When Pat Achilles agreed to illustrate The Upside-Down Gardener, I was thrilled and honored. Her whimsical style was right on for the project. And while I’ve written many a post about my inspiration and how my ideas came together, I thought it might be interesting to see inside the mind of an illustrator.
So after Pat read the manuscript and realized that the main character is a young, active girl, the first thing she did was seek one out. She found a young girl that fit the bill. And she could pose—to boot! Pat had ideas about the character and how she might depict her on the various pages in the book. At one point, she was delighted. Another dismayed and yet another, completely bummed out. So she had her model strike a variety of poses that would accompany the story. And Pat took her pencil and began to sketch.
Once she had her sketch the way she wanted it, she drew it again—only this time in color and with the little tweaks she might want for the character. As with most illustrators, the model is an inspiration–not an exact portrait.
In the one image, Little Miss M (as I will call her) is on her knees in an almost prayer-like position. And that comes to life in the segment of the story where the character, Dory, is wishing and hoping her little flower seeds would burst forth with color. In the other, she is sitting with face in hands, as in disappointed, where Dory became really bummed that her flowers weren’t growing.
Now Pat doesn’t always work from a real-life model. Sometimes her inspiration comes from a photograph, as I shared pictures of the Brooklyn streets where the story took place. And many a time, the people in the story just came from her imagination, as they did with the crowds that stood on the subway platform—including a grandmother, baby, ballerina and a host of men and women in their casual or work clothing.
In the near future, there will be another ‘Dory story.’ This time, not in a garden at all, but on another piece of green. I’ll leave it at that for now. But just possibly, Little Miss M might have another modeling gig, for an entirely different story; an entirely new set of emotions. And once again, this real girl will become a fictional character, while staying the vibrant real girl she is.