My first book with a major publisher came out a good number of years ago. I submitted that particular book to over 50 publishers, some big some small and was rejected by them all but one.
Finally, it was acquired by Harper Collins Publishers in New York.
The initial version of the book I had sent them was illustrated in black and white because I wanted it to have the feel of ‘The Giving Tree,’ by Shel Silverstein.
Harper Collins had different ideas. My editor wanted it in full color.
I was excited, but petrified because I was at the beginning of my illustration career and was afraid that I was going to make a mistake when painting the color pictures for the book.
After freaking out for five minutes, I tensed up and painted the illustrations as perfectly as I could.
The publisher wasn't happy with my efforts. They were rather blunt about not liking what I sent them back.
I was devastated because I was so sure they were going to love what I did, but they didn’t.
I tried it again. This time I worked even harder to do the perfect watercolor illustrations.
They still didn't like what I had done.
I felt quite depressed, to tell the truth. My big break was feeling rather broken.
After some calls and discussions, the publisher decided to get, what they called, a colorist to do a sample illustration using my line drawings.
They sent me a sample page of the guy’s work and asked if I minded if that person did the coloring of my book.
I was very disappointed, to say the least. I felt like a bit of a failure actually. My big bright moment had a dark gray cloud hovering over it.
I wallowed in self-pity for about five minutes and then accepted the inevitable.
Truth be told, which I wasn’t going to admit in public, I kind of liked the sample painting the colorist had actually done.
Then I had a revelation. “ $#@*, I bet I could do that." I thought to myself.
While speaking to my mother on the phone later that day, I subconsciously doodled with my paints and duplicated the style the colorist had produced without even realizing what I had done.
My bruised ego suddenly peeked out from behind the dark cloud. I marveled at my own creation. “Hmmmm.” I thought. “It looks really good.”
I did a few more samples, and before any self-doubting could creep back in, I quickly sent the new samples off to the publisher.
They loved it.
And I illustrated the book in the style seen in this picture.
I’m really proud of the way it turned out.
The book came out the next year and was translated into many languages. It even had the honor of being acquired by Yoko Ono for the Japanese market. (Also seen in the picture is Yoko’s photograph (not mine) which appeared on the inside dust-jacket cover in the Japanese edition. I also heard a while back that Yoko Ono is considering turning the book into an animated short film. No news yet but I’m hoping that will come to fruition.)
The lesson I learned from the entire experience is that I was trying too hard to create the perfect pictures instead of enjoying the process, having fun, and painting the way I normally paint.
I was creating what I thought people wanted to see instead of doing what I love doing.
The stress, angst, and pursuit of unattainable perfection almost cost me the opportunity of doing my own illustrations for my first major book with one of the biggest publishers in the world.
"The place where I grow ideas and create stories using words, illustrations and photographs." - Trevor Romain