“Hamsters After Dark” and “Field Trip to the Alpaca Farm” are two children’s books where I was the author and illustrator. In both cases, I had not originally intended to write a book.
Book 1 – Hamsters After Dark
The hamster drawings were inspired by true events. We did indeed have 6 baby hamsters that kept escaping their cage. The summer of hamsters was also a summer of insomnia and I did a lot of random sketching in the middle of the night. Those sketches later turned into a college project. Drawings done for the college project were rough but a good roadmap to what would eventually become the hamster book. Quite a few years passed before I pulled out that college project again. Images were revised and refined, then recreated with pen and ink, acrylic wash, and colored pencil.
From the first hamster sketches back in the summer of insomnia to the date it was finally published took nearly 10 years. This is one of the first images I had come up with and the silly rhyme that went with it.
Rufus is my name and I like to take a dare.
I tip-toed to the neighbor’s once and gave them quite a scare.
Book 2 – Field Trip to the Alpaca Farm
This book is based on Rainbow’s End Alpaca’s in Norway where I knit on occasion. The alpaca’s have a sweet expression, almost a smile. I was thinking they would be fun to draw. It was coming up on shearing time and this image came to mind. I really don’t know where the whimsy images come from but they are entertaining.
When I wrote both of the books I didn’t start at the beginning and write through to the end. They started out as random funny visuals with a rhyme or sentence or two describing each one. For me, the image usually comes first and then the words. The idea of writing a story would come much later. Once I had enough images, I laid out the sketches and determined the order. Sometimes there were additional pages drawn or changed to improve the flow of the story. The two books are different in the fact that Hamsters After Dark is in rhyme and the alpaca book is more story form. Both were fun and I learned a lot each time.
Book 3 – Silly Birds
I have another book in the works. It does not have a title yet but it’s a rhyming book that will feature these bird characters. This will be the first book I will be creating “on purpose”.
I began mapping out the pages on what I had originally envisioned as the story. Then I hit a speed bump when I realized that if I added the winter section I would need to rearrange the order and possibly swap out a couple of pages. It works two different ways but changes the rhythm. I am not sure which version I like better. Always best to set it aside for a bit and come back later and take a fresh look.
I always learn things from previous projects that I can apply to the next book. Even though it may get a little easier in some aspects, each book has its own unique set of issues to work through. I’ll be working on this book in my spare time. I have a new series of paintings I am working on and I am trying to keep a better balance this year. Will keep you posted on my progress.