The Making Of Frolic: a Behind the Scenes Look at Children’s Art

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An Interview with Frolic Art Director, Tim Palin

Today, we have the pleasure of sharing how the art for our all new Frolic series was produced via an interview with talented art director, Tim Palin.

Tim is the creative who worked closely with the Sparkhouse Family team to develop the look and feel of the Frolic board and picture books. In addition to the design of the book, Tim also managed the art creation, working alongside the brilliant illustrators, Natasha Rimmington and Michael Garton.

Below, you can read along as we ask Tim about his experience designing these new books for young family members between the ages of 0-5.

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Q: We know the Frolic storylines and parent helps were created with child development insights in mind. But, of course, the creation of the art is every bit as intentional. Can you describe what that process looks like?

Tim: This process is delightfully straight-forward! The author and editors work together to arrive at a manuscript. Typically, a manuscript like this is handed over the art director and artists with, not only the text of the book in place, but also “art specs.” The specs are little descriptions or what the author would like to see on the page matched with the words. An art director/designer will then hand this and a layout of the book with text in place to the artists with additional notes and direction from a design standpoint.

Q: Then the artists begin their handiwork?

Tim: Yes. From there, the artists start their process with sketches on the pages. These sketches can be VERY rough just to block out action and storyboard the pages. Or, some artists use very detailed sketches that give a more clear picture of what the pages will look like. After a little bit of discussion back and forth with the editors about the sketches, the artists start what I like to call “the fun part” . . . the color art! They take their sketches and use them as a guide to start working on the final art.

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Q: So interesting! Tell us about how you choose the color schemes that will be used in a book like this. What influenced that decision for Frolic?

Tim: In the case of this book series, colors schemes evolved in a couple of ways. First, the editorial team had a clear vision of the landscape and scenery and provided photo and illustration references to the artists as a starting point. Very often artists will develop color palettes from references like these. But it’s also important for this very young readership to keep colors bold, pleasing, and engaging. A marriage of these references and ideas come together with a solid color scheme in the end.

Q: The Frolic characters are really whimsical. What inspired their look? 

Tim: A major factor figured into how whimsy, cute, and adorable the characters are is the age of the reader. For these books, the reader is VERY young. Exaggerated features, large eyes, cute proportions go a long, long way here! Also, the size of their eyes and features works so well for the characters as the stories have have emotionally-charged moments. Expressive faces are key!

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Q: How many iterations do you typically do of characters before they’re finalized? Do you have any earlier iterations, maybe just a sample clip, you’d be willing to share to illustrate how characters evolve? 

For this series of books, the characters were crucial. It’s so important to get them right. We look at their character and spirit. But we also have to look at their size and proportions to other characters. For this series, while the characters are super cute and stylized, we didn’t want a dove to be bigger than a goat! It’s really different every time, though. Sometimes, a character is just right on the first sketch (you gotta go with your gut sometimes). Sometimes you might have 5 or 6 or 7 or more rounds of sketches to get that snout or that tail just right!

Q: What are the most important things to keep in mind as you direct the art of a book like this? 

Tim: For me, personally, the most important thing to keep in mind is to have fun. If the process is enjoyable, it’s almost impossible not to create something as sweet and joyful as these books are.

Originally Published 5/20/2016

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