For The Sandal Artist, I had to create individual characters. With children’s illustration, it is important to be able to carry a character throughout the whole story. I use live models to create characters based on how I interpret the text. This helps with continuity in the story.
Choosing the characters is the funnest part for me. Norman Rockwell was a master at this. He used to approach total strangers at stores to pose. I tend to pick people I know. The pages of the Sandal Artist are full of people in my hometown and my own kids. My son is the main character (with and added goatee, above). I collect my characters by making initial sketches. Here are some character sketches based on my references. ”References” are actual photographs of my models in certain poses and lighting.
Here is one of my favorite illustrations for the book. This is my buddy Scott Stearman who I knew would be a perfect cobbler. I took the reference photos of him in his own studio. He is a sculptor and his studio seemed to represent a cobbler shop, the lighting and space.
The Beggar women was also easy to choose. This is my friend Jan who I knew would have the warm smile and sweet spirit I was wanting this character to convey.
It’s important to choose models who represent the heart of what you want to communicate visually.