I really like working hand-drawn elements into my designs. My background is in graphic design, but whenever I can, I paint or draw something to include in my design work.
With Zaza, I already have the hand drawn illustrations, but I wanted to add in some painted backgrounds to give the overall look and feel more texture.
In my first book, Zaza’s Perfect Pie, I used watercolor for this purpose. I created some loose, unstructured, and drooly watercolor backgrounds to combine with my illustrations:
I didn’t feel like watercolor was a good fit for Zaza’s Perfect Pizza Dreams. Since this is a graphic novel, I needed more structure overall. So I chose acrylic as the medium. With acrylic paint, I was also able to achieve some texture with my brush strokes, which I think adds some dimension and interest.
I haven’t painted a different background for every page - that would be madness! But I have a rotation of 3 favorites, plus a few extras that I use in special circumstances.
For the most part, I use one of the above three backgrounds. I can alter the colors in Photoshop if necessary to accommodate any color palette changes required by the spread.
For some, I have created unique backgrounds, like the below for the sunset and sunrise panels in “C is for Cauliflower”, and Zaza's kitchen floor and counters. The final background on the right is the only water color background I used in the book for Zaza’s night sky and “P is for Pineapple”.
The painting process is so relaxing…just putting colors on paper with no other goal in mind is very freeing. It also delights me to be able to add in more hand-painted elements to this book, making it uniquely my own.