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!
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A place for my personal art, thoughts and musings!