I was so pleased to receive my advanced copy of Let's Go to the Hardware Store, written by Anne Rockwell!! Seeing it again, this time as a real book, reminded me of what a wonderful experience I had illustrating it. It tells of a fun excursion a boy and his sister take with their dad to the local hardware store. They buy tools and supplies to fix various things in the protagonist's new house.
There are many wonderful things in hardware stores!
I had so so soo much fun illustrating this book. I love mom and pop hardware stores -- they remind me of my childhood.
When I first got this project, I loved the story immediately. To prepare for the sketch phase, i did a ton of research on tools and hardware stores. I gathered a lot of reference from the and books. I took hundreds of pictures and visited many hardware stores in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Shelter Island. Then I sketched A LOT. Here is one early preliminary sketch of the characters. I had fun using the Pencil 53 app on my ipad for this:
Using the app rather then sketching in my sketchbook was rather freeing for me. After doing many sketches, I plotted the whole story in thumbnails and then sketched a book dummy on my ipad.
The same scene as the birdhouse one above:
Then, I printed these out and did final sketches using pencil and paper in the real world!
At the time I started the color finals for this book, I was also taking my first MATS Bootcamp course, and it was pushing me to explore different media. I started working with ink and watercolor after my husband bought me an awesome Schmiencke watercolor set. And I ended up changing my working style and process completely! Instead of hand made collages, I started making digital collages using a combination of different elements that I created traditionally.
I also started thinking in terms of patterns and icons and separate entities within the illustration as a whole. For example, I created a massive amount of little tools to use in the background spreads. They were like mini icons that I could move around and color and use in different spreads. I made most of them in Illustrator using custom brushes that I made so the edges had a drawn feel.
Then I colored them in Photoshop:
It was fun to create pattern-like backdrops for scenes of the interior of the hardware store using these icons.
I also had fun doing a lot of hand lettering for this book - something I always had wanted to learn how to do. I picked up a lot of tips from lettering classes on Skillshare. I highly recommend checking out Skillshare if you ever want to learn something related to technique. Here are some of my inked lettering I did for signs that appear in the book:
Another new approach which was also influenced by MATS was that I decided upon a color palette for the while book before I began. In the past I never thought to do this, and kind of progressed intuitively. But this time I knew I wanted to create sort of "retro" feel - because mom and pop hardware stores were abundant in our country back in the day before mega chain stores existed. I developed a palette and painted color swatches in watercolor that kept this mood which I used throughout the entire book. This gave it a cohesive feel.
This book was such a joy to work on! My editor, Christy Ottaviano, and art director, Patrick Collins, at Henry Holt/MacMillan are a dream to work with, and the whole process was so enjoyable from beginning to end. I was kind of sad when I finished it, which usually is not the case!
Let's Go to the Hardware Store will be released March 22, 2016. I'll be sure to post about it then. Anne and I are looking forward to doing book events together to promote it! If you have young tool lovers in your life, please keep it in mind! :)