It’s truly special when I get to share a post from an illustrator who brought my words to life on the page. The illustration process is fascinating to me! I’m so grateful for Susan Reagan’s gorgeous work. And for her willingness to share a piece of her process here—the cover! The crucial cover! Think about how often you pick up or put down a book based on the cover. I loved learning about her process!
We’re celebrating the Feb. 1 release of REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT: LEADING THE MINUTE WOMEN IN THE FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE with a GIVEAWAY! To enter, leave a comment below. And don’t miss the BONUS download at the end of the post!
The winner of last week’s giveaway, THE SCIENCE OF FASHION by Julie Danneberg, is….Susan Twiggs!
“Designing the Cover” by Susan Reagan
I’m so glad Beth asked me to share my illustration process for Revolutionary Prudence Wright, especially since Beth is the talented author! When I received the offer to illustrate Prudence I immecidately familiarized myself with Beth’s other books and quickly realized this would be a very special project! I wanted to do this book justice for Prudence and for Beth.
I really love illustrating books. I love mulling over the story, getting to know the characters, thinking about the setting, working to understand the tone and the theme of the story, and developing a plan of execution. Generally the cover is not one of the first images developed, but for Prudence it was. I always start by imagining the main character but this time I envisioned Prudence standing with the women of Pepperell. I wanted to show their confidence and determination. I wanted their expressions to show solidarity because I couldn’t help but think of all the women over generations that have fought for their right to fulfill their dreams. I am so blessed to have been able to spend my life doing what I love—I can’t imagine being held back.
So that’s the inspiration but what about the process? It starts with a sketch, translating the picture you have in your mind’s eye to paper. My first successful sketch of Prudence was simple and rough but it caught the feel and attitude I wanted to convey.
Historical accuracy is everything so once I had the feel, I had to start working out the details. What would a farmer’s wife turned improvised military leader wear? I will admit I cheated on one thing. I imagined that her husband’s clothes would be big on her, but when I drew them loose-fitting, I felt it affected her look of confidence, so I chose to keep her clothes fitted.
I started thinking of the color palette from the beginning, too. I love the warm muted palette that makes me think of aged paper.
The next step was to work on her expression. My hope is that it conveys confidence with a hint vulnerability. I decided that Prudence and women would look directly at the viewer. For me, it’s their way of challenging us to see them for who they are and what they accomplished.
I began building the composition with the women behind Prudence, creating a company of women that reflect “real” women in all sizes and colors. It was necessary to fact check and find out if there were any women of color in Pepperell. There were!
I then combine my digital drawings with hand painted watercolor and build up layers of color and line Photoshop. One of my favorite parts of the landscape is the toss of pink in the trees. The story takes place in April and the only color would have been a hint of pink from blossoming trees. I like the little nod to femininity. I think girls can like pink and still do whatever they want in life!
Adding hand-lettered type in the style of fonts used in colonial time pulls the composition together and, I hope, enhances the historical feel of the illustration. All in all a somewhat “revolutionary” approach that I “indeed” enjoyed creating!
I want to thank Beth for the chance to share my process. It’s fun as an artist to look back and try to put the process into words!
Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT! (Winner announced 2/4/22. US addresses only, please.)
BONUS!…Here’s a download of our craft activity packet: PRECIOUS PAPER: CRAFTS AND FOLDABLES FOR REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT.
llustration and the love of drawing have dominated Susan Reagan’s life since she was a girl. Her picture books include, You & Me, Lights Out, and Revolutionary Prudence Wright, Leading the Minute Women in the Fight for Independence. Susan lives with her husband, walks her dogs, and illustrates in Tremont, a historical neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.