and breaking down your characters into head size, body size, limp size and looking at how each works in proportion to the other does really help. The size of the head to the body plays a big role. The way you do your eyes and noses plays another big part. You can stand out and have those elements be part of your style! Eventually, after almost a years time I had a portfolio with 12 pieces in one style I called digital style. But this very style of course evolved over time. Today I do not even call the style digital any more but mixed media, as I am mixing lots of traditionally painted textures into the paintings to give them a more hand-made feel.

My mixed media style
This is of course just my approach and one of the styles I have. Some illustrators are fine with just one style. However, I think I am more the exploring kind of artist, so it didn't take long before I tripped over a technique that led to having more than one style. But this I would like to go into in my next post on style and also into why I think having more than one style is a very good idea.

I look forward to your questions and feedback and hope you enjoy my ramblings!

My mixed media style today

Getting to Work with CLAVIS on the Kollie Book Series

A couple of weeks ago my parcel with my copies of the two Kollie books, I illustrated last year for the Belgian publisher Clavis arrived. These books have a little Koala bear has the main character and tell in rhyming form about what he discovers and learns in day care.

But before telling you about the illustration process I would like to share the story of how I got this commission. In 2010, just a little before I ventured into my illustration dream full time, I attended the Frankfurt Book Fair. It was overwhelming and to be honest I did not show my portfolio much, as I was too nervous and feared I was not good enough. From time to time, when spotting a publisher who's books I loved I took all my courage and asked, if someone was around to look at portfolios. This is what I did at the Clavis stand too. Unfortunately they only had sales people there, like most foreign publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair to tell you the truth, but the very kind lady gave me a card and a name where to send my stuff too. And so I did. Shortly after I received an email, that they got my samples and all was past on to the person in charge and they would be in touch. This was it for a very long time. A year really!
One year later I received an email from Clavis. It said, they loved my art and offered me to illustrate the first two books of a new series they were doing. I was thrilled! I had not at all expected to hear from them ever again because so much time had past. I was so wrong!
They send me a translation of the original manuscript as I do not speak Dutch and I got too illustrate my first two books with animal characters all over the place and also for very young readers. It couldn't have been better!
I started sketching away and as the timeframe was quite short, worked seven days a week to meet the deadline. But it was all worth it! The books turned out so lovely and the quality of the print is really stunning!
Next time I will tell you a little more on how I went about making the art for the Kollie books. For now I hope you enjoy these first peeks!



Making of "Ben's Flying Flowers" and a Giveaway!

With all my books you might already know, I start with a storyboard. But with "Ben's Flying Flowers"  I had to start with the title. The publisher Magination Press needed it for the catalogue. I had a little more than three months for the book and when I got the commission in I knew I wouldn't be able to start any earlier, as I already had other picture books I was working on.
With the cover we went through I round of roughs I'd like to share with you. First I send in the sketch below. I really liked it as I thought it would give the book a not to sad starting point and emphasizes an intimate moment shared between Emily and her little brother. As you might have guessed it did not get picked. Actually just because of that reason but we decided to use it for the title page, so it did not get thrown away all together.

Wie ihr sicher schon ahnt, beginne ich die Arbeit an jedem der von mir illustrierten Bücher mit einem Storyboard. Nicht ganz so bei "Ben's Flying Flowers"  . Hier begann alles mit den Entwürfen für das Titelbild, da der Verlag Magination Press es dringend für den Katalog benötigte. 
Bis wir das endgültige Titelbild hatten, wurden eineiige Entwürfe von mir angefertigt, die ich euch gerne zeigen würde. Den ersten davon könnt ihr unten sehen. Ich mochte diesen Entwurf zunächst sehr, da er nicht so traurig ist, wie die Geschichte und zudem einen ganz intimen Moment der Geschwister zeigt und so ein bisschen deren Beziehung ins Zentrum rückt. Aber wie ihr es euch schon denken könnt, ist es dieses Bild nicht geworden. Allerdings ist es auf dem Innentitel gelandet, worüber ich sehr froh bin, da ich die Szene als solche wirklich sehr mochte und es nur ungern gänzlich verworfen hätte.

The scene was too happy not really telling or giving a hint of the actual topic of the story. I got a few comments from the author and art director and did a couple of more sketches. At first I did no want to take the little brother out, I was too fond of the character. Finally we went with the sketch just showing Emily close up with a butterfly. I think it really is the best cover for the book and am very glad we went down this path of exploring and revisiting the sketches to get the best result. The cover now raises far more questions and also let's you know that something is missing, which is Ben the little brother Emily loses in the story due to an illness.


