Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Katherine Tillotson: Illustrating Shoe Dog

bk_shoe-dog1Shoe Dog

writ­ten by Megan McDon­ald
illus­tra­tions by Kather­ine Tillot­son
Richard Jack­son Books / Simon & Schus­ter, 2014

Your illus­tra­tion of the Shoe Dog is so unusu­al. What inspired you to use this ropy scrib­ble?

Shoe Dog sketchWhen I first visu­al­ized Shoe Dog, it was as a black and white bull ter­ri­er. In fact, I cre­at­ed an entire book dum­my with that image. I had even asked a woman in the neigh­bor­hood if I could use her bull ter­ri­er as a mod­el. But there was some­thing about my sketch­es that did­n’t feel quite right to me and when I hap­pened to come across some scrib­bly side­walk chalk draw­ings made by chil­dren, I imme­di­ate­ly went home and began revis­ing my sketch­es. It was the ener­gy and life in the chil­dren’s pic­tures that inspired me.

What tools did you use to cre­ate the var­i­ous ele­ments in the book, such as the move­ment lines, the speech bub­bles, the fence, the exot­ic shoes?

Artwork from Shoe DogI have always been attract­ed by col­lage. In the past, I have enjoyed cut­ting up pat­terned paper and arrang­ing the pieces in unex­pect­ed ways. The com­put­er has made it pos­si­ble to re-imag­ine the tech­nique of col­lage. Now I am able to com­bine marks that would have been impos­si­ble to mix if I was work­ing con­ven­tion­al­ly.

I love to work with hand­made marks. For Shoe Dog I used marks made by a bray­er, cray­on rub­bings, a flat pen­cil and char­coal, then col­laged them in the com­put­er.

What did you do to “loosen up” your line for the high­ly active Shoe Dog?

I have recent­ly been exper­i­ment­ing in water­col­or and I find that by the time I have ren­dered any more than five lay­ers, I am com­plete­ly stiff and tight. I think that ten­sion is caused by the fear that the entire paint­ing can be ruined with the next brush stroke. In con­trast, Shoe Dog­gie was a loosey-goosey ride. Since I was using the com­put­er, I knew that I could scrib­ble and scrib­ble until I cre­at­ed a dog I want­ed to use. Know that I could make tons of mis­takes helped me to keep the mark-mak­ing loose and relaxed.

Color MovesHow do you go about choos­ing a col­or palette? It’s so lumi­nous that it exudes good cheer, until we get to the BAD DOG! part of the book. Mar­velous con­trast. You express so well some­thing we’ve all felt.

Thank you! I always try many col­or com­bi­na­tions until one feels right. I have to give a call-out to Atheneum’s Excec­u­tive Art Direc­tor, Ann Bob­co. From time to time she sends me inspir­ing pack­ages. While I was work­ing on a col­or palette for Shoe Dog, Ann sent me the book, Col­or Moves: Art & Fash­ion by Sonia Delau­nay. The fab­rics of Sonia Delau­nay great­ly influ­enced my col­or choic­es.

Did you select the font used through­out the book or did the book design­er do that? Is it usu­al for an illus­tra­tor to choose the book’s font? What was it about this font that you felt suit­ed the book?

Cred­it for the font choice goes to Ann Bob­co. I love the bounce and ani­ma­tion it gives to the words.

In my expe­ri­ence, it is unusu­al for the illus­tra­tor to choose the book font. How­ev­er, I know that there are many excep­tions. Recent­ly, I was read­ing The Adven­tures of Beek­le writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Dan San­tat. I looked to see what font had been used and it was San­tat.

How did you go about decid­ing to leave human faces out of the book?

I am so glad you asked! I believe that it was orig­i­nal­ly Megan who sug­gest­ed that the woman in the sto­ry, She, Her­self, would be a pres­ence, a very sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence, but just off-cam­era. She, Her­self would be most­ly hid­den until the very end. It was par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing to fig­ure out how to estab­lish the close­ness between woman and dog ear­ly in the sto­ry. I want­ed a hug. The solu­tion was to adorn She Her­self with a very large hat.

Shoe Dog

Illus­tra­tion from Shoe Dog.

 Did you and the author, Megan McDon­ald, talk togeth­er about the art for this book?

We spoke a tee­ny tiny bit at the begin­ning of the art mak­ing. Megan and I do speak reg­u­lar­ly, but usu­al­ly not about any books that are under­way. We both fol­low our cus­tom­ary prac­tice of com­mu­ni­cat­ing about the book with Dick Jack­son, our most excel­lent edi­tor. This arrange­ment works well for every­one.

Are you already work­ing on your next project?

I am! A night­time sto­ry set in a for­est. Then I am going for a romp in the moun­tains with anoth­er sto­ry.


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