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“No” sketches

by Theo on June 9th, 2011
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I’ve started doing some preliminary work on the illustrated version of “No and the Walking House.” The final product is a long way off (I’ll be shocked at my own productivity if I can release it before 2012), but I thought I’d show you folks a bit of my process.

I’m slightly obsessed with character sketches – they make up the vast majority of the stuff in my sketchbooks – so I started with that. The first character I’m working with is No, because she’s the heart of the story and the visual style of the book should revolve around her. After two sketchbook pages of face sketches and a few deleted ArtRage canvases, I got a design that really feels like her.


No is a very different style from the smiling eagle book, which was the last illustration project I worked on. The style of that book was set for me by a pre-existing character who wouldn’t have looked out of place in an airtight dome down the street from Spongebob’s pineapple. The style I’m aiming for with “No” is somewhere between Pixar and Miyazaki. When a movie of this story plays in my head, it’s always in one of those two styles.

I’m kind of digging the sketchy outlines of this design, but the final illustrations will likely be inked with a brush pen and colored in ArtRage. I’m still working out the logistics of illustrating a book using an iPad app – there are much stricter constraints on file size than on the computer – but it seems workable, and doing it on the iPad would let me work on the project during any small gaps I find in my day, between other projects.

Alongside character sketches, I’ve started doing thumbnail sketches of the pages that are already laid out clearly in my mind.


From left to right: the National Geographics taking off, the house ambling up a hill, and No curled up in her grandma’s lap in the recliner.

Next will come more character sketches, more thumbnail sketches, and the evolution of the color palette – which this time I promise won’t punch you in your retinas.

I’ve done illustration projects on commission before and a few comics of my own, but somehow this is the first time I’ve tried illustrating one of my own stories. (Well, the first time since elementary school, but I’m not going to count that picture book I made about my pet guppies getting super-sized from radiation and robbing a bank. Even though it was the greatest tour de force of my fifth grade career.) So far, I’m loving this project.

I’m saying “I love this project” about a lot of things lately. Good sign.

(J.J. Abrams, if you’re reading this, yes, the film rights to that guppy story are available.)

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From → Art, Process, WIPs

  1. Gypsy-Maria permalink

    RADIOACTIVE BANK-ROBBING GUPPIES: The hit summer blockbuster! :|

    These are looking great so far, Nicole! I can’t wait to see more of this project! “No and the Walking House” is such a beautiful story, and paired with your illustrations, it could be a seriously gorgeous picture book/graphic novel/something-in-between.

    • Nicole permalink

      Thanks! I was initially planning on just illustrating a few key scenes, but I’ve gotten so many suggestions I liked that I’m now thinking it will be one of those picture books where there are enough illustrations that you can suss out most of the story by the illustrations alone. Which means over 20 illustrations, big and small…but there’s not a deadline on it, so we’ll see what happens!

  2. 'Lista permalink

    Everything looks beautiful so far! And now I demand to see the criminal mutant guppies!

    • Nicole permalink

      Lemme check in my art closet. If I can find the guppies book, I’ll scan it and post it.

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