Der Grund warum es nicht dieser Titelentwurf wurde war eben, dass die Szene zu fröhlich ist und zu wenig Bezug zur Geschichte herstellt. Ich bekam dann ein paar Anmerkungen und Vorschläge von der Autorin und der ArtDirektorin des Verlages in welche Richtung man gehen könnte. Zunächst wollte ich mich nicht ganz von dem kleinen Ben im Tegel verabschieden, weil ich die Figur so mochte. Doch schließlich entschieden wir uns dafür Emily ganz allein auf das Titelbild zu nehmen, lediglich mit einem Schmetterling auf ihrer Hand. Ich finde, dass dies tatsächlich das stärkste Titelbild ist, das es auch gleich Fragen zum Inhalt aufwirft und neugierig macht. Denn wo ist denn Benn und was sind denn die Flying Flowers überhaupt. Ich bin froh, dass wir nicht den ersten Entwurf genommen haben, sondern uns wirklich auf die Suche nach dem perfekten Titelbild gemacht habe.



Here is just the final artwork for you again, so you can see the way it all progressed.

Hier noch einmal das final Titelbild, damit ihr den ganzen Entwicklungsprozess vor Augen habt.


After handing in the cover illustration I started on the interior artwork. And yes, now it was time for my storyboard. We just did one round of storyboarding, as all the changes requested could be done in the final full resolution sketches. While doing the sketches and also putting things together in the layout, as I did the whole design and layout of the book too, I noticed that some pages were not working for me. The most dramatic change happened to the last spread. I changes it all together and the result is my favorite page from this book.


Nachdem das Titelbild umgesetzt und abgegeben war, begann ich an den Innenillustrationen zu arbeiten. Und ja, nun kam endlich mein Storyboard zum Zuge. Es gab auch nur ein Storyboard, da alle Änderungswünsche so klein waren, dass ich sie direkt mit in den finalen Entwürfen umgesetzt habe. Als ich aber die ganzen Skizzen machte und diese auch schon im Layout anlegte, da ich auch das Design und Layout des Buches übernommen hatte, fiel mir auf, das ein paar Entwürfe einfach nicht für mich funktionierten. Am drastischen war es bei der letzten Illustration. Ich verwarf meine Storybaord Idee komplett und das Resultat meine absolute Lieblingsillustration aus dem Buch geworden. 





The artwork for this book is mixed media with traditional ink and then digital coloring. I also used a lot of scanned textures and fabrics to give it also a bit of a collaged feeling, which I really like. Having the freedom to explore and play was so great and I can only say thank you so much for letting my do this book to the wonderful team at Magination Press!


Die Bilder für dieses Buch sind so genannte Mixed Media Illustrationen. Die Konturen sind allesamt traditionell mit Tusche gezeichnet worden, während alles was bunt ist, digital entstanden ist. Ich habe auch ganz viele Texturen und Stoffe verwendet, um dem ganzen noch etwas von einer Collage zu geben, was ich sehr schön finde. Die Freiheit zu haben so viel spielen und ausprobieren zu dürfen, wie bei diesem Projekt war wunderbar und ich kann mich dafür nur bei dem tollen Team von Magination Press bedanken, dass sie mich dieses Buch haben illustrieren lassen!



And now it is your turn to get involved. If you would like to win a copy of "Ben's Flying Flowers"   simply leave a comment here on the blog or like or comment on the Facebook entry. Please make sure you either follow my blog or be a fan on my Facebook page to ensure you get noticed if you win! The winner will be chosen randomly on the 25th May 2012. Good luck!


Und nun ist es an euch etwas zu tun. Wenn ihr gerne an meiner Buchverlosung von "Ben's Flying Flowers" teilnehmen wollt, schreibt bitte einen Kommentar zu diesem Blogeintrag oder liked oder kommentiert den entsprechen Facebookbeitrag auf meiner Facebook page. Bitte folgt auch einem der beiden, damit ihr auf jeden Fall benachrichtigt werdet, falls ihr der Gewinner oder die Gewinnerin seid! Am 25. Mai wird der per Zufallslos gezogene Gewinner bekannt gegeben! Viel Glück!

Making of "SCHLAFPLATZ GESUCHT!" - The Roughs and a Colouring Page

Für die deutsche Version bitte nach unten scrollen!

Right after the storyboards the roughs are created. I have to admit that all the character design of Bruno, the bear, and Paul, the boy, had been done prior to everything else, but will not be dealt with in a separate post. I had a rather clear vision of what I wanted them to look like and just scribbled a while until they looked just like I wanted them to. Unfortunately I did not keep those first attempts of finding the characters, so there is nothing I can show you in that respect.

