by Anne Bollman
Editor’s Note: Author and illustrator Anne Bollman will be available to chat with you on Twitter on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, from 12 pm to 1pm (PDT) for a live #KTChat.
It was 2018 and I had a dream of becoming a children’s book author and illustrator. I had almost a decade of experience illustrating for products, from greeting cards to dinnerware and even obscure things like doggy-poo bags. I had written a book about a dog (my favorite thing to illustrate), created a dummy, completed rough sketches of the entire book and illustrated a few spreads. I met an agent at a trade show, showed her my pitch and within a month I had signed with a publisher. My dream was coming true!
But there was one thing bothering me. Even though my book was about a dog, and I loved illustrating animals, the story had lots of human characters as well. I could draw animals with my eyes closed. Humans were another story. It wasn’t natural for me.
I had to draw and redraw again and again to get a sketch I was happy with. Struggling with the human characters took away some of the joy of illustrating my first picture book. I am proud of how it turned out and have received very positive feedback and even won an exciting picture book award. But despite all this, when I paged through my book I saw my human characters and wished they were somehow… better.
I knew there wasn’t a magical key to illustrating humans, the only way to get better at something was to practice. By now it was 2020 and 100 Day Projects continued to be popular on Instagram. I figured if I drew 100 people in 100 days there was no way I wouldn’t get better and more comfortable at drawing them. I also wanted the project to propel my children’s book illustration to the next level. So I decided my project would be 100 days of emotions.
I would illustrate a character showing a different emotion each day and write a short story about why they were feeling the emotion. After 10 days, I would switch to a new character. In the end I would have 10 different characters, each showing 10 emotions. Except I didn’t make it all the way through the project. I made it just over halfway through, completing 52 character emotions. At that point the weight of the pandemic had taken its toll on me and my family. But despite not technically finishing, the project was a success!
I loved the characters I came up with, and even more, I loved the ease at which I could draw people after completing the project. I had developed a style that I was really happy with and proud to share with the world.
To top things off, during the project I had received so many instagram messages from parents and teachers asking if I would turn the illustrations into a book, that now I’m finishing up my next pitch and using all that I learned during my 52 Day Project. This time the book isn’t about animals at all, it’s all about humans. And I’m so proud of the work I’ve put in so far. If you feel like you have an area of illustration that could use some improvement try not to avoid it. Instead, focus on it! You’ll come out a much happier and confident illustrator on the other side.
Come join Anne Bollman next Wednesday, September 29, 2021, from 12pm to 1pm PDT for our Live #KTChat on Twitter to find out more about how to make use of 100 Day Challenges in improving your craft!
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Anne Bollman started her own studio, Anne Was Here, providing illustrations for products and publications with humor and style that are meant to make you smile. Today her illustrations can be found in retail stores worldwide on stationery, wall art, gifts, pet products and more. Anne’s picture book, Help Find Frank, won the award for Excellence in a Picture Book by The Children’s Literature Council of Southern California.
Images provided by the author.