As told by Juan Carlos Casas
After a lot of thinking, reviewing other great works, and sitting on a rock doodling, finding the right style didn’t come easily. I had seen so many beautifully illustrated books that at times I would question my yet unidentified style. I knew I was an artist but this endeavor was tugging at my core.
Yet, every time I would start sketching a scene, it didn't feel right and it seemed to always follow someone’s style, or was more like something we had all seen before.
Finding my own style and real fit with these stories was necessary for it to work. I had to find a way to repeat characters and be able to edit them and keep each scene recognizable along the way. And this also meant it had to be fun and relevant to how children see the world. I wanted to communicate in the language which was straightforward, fearless and without reference to anyone else's work.
…and more attempts led to more of the same. The natural tendency was to make it very detailed and it turn, not fit Dana’s original vision. My work was simply too structured, driven by too much “schooling” on how art “should” be.
It’s a constant reminder of how sad our programming as adults often limits our color palette in life for fear of being judged. Unlike adults, children demonstrate how art is expressed in the moment without any notion of its impact on others and without any need to frame it and categorize it as adults do.
Dana had drawn these two fish with a paintbrush one day while we were talking about the style for the book. It was the very first illustration of any relevance to the original idea. It was here that we realized that we both wanted to tell the story in a bold, ‘in your face’ way. She wanted BIG, BOLD, SPLASH of COLOR. It was like a Picasso and Britto moment. But to tell a story with this style with so few details presented a few challenges in expressing emotions.
It was months later that this ‘aha’ moment came when I realized that one way to get the artwork to be BIG and BOLD without a lot of the typical illustration details was to work in a small scale, using a small frame and then enlarging it. This forced me to tell a story in a very few lines and gave it just the right, unstructured look and feel. We found that touch of unrestrained and boundless self expression of a child.
The style was set and now I had to create every scene. Once I had the scene layout, I would redraw it using the frame to force me to keep the artwork fun, simple and bold.
I would then do the coloring with markers from a test palette Dana had created to see what colors worked best. I labeled them for future use, so as to repeat them in each scene.
I would scan each piece individually, and then bring them together. Then I would add the text and the scene was complete.
How wonderful it is to create or do anything in life as if you didn’t know you could fail…It is truly liberating.
It’s the only art form I like to practice.