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The Art of Storytelling: The Magical Blend of Illustrations and Children's Stories

Hello, everyone!

Today, I want to share with you the wonderful world of storytelling and how I combine illustrations with children's stories. I'll take you through my creative process of developing concepts, character design, and crafting morals and values within my stories.

To begin with, my stories often revolve around two main characters: my daughter and one of our cats. I've placed them together as a duo, and they usually embark on funny, everyday adventures. These designs have evolved over time, and these are the latest iterations of how they look.

Character design sheet featuring a 6-year-old girl and her black cat, showcasing various expressions and poses, capturing their unique personalities and bond. by Foeshel

If I am doing a single illustration, I imagine a situation and then add the two characters and their interaction with the environment. For example, I made a drawing of them walking through the forest.

Whimsical illustration of a 6-year-old girl and her black cat exploring a lush forest filled with vibrant flowers and a delicate butterfly, capturing a sense of wonder and curiosity. by Foeshel

I like the drawing, so I thought about what could happen next. The situation I imagined was Lotte and Puck walking in a forest, and a monster was hiding in the trees. I didn't imagine it as a scary illustration but just something light-hearted and fun. Tucked in between the trees was an octopus hidden away, acting like a tree.

Playful illustration of a 6-year-old girl and her black cat wandering through a forest, where a clever octopus tries to blend in by hiding among the trees and pretending to be one, adding a touch of humor and surprise. by Foeshel

The basic idea was fun, and the illustrations turned out fine. But then I imagined what else could happen. They needed to cross a river, but they couldn't, and then the octopus helped them out, and they continued on their way. Most of the time, it remains a single image, but sometimes it evolves into more.

Whimsical illustration of an octopus helping a young girl and her black cat cross a river by using its tentacles as a makeshift bridge, while the cat gazes in fascination at a fish swimming in the water below. by Foeshel

But the many times this happened, it did seed an idea. The idea was that if I made very short stories (four to five pages), this would translate into a more classical approach for a children's book. I tend to prefer to write in English; it is weird, but it has always been the case, if I want to rhyme, my brain can do it more easily in English. I tend to write out a small idea for a story first. For example, the scariest monster: Lotte and Puck are playing in their room when a monster jumps from under the bed and tries to scare them, but it doesn't work. Ashamed, he apologizes, and they become friends. When I have this, I start working on the poem. During this process, I generally already have images in my head, and I note those, which form the guide for how many pages it will become.

After many years of practice, when I want to make children's illustrations, I tend to combine my comic-like style, with more rounded and organic shapes, with a more classical approach. I use gouache paint and a playful, colorful palette. This style enables me to bring whimsy and charm to my stories, making them more engaging and memorable for young readers. Once I have a solid story idea and a poem to go with it, I start the illustration process. I usually begin with rough red pencil sketches, trying to visualize the characters and scenes in my story. These initial sketches help me establish the overall composition and flow of the narrative. Sometimes, I even create a storyboard to ensure that the visual elements are well-balanced and complement the text. After finalizing my sketches, I move on to the painting process. Gouache is a medium where you can lay flat even layers, and this looks nice and crisp. But you can also thin them, or even scrape some paint off the paper with water and suck up the pigment with a brush. This makes it more like watercolor. The paints I use are Acryla Gouache by Holbein. Once they are dry, they are permanent, and water has no effect on them. I tend to pick a center of attention, and this is what gets painted and gets all the detail. Once I have painted my multiple layers, I pick up colored pencils and use these for my linework. Everything else that adds detail to the scene becomes a colored line drawing but not a paint layer. I have found that this points to a core element, mostly the main characters. You can read their emotions and what they are doing. But I do think that it has a very pretty aesthetic to it.

When the illustrations are finished, they are scanned, and the rest of the process is digital. I decided a while ago how this would look. It would be an illustration, square format, and next to that would be a square, colored page with white text. This would be a warm and vibrant color with a paper texture overlay.

I want to create stories that help children. I like stories with a moral to them; they can be educational, but they should still be fun. I should not be a summation of “you can't do this or that because those are bad!” I'd like it to be a little bit more evolved. For example, a story about a character overcoming their fears might encourage readers to face their own anxieties and develop resilience. Another story might demonstrate the importance of friendship, teamwork, or perseverance. In practice, I would point at the scariest monster; one of the short stories already published on this site talks about how a monster who wants to scare people might have more fun making friends than just scaring everyone and not creating bonds with each other.

In addition, I hope this fosters a love of reading. I have a weird relationship with reading, as I have trouble staying focused on it. My mind always goes places, and I like that because reading creates images and ideas for me. But it is a hassle as I sometimes have to reread certain parts multiple times. I also hope these stories help develop children's emotional intelligence and empathy. By presenting relatable characters facing various challenges and dilemmas, my stories encourage young readers to reflect on their own emotions and experiences, as well as those of others.

In conclusion, the art of storytelling through illustrations and children's stories is a powerful tool to captivate young minds and ignite their imagination. I hope it inspires them to do great things. Even though I am just at the beginning of this adventure, I hope you will follow along, and who knows, it might inspire you as well.

These stories will be posted under “children’s stories” on my website.

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