Monday, March 2, 2015

Creating the Art for Adventures at Hound Hotel

I was lucky enough to land a job last year with Capstone Publishing to illustrate a series of chapter books called Adventures at Hound Hotel, illustrated by Shelley Swanson Sateren. The art director had pulled some samples from my website to show me what they liked about my work. These samples were done years ago for an Illustration Friday prompt, but I keep them on my website as they continue to get me work to this day.

They also sent me a manuscript for the first title, "Homesick Herbie." The series is centered around a couple of eight-year-old twins who help out their parents at a family-owned dog kennel. Each cover features a pure-bred dog that the book revolves around.  The manuscript was funny and clever and I knew right away I wanted to take the job.

The specs for the covers were pretty specific and I was given photographs of each breed. The dogs really needed to look true to their breed and yet show a human emotion. It took me a while to zero in on the details. Here are some of the rejected sketches of the Yorkshire Terrier, Homesick Herbie. His owner loves to dress him up with big bows in his hair and he was a pretty unhappy pup when left at the kennel without his "mommy."

Growlin' Grace was supposed to look stern but not angry. This was tough as golden retrievers are so happy go lucky. These poses were rejected and, in the end, we went with a sketch that was a pure frontal position, as was done with the other dogs.

Fearless Freddie was initially supposed to be howling on the cover, but the editorial staff decided they wanted Freddie to look more fearless than fearful.

Here is the final color sketch I sent to the art director for approval before creating the covers. I sent them tight color sketches as the expressions had to be just right. The final art, which I created digitally in photoshop with a wacom tablet, went quickly.

And here are the final covers. The backgrounds were done separately and I created just one background with lots of texture and a set of dog prints so that the production staff had some elements to play with throughout the book. The art director changed the colors for each book and produced the dog collar on the bound side of the book, which I just love.



Now that you've seen the covers, you can head over to the Picture Book Junkies blog for an in-depth interview I did with the author of these adorable stories, Shelley Swanson Sateren! And for more of my art, you can check out my newly-renovated website at