After I received my BFA, I knew that I was still not ready to enter the world as a professional illustrator. After jumping from 3D animation, to Visual Development, and ultimately deciding to illustrate children's books, it was pretty obvious that I was nowhere near as capable as students who had spent their entire school career in the illustration department. I toyed with the idea of going to grad school for more than a year and a half. The idea of working on an entire book as a thesis project was so appealing, I couldn't get it out of my head.
Going in, I thought I had a very clear idea of what I was going to do as a final project. At that time I was thoroughly obsessed with the life and times of Marie Antoinette, and I thought I would make a children's book about her and the start of the French revolution. This proved much more difficult than I had anticipated. I couldn't figure out a way to make her story kid friendly. Of course, having to scrap that plan left me seriously floundering. I had no idea what I was going to do now. The only thing I knew for sure was that I didn't want to do anything typical, or cutesy. I was discovering a love for history and cultures around the world, and I was determined to find a way to incorporate that.
I took a class called Crossing Borders,and it was through this class that I was introduced to the Wodaabe. For those who don't know, the Wodaabe are a nomadic tribe who live in the Sahel region of Africa. They are obsessed with beauty. In this culture, the men wear make up and go out of their way to enhance their beauty in the hope of attracting a equally beautiful mate. I knew I wanted to base my project around them, but again, I didn't know how
As the date for my mid-point review drew closer, I gave up on finding a way to use the Wodaabe, and decided instead to illustrate an African folk tale. However, I couldn't find one that moved me enough to want to spend the next two years working on it. In full on panic mode, I went to Borders one day to troll the kids book section, praying all the while for lightning to strike. And, amazingly, it did.
I came across a book of fairy tales retold using other races and cultures. EUREKA!!! I didn't even have to think about it. I went home, and in less than an hour, I re-wrote Cinderella. The customs of the Wodaabe were a perfect fit.
Though I struggled with it a bit, ultimately, the final pieces were very successful. I am considering finishing the story and the illustrations and submitting to publishers. Though the tough economy and being a new author/illustrator make the idea of seeing my book on store shelves very difficult , I am not giving up.
This is the cover of the book. It's a wrap around (something that oddly wasn't understood in my final review session), with the image on the left being the back where the story summary would go, and the image on the right the cover that would face out on store shelves. This is NOT the final text, just an idea for text placement.
Copyright/title page. The committee wanted me to put Aja in here, but I didn't because I didn't want her to be seen yet in the book. Looking back, though, it doesn't make a lot of sense because I used her on the cover! Again, text used just for placement.
Opening page. This didn't go over well in the final review. They felt the ground was too clean, and Aja looks too happy about her work. Also, they didn't like it that the evil step-mother and step-sisters were left out. My initial thinking was that I wanted the illustrations to all focus on Aja (Cinderella), and Addae (the prince). After listening to the committee, I realized they were correct.
Here Aja goes to the market where she sees her prince for the first time. She is excited, but also afraid, and turns away from him. When she turns back, he is gone.
After being told she cannot go to the dance with the rest of her family, Aja cries. Along comes the giin (her fairy godfather) who wonders why she doesn't know she is beautiful inside and out.
The transformation begins.
Final page, as they ride off into the sunset. Corny, I know, but in my defense, this was originally the title page, but the original end page was equally corny..
Now obviously, there are many missing illustrations that I just didn't get to. I spent weeks agonizing over each of these drawings, which left me little time to do more illustrations. But just looking at them now, really makes me want to go back and finish this. Perhaps, in the very near future, you will see new images for this book.