Back to the roughs. Basically they are pencil line drawings in the final size of the later illustrations. I really prefer, even if a book is illustrated digitally like "Schlafplatz gesucht!", to do all preliminary sketches and drawings with pencil on paper.
With the storyboard beside me, I started doing one rough after the other, but not in the same order, as they would be in the book. I rather did them randomly, drawing the images I had the kind of 'clearest vision' of first and move on from there. Due to the fact the art director of Bohem press and I had already nailed down many bits and pieces in the storyboard, there was only one round of roughs and all the changes that had to be made, were straight done in the final illustrations. The thing I had to watch out for the most, was keeping the characters, especially Bruno, the bear consistent in his body shape and size of his limbs.


Now that you have seen some of my roughs I have a colouring page for you to start your own Bruno and Paul illustration. Until next time with a bit about the final illustrations :-).


The coloring page can be downloaded from my publishers site Just click on the image and you will be directed to the link!
Oh, by the way, with the next post about the final illustrations I will also be holding a giveaway, so stay tuned!!!

Direkt nach dem Storyboard werden die Entwürfe in der Originalgröße des späteren Buches gemalt. Ich muss zugeben, dass die Entwürfe für die Figuren Paul, den Jungen, und Bruno, den Bären, schon vor allem anderen angefertigt wurden, es aber dazu keinen eigenen Beitrag geben wird. Ich hatte eine ziemlich genaue Vorstellung davon, wie die beiden aussehen sollten und habe einfach so lange herum skizziert, bis sie genau so aussahen. Leider habe ich keine dieser Skizzen aufgehoben, weswegen ich auch nichts zum zeigen habe.
Doch zurück zu den Entwürfen. Diese sind genau genommen Bleistiftzeichnungen der späteren Illustrationen. Auch wenn ein Buch digital illustriert werden soll, so wie "Schlafplatz gesucht!", bevorzuge ich es Skizzen immer traditionell mit Bleistift auf Papier anzufertigen. 
Mit dem Storyboard neben mir fing ich also an, ein kleines Bildchen nach dem anderen in einen großen Entwurf umzusetzen. Dabei gehe ich aber nicht chronologisch vor, sondern male die Bilder wild durcheinander. Das Bild, bei dem ich das Gefühl habe, die genaueste Vorstellung davon zu haben, wie es aussehen soll, ist auch immer das, was ich gerade male. Aufgrund der Tatsache, dass die Lektorin von Bohem press und ich schon viele Dinge im Storyboard ausgemerzt und verbessert hatten, gab es auch nur eine Runde an Entwürfen. Alle Änderungswünsche und Vorschläge, die hier noch zu Tage traten, wurden direkt in den finalen Illustrationen verbessert. Das worauf ich am meisten achten musste, beim anlegen der Illustrationen, war die Arm- und Beinlänge Brunos, damit es auch immer der gleiche Bruno blieb.
Nun da ihr ein paar meiner Entwürfe gesehen habt, habe ich auch noch eine Malvorlage zum selber malen für euch. Viel Spass damit! 
Und aufgepasst! Beim nächsten Blogeintrag, der sich den finalen Illustrationen widmen wird, werde ich auch ein Buch verlosen!

Making of "SCHLAFPLATZ GESUCHT!" - The Storyboard

Für die deutsche Fassung bitte nach unten scrollen!


As promised in my last post, I want to give you a little behind the scenes, of how my latest book "Schlafplatz gesucht!" was created. I pondered a little on how to do it and thought it nice to split it into different posts, as not to make them too long and also dealing with one step at a time.

So when it comes to illustrating a children's book, be it my own story or a commissioned story by a client, the first thing is the storyboard.
I really like doing storyboards as they let you scribble away ideas and give an overview of how the book will come together. Things don't need to be too well worked out, but you can spot first issues in repetition of page design and maybe not strong enough story telling spot on. It also is a huge time safer, as making a full size rough, with all the details you wish to add to a spread, takes a lot longer than scribbling down a maximum 5cm x 10cm sketch. These were at least the measurements I was working in for "Schlafplatz gesucht!".
When I had the first version of the storyboard I felt comfortable with, I sent it to the art director and editor at Bohem press and she gave me feedback on how to improve some of the spreads. I will not post the whole storyboard here, but only a bit of it, as not to give too much of the book away ;-).

