Illustrating The lion and the mouse

The Lion and the Mouse is the first book I've illustrated. The other two books I've illustrated won't be available for a long time. I'm starting to realise that, relatively speaking, the four months between handing over the final artwork for Lion and the publication of the book is very very quick given the complicated nature of the printing and distribution process but obviously, seeing none of that stuff, it feels like ages to me. I had to go through my emails to remind myself of how this all came together, so here's what I think happened:
Apparently, it all started with a request for some character designs from HarperCollins. Since it was for the well-known Aesops fable "The Lion and The Mouse", they wanted to see some designs for a lion. And also a mouse.

The Lion starting off going two directions. One way was cute and chunky, the other way a bit more grizzled and gnarly.

Gnarliness won the day so some mouse designs soon followed, in a similar style but cuter for a bit of contrast with the lion.

Then it was time to see them together in colour so the publisher requested a rough cover image. That was when I decided on the technique I was going to use; A rough coloured-pencil drawing with a neat black pen line on top and digital colour. A lot of the colour was scans of watercolour washes and pencil hatching but it was compiled digitally. I did it this way because, apart from just loving the look of the combination of hand-drawn and digital work, it was the most efficient way to get good-looking results. It's a bit like painting traditionally but with an undo button.

After requesting a few small changes (most notably, removing the hard edge of the lions mane) the publisher was happy enough for me to illustrate the rest of the book. They sent a pdf that explained what the composition of each spread should be, so I did a rough line layout of the book and sent it back
They wanted some changes, eg. the fourth panel above, changed to this:
And some other changes but you'll have to buy twenty copies of the book HERE and compare it to the rough layout here to see what changed.
So, after a bit of back and forth, with the layouts approved, I started colouring. This is a fairly quick and simple technique, even though it involves drawing the same pose three times for each page.
After doing A LOT of rough drawings to settle on what the final image would be, on separate pages I drew: a pencil-drawn background, pencil-drawn characters and then the character drawing again with colouring pencil and finally pen. All scanned and then overlaid digitally. Then colouring time!
This picture helps explain the process but I actually paint the background first. It's just easier to see the separate drawings without it.
I made a small video that shows how each image came real-time. I work pretty fast.

and here's how the final cover looks:
and that's it!


  1. Wow! I think I'm totally in love with this book. I love the characters, the colors, the technique and the final mood of it. I was surprised by knowing it was your first book... so congrats!! I wish there'll be so many more :)
    Thanks a lot for sharing the whole process, it's been very inspiring :)

  2. I'm determined to buy nothing but well illustrated books for my seven month old son, and this will make a perfect addition to his growing collection.

    There were only two in stock though, so I couldn't order twenty I'm afraid!

  3. Beautiful man, Lovely work and a clear explanation to your process.

  4. great stuff, will be very helpful to me for the kidz! Nice work Crn!

  5. It is very generous of you to show us your process, thank you!

  6. neat and awesome work!

  7. your style is wonderful. i love the way you adapted the sketches to suit the exact mood of the story.

  8. Anonymous12:21 pm

    I love so much *-*