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Behind the Process with Alex Patrick

last updated 21 February 2024

We had the chance to sit down with Alex Patrick, one of Bright’s talented children’s illustrators. After reflecting on his past projects, Alex walks us through his process of creating the illustrations for Je Veux Etre Coiffeur Pour Zébras! (I Want to Be a Zebra Hairdresser).


“I use photoshop with a Wacom Ciniq and a Mac for all my illustration work. I’ve been with Bright for around 8 years now, and my work gravitates towards picture books and illustration work aimed at children and young adults.”

I was asked to illustrate JE VEUX ETRE COIFFEUR POUR ZÉBRAS! by author Laurent et Oliver Souille from the French publisher Auzou, which was a fun book about a lion prince who after being told he can’t be a hairdresser, has to use his hairdressing skills to save the kingdom he lives in.


Recieving the Brief

When I receive a brief the first thing I do is to take a bit of time reading through it all, making a few notes here and there and jotting down a few doodles of any ideas that pop into my head as I go. Once I’ve read though the brief the first thing I like to get to work on is getting the designs for the main characters right for the client. For me, I find that this is really helpful to get down before moving on the designing the pages as knowing what the characters are going to look like also helps set the tone of the illustrations. At this stage, with the story in mind, I also like to pop the characters in some poses to see how they might look in action.


Planning the Compositions

With this book, I was sent a PDF of the book with the copy on and spaces for the art to go, so after the characters are agreed upon, I transfer this into a photoshop file with each spread on a different layer. I then zoom out so the pages are really small on my screen and plan out the compositions for each page by blocking out where things go. Working small like this is really helpful as I have to adopt a ‘this goes here and that goes there’ approach and it stops me getting caught up in drawing before I’ve got a plan in place. Also, if the composition is working when its very small then I know its going to work at full size. At this point the illustrations are basically blobs and lines but these will act as a blueprint for the final illustrations.


Begin Sketching

The next stage in my process is to zoom in on the pages so they are full size on my screen and draw straight on top of what I’ve done so blobs and lines are now characters and environments. This is the stage when the book is starting to come together. Once all the spreads are roughed out like this, I like tighten up the sketches. For this project, I also painted a spread so the client had an idea of my thinking for how the book might look finished. I then send these over at this point to the client for feedback.


Time to Paint!

After some tweaking and a bit of back and forth with the client, its time to paint! This is my favourite part of the process as this is the point where it all comes together. When painting, I like to paint different elements of the illustration on different layers in photoshop, this way if anything needs changing or adjusting, I can single it out without having to effect other parts of the illustration. I love this part of illustrating… I find this stage relaxing and it’s so easy for me to get into a good headspace and I can happily lose hours just painting.


Thanks so much Alex for chatting with us. To work with Alex, please get in touch here.

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