First version of the storyboard

The biggest change from the first to the second version was treating every "double page" as s spread and designing the illustration accordingly. Also some illustrations were kind of zoomed in to concentrate more on the two main characters Paul, the boy, and Bruno, his bear. The revision was done quickly due to the small size and sent back to her for feedback.

Second version of the storyboard

There was only one page that still needed a little tending to. After we both felt the storyboard was good and the illustrations needed to be bigger to take it further, it was time to make the full size roughs, which I will tell you more about next time :-)!

Wie versprochen möchte ich euch einen kleinen Einblick hinter die Kulissen geben und darüber erzählen, wie mein neuestes Buch "Schlafplatz gesucht!", entstanden ist. Ich habe mir überlegt, dass es schön wäre die einzelnen Arbeitsschritte in eigene Blogbeiträge zu unterteilen. Somit sei der erste in meiner kleinen Making Of Serie dem Storyboard gewidmet.
Der erste Schritt, wenn ich ein neues Buch illustriere, sei es eine eigene Geschichte oder aber die eines anderen Autors, ist das Storyboard.  
Storyboards sind eine feine Sache, da sie einem ermöglichen einfach einmal drauf los zu skizzieren und einem einen Überblick über das Buch verschaffen. So sieht man schon in einem sehr frühen Studium des Enstehungprozesses, wie die Seiten einmal zusammen passen werden. Das Gute daran ist, dass es bei einem Storyboard noch nicht darauf ankommt alles ganz genau zu malen. Aber man sieht sehr schnell, an welcher Stelle sich Bilder zu ähnlich sind und das Buch verbessert werden muss. Zudem spart so ein Storyboard jede Menge Zeit. Die Bildchen sind sehr klein, für "Schlafplatz gesucht!" habe ich beispielsweise in einem Massstab von 10cm x 5cm gearbeitet. 
Als die erste Version des Storyboardes, mit der ich soweit zufrieden war, fertig war, schickte ich diese an die Lektorin des Bohem press Verlages und sie gab mir dazu Rückmeldung, wie man die einzelnen Seiten noch verbessern könnte. Die  größte Veränderung von der ersten zur zweiten Version, war, dass alle Doppelseiten des Buches auch als doppelseitige Illustrationen angelegt werden sollten. Bei einigen wurde der Bildausschnitt etwas verändert und quasi in das Bild hineingezoomt, um die Figuren Paul und Bruno mehr in den Vordergrund zu bringen.  Aufgrund der kleinen Bilder des Storyboards konnten all diese Änderungen ganz schnell erledigt werden. Erneut ging das Storyboard für Feedback an die Lektorin und nur eine Seite brauchte noch etwas Arbeit. Anschließend ging es dann direkt an die großen Entwürfe, doch dazu mehr beim nächsten mal.

SCHLAFPLATZ GESUCHT! - Book Release

First of all I hope all of you had a wonderful start to the new year. I surely did. On the 2nd January my book "Schlafplatz gesucht!" was finally officially released and is now on sale! Yippie! Some of you might have already seen some bits of it over on my portfolio. Below you can see some images with the text. I did not only illustrate this book, I also wrote it and designed it. It has been a fantastic project and I learned a lot during the process of making it. I will do an in depth making of post soon, but first I have to tend to some upcoming deadlines. So stay tuned for more soon!





"If I Was You" submission

I recently  participated in an illutration project organized and run by Sandra Dieckmann, a London based illustrator doing wonderful art herself. The great idea of her project "IF I WAS YOU" is, that every artist gets to draw an illustration that is somehow connected to his/her predecessor. Mine was Murray Somerville and I drew something that was connected to what he told in the three questions every artist has to answer. You also have to give a statement 'If I was....".
All the artists up on the project site are a very fun mix and sure worth checking out. So here is my illustration but in order to see what I would do if I was Murray you have to stop by the IF I WAS YOU -site. I cannot give everything away here, right?

Wish you all a Happy Easter!

Moonlight Talk for the OutSmart Project 2010


This illustration was created for the above named OutSmart Project 2010. It is a "fan project" based on a brief which invites illustrators to create whatever illustration they have in mind with a Smart in it. The project will be published digitally and also presented online later this year. If you want to take part and haven't heard about it yet check out the OutSmart Blog. You will also find the brief there.

I decided to give my illustration a little lovestory. The two lovers are on a shore in the moonlight. Maybe it is their first date, maybe they just enjoy having each other for whatever time their lives have been entangled. As to emphasize the romantic feeling it just had to be a moonlit night and of course they got to this beautiful place with their little smart.
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