Steve Lenton, well known as the illustrator of the Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam books and for his illustrations for Frank Cottrell Boyce’s novels, introduces his new picture book, Let’s Find Fred. An animator as well as illustrator, he explains the importance of creating character, and of maintaining the ‘Lenton look’.
Style and process is something that every illustrator I know thinks about constantly before, during and after a book project. Artists have a LOT to consider and the decision making is endless, well, until a deadline is fast approaching! Decisions regarding a character’s expression or clothing, decisions on colour and lighting and also choosing the correct overall style for each book is paramount.
I have been very lucky to have worked with a number of publishers recently on a lovely array of different picture book and fiction titles. This has been fantastic and incredibly challenging creatively as I get to experiment with slightly differing styles as each project requires something a little different each time. I hope that I am adaptive but never to the detriment of my innate sense of ‘what I would do’. I need to keep everything I do looking ‘Lenton.’
With all my other picture books thus far, the creative process, planning and design have taken a fairly traditional route but Let’s Find Fred was rather different! I was wined and dined or rather ‘caked and cola’d’ by Scholastic’s Picture Book Art Director Strawberrie Donnelly at the Bologna Book Fair in 2015 with a loose concept for a Panda-based title.
Strawberrie has always been a great supporter of my work and so it was lovely to finally work together on what started life as a very simple novelty, silhouette-centric book. As I started designing Fred and Stanley, the team fell in love with them and we soon realised that silhouettes, shadows and cut-outs weren’t going to work for Fred – we needed to see lots more of him and in full glorious technicolour! I researched existing ‘Spot the…’ style of books, of which there is a huge variety, and then set about creating my own take on this genre of picture book.
Editor Sophie Cashell joined me and Strawberrie to discuss all the different places Stanley could chase Fred though and eventually the environments were chosen, one by one, and planned.
Each scene started as a thumbnail sketch with little or no detail in my sketchbook;
Then a more detailed rough;
Then the final artwork (with lots of colour changes along the way!);
The Fred style is more graphic, colourful and bold, with a stronger palette than my other books to date and it’s been a real challenge to get all the details and humour in there with such small characters. I can never just draw a character to fill a gap, they have to have a reason for being in the scene and therefore need their own mini narrative. Fred evolved organically into a really fun, interactive book with an irresistible ‘moving-eyes’ cover and giant fold out Panda Party spread as a finale.
This book really is a joy to share and I’m currently on a book tour with my new Panda pal – do look out for us!
Let’s Find Fred is published by Scholastic, 978-1-4071-6611-7, £6.99 pbk.