Mini Meditations on Friendship is my first ever illustrated book, and to create it has been a wonderful experience and life-long dream come true! Truly. I was so thrilled when Liminal 11 asked me to collaborate with them, and equally surprised when they asked me to share the process of creating this book with you.
As the route to creating a book takes patience, my story will be presented in three parts. (Read Part 2 here. Stay tuned for part 3!)
I hope you will enjoy, and I hope that you can take away something that could assist you in your own creative endeavours!
Part 1: Concept
During our conversations in the beginning, I learned that Liminal 11 are the sort of publisher who places a great amount of trust in their artists, thereby giving the artist full confidence to utilise their ability, as well as freedom to create! I certainly felt very comfortable all along the way. I therefore decided that I could approach Mini Meditations on Friendship in a way most authentic to my intuition and emotions, just as you would reflect in a journal or sketch-book!
On consideration of the theme of friendship, I felt that the book should feel quite light and jovial in comparison to my usual dark arts, because this is the way I wanted the book to connect with people. To feel elevated and to elevate others are what friendships feel like for me!
I simultaneously began to gather quotes and draw images from my imagination. I drew without thinking too much about things, concentrating on feelings. Feelings from experiences I’ve had or am having, and also considering circumstances whereby unexpected friendships have formed, such as with our pets and plants.
In a spreadsheet, I compiled a list of quotes sourced from books and the internet. There was one I even transcribed from television, too good to let get away! Gathering all the quotes together, I saw how many different points of view there were. I started to form the idea that perhaps there should be a running narrative throughout the whole book centered around these multiple perspectives.
Friendships are generally the first kind of relationship we have outside our family, and when we are young this can give us particular ideas about our own identity. We use these interactions to greater reflect upon ourselves: who we are, and our place in society:
As a fledgling, I was particularly confused by who I was and who I should be. Whatever I did, there were some people who didn’t seem to like it. Due to extremes with those I spent my time with, I had a difficult time distinguishing between friendship and bullying. My friends who were kind to me also at times bullied me, so I often tried out different personalities to try and fit in. I wondered if this only weirded them out and provoked them more, because the bullying and confusion didn’t stop.
My method to relate to the world thus became empathy: in trying to understand why people are the way that they are. In wanting to deeply connect with these people from my past, I wanted to do the same with my audience, that is- to embrace everyone. Through my sketches, I noticed that three recurring personalities emerged. And these three personalities became my muses on which the foundation of this book is set, or if you are into business or marketing, you can call it my ‘target-audience’.
Meet my three muses: The Girl who loves Pink, The Girl who loves Nature and The Cardinal Girl with Attitude. The muses all took the form of girls, as this is who I hung around with most in my adolescence.
The Girl who loves Pink is led by feelings of joy. She’s confident, encouraged, a social butterfly. Pink is the type of friend who will be there for her friends in an instance, and so very frequently connected, and good at communication. She is great with technology, such as communication devices and video-games. Hearing about the latest things and wanting to see them with her own eyes, she can often be seen in exciting new places, perhaps stopping by to shop for something which will aid her on her next adventure.
The Girl who loves Nature is so considerate. She sees much of the world in a bigger picture. Included in her closest friendship circle are an abundance of animals. She lives for the outdoors! Is vegan, and sticks up for her friends. She may even go as far to liberate them from the difficult social-political situations they may find themselves in.
The Cardinal Girl with Attitude is a sensitive soul. The environment around her may overwhelm her at times. Easy to hurt because she loves deeply, she retreats into her world where she knows she’ll feel safe, mainly surfacing when a friend is in need. The fortress she has built cultivates habits of self-reflection and learning. She loves to read, and enjoys the simplest pleasures, such as appreciating the peace and quiet.
In my opinion, neither of my muses is any ‘more accomplished’ than any of the others. They all very well intentioned, with big hearts, but may possess issues which can cause pain to their loved ones and themselves. Each girl is unable to see without the other. This is where friendships can help guide them, for instance:
Pink is so sociable, she has trouble being alone; Cardinal can teach her self-respect. Pink may be so wrapped up enjoying the present moment, that she forgets the future, such as that over-indulging in materials can result in environmental negligence of the planet, which Nature can teach her.
Nature is so liberal, but for the cause of justice may not realise that her actions can also hurt people around her, dissuading them from making an argument for her cause, she can learn a different tact from Pink. So wrapped up in defending others, Nature also forgets about herself and may have missed pieces of the bigger picture in her ambitions, which the academically-minded Cardinal can teach her.
Cardinal enjoys being alone so much, but this often leads to loneliness and her friends feeling like they have been neglected. Pink can show Cardinal that things needn’t be so black and white, that she can form good habits of keeping in contact whilst maintaining her space. Often stuck in her own mind, Nature can ground Cardinal by showing her all the beauty and magic the world has to offer.
My idea is that each personality should form an aesthetic, and each aesthetic should dominate a page, so as you’re flipping through the pages of the book, the interaction behaves like a dialogue occurring between these personalities in conversation with each other. At times in harmony, and at times in conflict.
I was fortunate that the 48 interior illustrations required to make up the book could be divided equally among the three muses! 16 illustrations or pages for each personality type. This also incidentally became a nice way to break up the amount of work that lay ahead of me, and everything in smaller numbers seems a lot easier to achieve.
To help me to focus on each aesthetic, I created a mood board for each.
I referred to my list of almost one-hundred quotes, and whittled the selection to about half. I kept those which I had the most connection with, and those which had a very different perspective to offer. I then linked each quote to a muse according to what what wisdom is each type of personality likely to divulge. Here you can see the quotes colour-coordinated in the spreadsheet, so Pink for The Girl who loves Pink, Green for The Girl who loves Nature, and Purple for The Cardinal Girl with Attitude.
A lot of the preliminary sketches I had made could already be linked to an aesthetic type. They had a story to tell. Others found their stories later, and for some, their stories had altered in ways more interesting as soon as I paired them with another quote. Illustrations without a matched quote were discarded. I filled in all the blanks and was left with a blueprint for the 48 illustrations.
Not all the ideas behind each illustration felt fully formed or quite right at this point, but there was more than enough to begin realising the content, and I felt confident that they would find their own way in time.
I laid out all the the text in a mock-document to see how it would work on the page, and roughly placed the sketch in a size or shape suited for its purpose. This helped me to nip any issues in the bud, for example, I had a lot of text with John O’Donohue’s quote (as you can see above), which meant that the illustration had to be made much smaller or simpler to accommodate the text.
Eventually, I collated all these roughs into a physical maquette. This helped visual the final outcome and would also serve as my guide or checklist for when I would complete the paintings.
As you can see, I dotted stickers on each page where an illustration would be complete, which was another fun part!
Click here to read Part 2: Painting!