Diahann Carroll as Julia
Hey y’all! If you’ve been following me for a while, then you’ll remember that I did a series of illustrations for Black History Month in 2017. I decided to reshare them this year because it’s always fun to share info about historical figures! I’m also sharing extra stuff with each post, so it’ll be a fun time.
My first illustration is of Diahann Carroll in the tv show Julia (1968-1971). She was the first Black actress to star in her own TV series where she didn't play a domestic worker. She was a young widow raising a 5 year old son in a nice apartment while working as a nurse.
It was a hit, and Diahann Carroll won a Golden Globe Award for best actress in a comedy in its first season. However, there was a lot of critique surrounding the show. Some critics insisted that it sacrificed an authentic Black experience to gain viewers. Some critics said there was no racial consciousness within the show. Carroll herself said that “everyone and everything in the script were warm and genteel and ‘nice’ - even the racial jokes.”
On set, Diahann Carroll fought for change within the show. She opposed certain scenes, especially one where Julia said she didn’t experience racism until her high school prom. Carroll felt so strongly that she left the TV lot on the day of the taping. She also wanted Julia to wear an afro, but that idea was rejected.
The criticism surrounding the show actually sent Carroll to the hospital twice with stress related symptoms. Even though she had little involvement in the writing, she felt pressured to justify it.
In 1970, the pressure of the show’s impact took a toll on Carroll, and she asked to be released from her contract at the end of the third season.
Bonus Behind the Scenes! Part three!
Illustrating Marvelous Mabel’s cover, Part 3!
Part 1 was about the sketches, part 2 was about the details, and part 3 is about adjusting the colors.
Marvelous Mabel is out now! ☺️⛸✨
Bonus Behind the Scenes! Part two!
Illustrating Marvelous Mabel’s cover, Part 2 out of 3! ⛸✨
Part 1 was about the sketches, this part is about the details within the cover.
Bonus Behind the Scenes! Part one!
Yesterday was Marvelous Mabel’s release day, and I’ve been sharing behind the scenes stuff for the past four days… but I wanted to do something a little different for today!
Here’s Part 1 (out of 3) of how we came up with the cover.
Covering the sketches! ⛸✨
Today is the day!! Marvelous Mabel is out today! I have a lot of people to thank.
First, thank you to Crystal Hubbard, the author of this book. Thank you for writing about Mabel’s life! Thanks to you, so many people will learn about her little known story, and that is so important. I know her story will inspire ice skaters everywhere.
Thank you to AD Dave Neuhaus and thank you to editor, Jessica Echeverria. Thanks for such constructive art notes and revision notes! This book happened during the height of the pandemic, in the midst of me losing my dog, Markie, and in the midst of a really big workload and tight schedule, so I appreciate your kindness and patience with me!
Big thank you to James for presenting me with this opportunity and big thank you to Alex for keeping an eye out for me and being so supportive throughout he whole process. Also, thanks to Jennifer, Shaughnessy, and Jason, it was so nice to meet you all! And shoutout to my mom because she’s the most supportive mom ever and I love her very much.
THANK YOUUU *starts sobbing*
Marvelous Mabel, now available wherever books are sold!
BEHIND THE SCENES OF MARVELOUS MABEL! Day four! Since I shared the most difficult illustration yesterday, I figured I should share my most favorite illustration today. (I specifically didn’t do “easiest” because none of the illustrations were easy. Some took less time than others, some are smaller in size than others… that’s about it.)
My most favorite illustration was of Mabel practicing in her room. You can see that in my original version, she had a Gay Blades poster in her room and everything could be seen clearly.
Dave and Jess let me know that Mabel had to be the focus of the image, so they suggested a few things like fading the bed into the background, adding more sunlight, possibly adding dust motes/stars and removing the shadow from her face. They were all really great suggestions, so I added them all in along with some suggested adjustments to Mabel’s hand.
My favorite part was adding the light filtering into Mabel’s room. I loved making sure the light and shadow on her mini rink was realistic enough to feel right. The little dust motes and sparkles were fun to draw too. I was really happy with how it turned out.
Fun fact: this illustration isn’t actually in the inside of the book, it’s on the back of the book jacket. I made it as a cover option. There’s a spread within the book that’s a lot like this illustration, and in my opinion the interior version is a little better, but you have to wait until you read the book to see it! Tomorrow’s the big day!!
BEHIND THE SCENES OF MARVELOUS MABEL! Day three! With every picture book that I have the honor of illustrating, there is at least one illustration that makes me think to myself, “when I am finished with this illustration, I will retire.” Today I wanted to talk about the most difficult illustration for me to draw in the book.
Before I start ranting, you might not be familiar with the picture book/illustration term “spread.” A spread (or double page spread or two page spread) is a single illustration that spans the two opened pages in a picture book. Just letting y’all know.
The most difficult illustration for me was the spread where Mabel watches people ice skating in Central Park. I really don’t know exactly what it was, but I think it was the combination of the amount of people, the park itself, the skyscrapers in the background, and the perspective that made me feel stuck.
