In the Studio with Chloe Dominique
last updated 06 September 2022
For this months installment of In the Studio, we caught up with the terrific Chloe Dominique to talk all about her debut picture book The Big Worry Day, which is available now!
Hi, I’m Chloe!
I was one of those kids who’d always be lost in their own world, pencil in hand, quietly drawing away. Now, I’m an adult, and this is still very much the case!
Reconnecting with childhood is a big part of my work. A world of exploration, play, and wonder, that can be brought back to the surface through characters and illustration. I’ve always found drawing can help process emotion, memory and imagination in such a beautiful way, and I love to do so in the context of narrative illustration.
The Big Worry Day was a wonderful debut picture book to illustrate. A story about a little girl who’s convinced her dog worries, just like her. Together, they explore creative ways to self-soothe and overcome anxieties, so they can relax and enjoy the day ahead. It’s gentle, full of heart, and I wanted to make sure the illustrations matched that.
The first step was figuring out what the characters might look like. This involves lots of quick, rough, scribbly sketches to uncover the character’s personality. This can be found in their expression, pose, outfit, or even hair. The rough sketches and ideas can then start to be refined into more precise design decisions.
Sometimes, I also find it helpful to break down the character into their core traits. In this case, I perceived the girl to be Anxious, Adventurous, and Introverted.
Each of these words I felt associated with a particular shape. I also noted down a few word associations. These shapes and thoughts can then become the building blocks of how the character is constructed, and convey those words in a visual way.
Before starting a more worked up storyboard, I like to have a grasp on how I’m drawing the characters. Head turns, different poses and doing lots of sketches of them can help create a consistency in how they look, and act as a guide for the illustrations.
It’s natural for us to seek comfort in the familiar, and we each build our own safe spaces. For this little girl, I wanted to depict her bedroom as her sanctuary, full of the things she loves. It’s a warm, inviting place that’s full of light. A place where she is safe to explore her worries, and prepare herself to face them at her own pace.
The writing is uplifting and positive, so I wanted the illustrations to reflect this too. A colour script is a helpful way to see an overview of the colours across the whole book, and how they might help convey the story. For example, areas of white are left for moments of ‘breathing room’ and pause. In moments of anxiety, more deep blues and purples hues are present. The more confident or happy she becomes, the more she is embraced with warm oranges and yellows.
I also love using lighting to help bring the illustrations to life, and to support the storytelling. In this case, even though she’s worried about the day ahead, I wanted the light streaming through the window to feel warm and inviting, but also persistent and intense. Sometimes, the things we worry about can feel huge, yet they seem so insignificant and normal to others. The external doesn’t need to look scary, when the worries are coming from an internal place.
When she eventually ventures outside, the light is more diffused, it’s lush and green- very different from the palette of her bedroom, but she’s able to immerse herself and embrace it. The purples are very minimal, to reflect that she’s been able to overcome the worries.
Creating the illustrations
I use a mix of Procreate on the iPad, and Photoshop. For the drawing and planning stages, I enjoy working on the iPad, because drawing directly to screen feels much more natural. I can also be really precise with my linework. It’s great for small detailing and elements that feel hand-drawn.
Photoshop is a lot more freeing when it comes to building up the illustrations with colour and texture. I can take a step back and focus on the image as a whole. I love using textured brushes that have a traditional feel.
I’ve found that establishing a clear process has improved my workflow, speed and confidence. I know the steps I need to take, so it takes a lot of pressure off working on large projects that involve creating lots of artwork.
I’ll start with roughs, then refine the lines. Followed by colour flats / colour blocking. This is usually the base colour, in natural light. Then, I’ll add detailing. Lighting is where the magic happens. I’ll define the light and shadow areas using different blending modes. Finally, I’ll do any necessary colour correction and final tweaks. Once all of the illustrations are completed, it’s time to check how they all sit together, and make sure they flow as a cohesive set.
Throughout the whole process, from sketch, to final artwork, it’s a collaboration between Illustrator, Publisher and Author to ensure that the illustrations are moving in a direction we’re all happy with.
It was such a lovely book to work on, and hopefully it can offer some comfort to any child (or grownup!) who might be feeling anxious or worried.