Illustration in Procreate on iPad Pro. Watch more art videos on my YouTube channel
Mimi Goes to the Beacon
Mimi Goes to the Beacon is a reflection on a woman’s remarkable life and epic battle with cancer, written by Rob Curran with my illustrations.
When Rob Curran, a writer for the Wall Street Journal and the Dallas News and my friend, asked me to illustrate the book he was writing for his mother I was deeply touched and humbled by the task he had trusted me with.
In the beginning of my work, I asked Rob to tell me more about his mother. I wanted to get to know her better to be able to capture her in my illustrations. And so I learned that Mimi liked to spend time in a special place in her house where she would read, surrounded by photo albums, plants and birds. That Doctor Zhivago was her favorite movie, she kept the movie program from a visit to theater many years ago. And that she liked to visit the beach on warm weekends with her family.
When designing the book’s appearance and layout, I tried to keep a fine balance between the words and the art. While most pages show text accompanied by full illustration page, selected pages have text with small spot illustrations, and some pages show family photos on colorful background.
My preferred drawing tools are digital brushes that feel like watercolors and gouaches, brushes that I design and configure. I draw with Apple Pencil on iPad Pro, then use Photoshop for editing the images and adding text. A fun feature of ProCreate, my illustration app, is that it records the work. Here’s a time-lapse video of Mimi reading in the conservatory: Mimi reading
Some illustrations required long research before the art process could begin. Sifting through pictures from a movie I never saw before, ruling out scenes that were too sad or too intense for the book, I eventually chose the scene of Doctor Zhivago and Mimi in the Ice Palace as the fitting background for her hospital room. After all the poking and prodding by real doctors, I thought Mimi would appreciate a reassuring visit of the handsome doctor.
Another illustration was based on pictures from Edwardian Christmas, a book the family loves reading during the holiday. And since Mimi and Joe played the Darling children in the Peter Pan theater show, they became the stars of the illustration with Captain Hook sticking his head into the Edwardian nursery.
So much heart was poured into this book by Mimi’s family. Rob, who lovingly weaved memories from Mimi’s youth with her experience as a cancer patient, gracefully and humorously bringing forth a message of unity and strength. The Curran siblings, who advised and supported and dug through the family archive to find the right photos for the book. Aunt Margaret, who read the drafts and corrected historical inaccuracies. And Joe who is always there for his Mimi.
Thank you for allowing me to take part in your family’s journey!
Here’s a quick rough color sketch from a book that I’m currently working on, which tells the story of a self-made tin man with a green thumb who saves the city and his landfill with the help of a creative girl… now back to developing the storyboard…
As I’m working to get my latest project in the hands of publishers, I’ve designed a promotional postcard. I love how it came out! The illustrations show a spread from my new picture book dummy and B&W spot illustration for the back of the postcard, also from that project.
I’m itching to get the printed cards. Seeing my work in print, even if it’s just a small postcard, is one more step in the right direction!
My sweet betta fish swimming gracefully in his 3 gallon tank is very entertaining. He has three tetra fish as companions but they turned out to be quite aggressive toward each other. Apparently you can’t keep a small school of tetras in a 3 gallon tank, as they attack one another. If you don’t know fish, what they would do is nudge and chase each other, making everybody’s tiny lives a total misery. I started out with four, ending with two. Then got nine more, thinking that having more company will ease their anxieties, but ended up with these three brave survivors (or big bullies).
Such huge drama from a small fish…
Anyway, I meant to write about my betta, who while all that was taking place, minded his own business and got himself acquainted with all the soft hiding spots in his little domain. He even has a nice hammock to hang out close to the water surface and blow some air bubbles if he so chooses.
Here is a picture of him swimming next to one of his Marimo balls.
Of course when I sat down for my daily sketch work he provided inspiration for this illustration, which as art goes ended up with colors quite different than the original subject of the picture. Let’s just say that mister Fish was the MUSE of this piece. And that’s a big thing for this little guy.
Here’s the illustration (note the tetras in the background):
Had to flex my sketching muscles today (and the day before, but that piece isn’t done and I’ll post it later on). Made some textures in PS and then drew these lovely maidens. Aren’t they nice?
Here’s a new story I’m currently working on, which started as a quick color sketch with no intention of developing it into something bigger . . . But as stories go, this one spoke to me and I knew that I wanted to work with it to find out where it’s going. As it turned out, the story takes a look at environmental issues that are close to my heart.