My parents are separating… what now?

After finishing my art degree I accepted a job as doing technical drawing. It was a stable, well paid job, that made me terribly miserable. When I left that safe job to go work as a part time cashier on a supermarket, everyone thought I was crazy. But I had a plan.

This other job, unstable, stressing, poorly paid and below my qualifications, had the advantage of occupying me only for five hours a day. This allowed me to dedicate the remaining hours (and some more) working on illustrations for my portfolio, entering contests, doing small freelance jobs and looking for projects in illustration.

Eventually an opportunity came up. I saw an add asking for an illustrator for a children’s book. The payment wasn’t relevant, but the chance to do exactly what I wanted more felt like a dream. After reading the story, I was sure this was the perfect project for me.

The child psychologist Daniela Caprichoso was looking for someone to illustrate the story she wrote. It was a book destined to help children and parents deal with separation. My parents are separating… what now? promised to be a book to show that divorce doesn’t have to be a traumatising experience. The first time I read it I cried. Daughter of divorced parents myself, the story spoke to my heart in a close way. I saw myself in the characters and set to do my best to make that project into a book that would help children who went through the same.

The technique used was simple. I made the drawings on bristol paper using graphite pencils. The drawings were then scanned to be coloured on the computer. They were painted on Photoshop, using a Wacom Bamboo tablet.

I started by creating the characters.

Being such a personal story for me, I made one of the characters into a self portrait.

Once the characters were created and approved by the author, I started working on the illustrations.

Each illustration took approximately 5 hours from start to finish. The book as a total of 28 illustrations, so I must have spent about 140 hours illustrating it. I was a bit slow at the time, considering the quality of the illustrations… But the cashier part time drained a lot of my energy. Most days I was exhaust and could only work on the book thanks to pure will, passion and stubbornness.

Somehow, I managed to finish the book! And then a new challenge came: convincing the publisher that these illustrations had been planned to fit into a blank page. For some reason, this publisher wanted each page a different bold colour, and would do “paint bucket” over each illustration, ruining the soft gradient effect. He also wanted to do red text on black pages. The book theme itself isn’t an easy one. I wanted to make it a light, happy reading experience, but using those dark colours would just make it depressing. It seemed almost like they actually wanted the book to look ugly.

Once we got through that challenge, the book was published. I finally had the chance to meet the author on the launching day, which was awesome, because we felt very close after this whole experience of making a book together. I had one person on the launch with me: my grandfather.

In the following months and years, I thought it was very strange that there wasn’t any other book launch at a different location, or book readings, or any publicity at all, and that I couldn’t find the book on any bookstores. Now I know that’s how that particular publisher works: the author pays for the book to be published and they promise to do the promotion and distribution… but it is really poorly done.

The book is still a useful resource for children and educators. My illustration work has gotten better since then (at least I hope so!) but I still hold this project dear to me.