The above image is the cover illustration for a book entitled "Zeina's Story: Divorce," published by Asala, a children's book publisher. I had heard a lot of good things from other illustrators about Asala before I got the chance to work with them so it was already nice to be approached about illustrating a book. After making all the usual arrangements, I was sent an early draft of the story and was surprised by the subject: Divorce! (that was the first word exclaimed at the opening of the story).
It's usually disappointing reading most children's books because it's usually just smiling people and cutesy things— not that there's anything particularly wrong with that but at some point, you have to ask yourself how many cute animals or whatnot you can draw before you want to try and contribute something new (and hopefully helpful) to what's already out there in a million different ways. As it turns out, the author of this story, Dr. Sanaa al Haraka, felt the same way and decided to write about several subjects that she felt have been neglected thus far in the realm of children's books (or at least it is this way in Lebanon).
As I read the story for the first time, it felt more and more with each page like a very lucid examination of the subject but broken down in such a way that was clearly understood. I also enjoyed a parallel that was drawn to "Beauty and the Beast," an aspect that I ended up incorporating into the illustrations.
The following are some of the illustrations from the book:
For any illustrators reading this, I'd like to share some technical gibberish that made my life a lot easier and hopefully might do the same for you. The way I usually work with comics is to pencil something and then ink it before scanning and cleaning it. Given that this was a black and white book, the same approach made sense at first.
What I learned on this project was a way to skip the inking part. If the pencils are drawn at a much larger size and then scanned at a very high resolution (600 dpi at least), a little bit of cleaning can give the same effect as inking. What I did was blur the image just enough that the line edges came together a little bit. I later increased the contrast to the point that the image was reduced to being only black and white. When it got shrunken down to the resolution required for print, it gave the same effect as ink. The only downside of this approach is that the pencil work has to be extremely clean (otherwise, it's just faster to ink). The great benefit is that makes it easier to erase a mistake and redraw it where necessary.
On an ending note, I'd like to add a last word about Asala. All of the good things I had heard are true! They allow for a lot of freedom as far as style goes and keep their illustrators heavily involved in a lot of the storytelling decisions. It doesn't hurt that they're very nice people too.
A big thanks goes out to Shereen Kreidieh Hasbini.