Aside from drawing it piece by piece, the main thing that got me unstuck was the fact that even though we’re separate from Mabel, we’re seeing everything from Mabel’s point of view. That plus a bunch of vintage reference pictures of people ice skating helped me find the eye level, and that helped me figure out where to put the skaters, the trees and the skyscrapers in relation to Mabel.
It took some time to figure out everyone’s outfits, even though I must admit, I love dressing people within a picture book. Also, I illustrated the background as if it was during the peak of the fall season, but I think it was Jessica who sent me a note that made all the sense in the world. She mentioned the idea of the book feeling like it was within a winter wonderland, and the colors I was using were more on the warm side. That was my mind-blowing moment. It made me understand how I was supposed to appropriately revise the final art. (Thanks Jessica!)
So, at Dave and Jessica’s suggestion, I made it wintery, I made everyone look winter cozy, and I removed the railing because that was too modern. I’m really happy with the illustration and I’m happy to say I’m not retiring any time soon!
Hey y’all! Second day of sharing some behind the scenes of illustrating Marvelous Mabel! Today I wanted to talk about illustrating 20s-30s New York City, but I specifically wanted to talk about illustrating the inside and outside of Gay Blades Ice Skating Rink.
Gay Blades Ice Rink was one of the featured settings within the story, both inside and outside. It was located at 52nd and Broadway. It was an ice skating rink, then it eventually turned into a roller skating rink in its heyday in the 40s.
There weren’t any pictures of the exterior of Gay Blades in the 20s-40s, so for my first sketch of Mabel waiting outside, I worked off of random pictures of older NYC building walls and the Gay Blades original logo. Then Dave and Jess found a website with pictures of the updated exterior of the former Gay Blades rink that were taken in 2007. Most recently the building was known as Roseland Ballroom. It still retained most of the original architecture, so it wasn’t too difficult to imagine what the exterior looked like in the 20s-30s. Having the picture of Roseland really helped me illustrate the side of the building and the ticket booth.
The same thing happened with the inside of Gay Blades too. When I originally sketched the interior, I made it look too modern because I worked from reference photos of ice rinks that were a few decades newer. Dave and Jess noted that it looked too modern, and they emailed me a great picture of the interior of Gay Blades when it opened up for roller skating in the 1940s. That picture helped me revise the background accurately! It really was a beautiful and spacious place.
Using reference photos is really important in illustrating stories set in certain periods, and as an illustrator I’m always grateful when the art director, editor, and author send me photos and articles. I love researching and looking in archives for reference pictures too. Researching is one of my favorite parts of illustrating!
Hi! First day of sharing some behind the scenes of illustrating Marvelous Mabel! Today I wanted to talk about little Mabel Fairbanks’ character design!
First, I wanted to talk about Mabel’s age. To give a little background, Mabel was orphaned at the age of 8, and she moved to NYC with her brother and sister-in-law. She started working with her family at around 11-12 years old and for most of the story, she’s about 13 years old.
When I first started with rough drafts, Dave, the art director, and Jessica, the editor, let me know that I drew Mabel too young. It’s really important as an illustrator to be able to draw the characters at the appropriate age consistently because the timeline is important to understanding the story! The proportions and shape of a kid’s face change as they get older, and it was my job to show Mabel age up throughout the book. Dave and Jessica’s comments helped get me on the right track with Mabel’s age and height.
I wanted to talk about Mabel’s hair too. In my first set of sketches, I drew Mabel with pigtails, but there was another picture book about Mabel that released the year before, and she had pigtails in that one. So it was important to distinguish our version of Mabel from the other version of Mabel. Dave and Jessica sent me a picture of a girl from the 30s with short curly hair, and that was the perfect hair for young Mabel. For older Mabel, I went with bangs and a bun.
Mabel’s clothes are really important as well. In a non-fiction picture book, everything has to be period appropriate, but within a picture book, it also has to be character specific. For example, originally I kept Mabel in the same coat throughout the book, but Dave and Jessica made the point that she eventually outgrows the coat and gets a new coat. So, first the coat has cuffs, then as Mabel grows, it looks smaller, the sleeves are unrolled to fit and it has patches. Later on, she gets a brand new and different colored coat.
I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about Marvelous Mabel and the story being set in 1920s/1930s New York City!
Marvelous Mabel is coming!
Hey everyone! Marvelous Mabel: Figure Skating Superstar will be officially released next Tuesday, October 18th!
I can’t wait for you all to meet Mabel Fairbanks, the skating superstar who became the first Black athlete inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame. ⛸✨
So, everyday (starting tomorrow) I’ll share a little bit of the behind the scenes of illustrating Mabel. I can’t wait to share a bit of my process!
You can learn more about Marvelous Mabel & pre-order here at Lee and Low’s website. 💖
About this blog
A place for my personal art, thoughts and musings!