Yifat Fishman Illustrations & Thoughts


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It’s a new book!

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. More about the book here.

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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.

Mimi reading in her favorite spot

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.

Joe napping with assorted chocolate boxes

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!

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Postcard

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!

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Tin man (work title)

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.


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About life and storms

So I’m thinking out loud here, since writing helps generate more thoughts and more ideas.

I have a story that I connect deeply with and that I’ve been returning to over and again, thinking at some point that it was ready for submission but then realizing that it could benefit from more work. Writing, rewriting, until it is absolutely done (for the time being). It’s about thunderstorms and music and artistic expression, and how the forces of nature are essentially unavoidable and should be accepted. It has this environmental aspect that is dear to my heart as an undertone. But at the foreground it is a story about conquering fear and the importance of being true to yourself. Now how do I write this for children?

Life is full of inspiration and surprises and so when I was visiting an office for some issue that needed taking care of, I came across this phrase. It was sewn to a pillow that rested nonchalantly right across from where I was seated.
And it said: ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain’.

I wrote it down along with some doodling, which made me feel immediately better, and it got me thinking. Maybe I should go deeper and figure out what is the difficulty or challenge that the kids in my story need to face, and eventually accept. Because the story does draw to a closure with a dance in the rain. And I want it to be much more than conquering fear. What were they hiding from, making excuses to, choosing to do or not to do? What challenges them, what do they need to overcome?

This story has two separate story lines that meet at the end. The protagonist and the antagonist resolve their differences and troubles when they collaborate and accept each other. In a picture book. In less than 1000 words. And it needs to feel real and touch y’alls hearts.
But maybe, and now I’m getting excited over this idea that I’ve been playing with for a while, maybe this book would work best in the format of a graphic novel… yep.

Since music is an essential part of the story and I feel it’s really about artistic expression and being authentic, I am thinking that the other character would be an artist too. And my new thought is that one of the kids cannot see, and maybe he is messing up his sister’s projects and when the storm scares him she tries to help him. And since he can’t see he has enhanced senses, like smell and hearing that works great with the where the story goes… and I’m thinking about it.
I’m going to let it simmer and let that ball of rawness push against my heart and mind until I cannot contain it any longer and would sit down to rewrite the story.

Building a scene for a new story

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I think I know where the story is going but I’m sure it will surprise me at the end. Being able to go back-and-forth between the illustrations and the text is an interesting process. Some days I’m more wordy while on other days I feel there are things I need to figure out visually. It’s a very dynamic process and I like it because it’s never boring. I’ve written a synopsis which gives me a good idea about the main points in the story that I will need to address in writing and illustrations, kind of like a road map to main events. But it doesn’t mean that things are set in stone. Quite the opposite. I’m very interested to discover how it will turn out. I think the story evolves in a deep place within the writer, a place that is not entirely visible like a statue hidden within a block of marble. We got to do all this work to get it out of its hiding.


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Rocking third revision

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I dread the sight of an empty work space, so I cultivate a healthy pile of drawings on my drawing desk at all times. There should be something waiting for me in the morning to discover and think through a cup of coffee. Presently I’m going through a third revision cycle of illustrations for a book. It’s always exciting for me to have fresh new ideas that replace old ones, it’s an interesting process of discovery and a steady learning curve.
The more I work on images for a story the better I get to know my characters and their illustrations become more lively and fun to create. In the beginning I find myself struggling to form vague ideas into believable and lovable characters. Some times I have a good idea where to start and other times it helps to see how a character behaves through several drafts to form better ideas about her appearance.