During the summer I was commission by zoodles.com to work on illustrations for “the Princess and the Pea” to ornate their adaptation of the fairy tale. I was super excited because I always wanted to illustrate a storybook!
The first step was the character design. To know what look the character would have I did some research about the tale itself. The Princess and the Pea was adapted by Hans Christian Andersen in the 1800’s and it was not very popular at the time because of the lack of moral message. The original tale is likely from Sweden, from the medieval times. So the characters would have medieval garments of the Sweden area. It is a light tale, so I was not planning on anything heavy looking or intimidating.
The next thing was to define particular looks and the colors. For this I used the plot device of the tale as my inspiration: the pea. I googled and downloaded images of sweet pea plats and flowers and used that as a base for my colors. Since the tale revolves around the pea, I used a lot of greens and pinks in the images. In the image below you can see how I kept the pinks from the flowers to give the princess her outfit. For the night gown I took some liberties and modernized it a little bit to make it more appealing to little girls, but the dress has a very basic medieval look. The cloak I envisioned having the hood in the shape of the larger fused petal (that hoods the others) of the flower. I never got to use this idea, though🙂
For the rest of the characters I also used the sweet peas as a base. I wanted the queen and king to look youthful and active, since today parents look far from the older looking parents of the 1500’s! The queen in particular needed to look strong, since she is the main character really, the one that moves the plot forward. Also since she is the one that came up with the pea idea, I plastered the pea all over her! Her jewelry is reminiscent of peas and the frills of the dress look like the stipulate leaf in the pea shoots. Her dress is an anachronism, but after trying several designs the Elizabethan look was the one that would keep looking more regal and… it is hard to think of a stronger queen with a very defined fashion style in history than Elizabeth I. So Elizabethan she looks!
I also dressed the king in the same range of colors, to indicate a certain unity of the royal house, the maple leaf in his chest was later not used. And the prince got a color palette on his own, to indicate that he is ready to become independent of his parents and start a new family, though I kept the green to still link him to the royal couple, but having a more saturated and vibrant shade to him, since he is younger and probably less conservative than his parents.
Once the characters were designed I needed to work on the story board, refine the images and have a final product ready! The greatest challenge was the super tight deadline! I normally do 3-5 sketches per image and then discuss possibilities with the client, adjust, discuss some more, and after 2-3 revisions I start painting. Well, this was not possible this time, so I had to go with the first gut instinct about a certain image. Thankfully, my AD, Dave Young, was really good and with his invaluable help we got the images refined on the go with much better results that I could have achieved on my own.
Some images were of particular difficulty to tie together, as panel 2, which has to accompany text saying how the prince traveled the world meeting princesses but he could not be convinced that they were true princesses. The images below show some of my struggles. The first image was rejected by me and never sent it to Dave, but the second one was an absolute favourite of mine for the whole tale! However, the team at Zoodles thought that it could be offensive if perceived as ‘the prince was not tolerant of other cultures’ and I am happy they are there to think beyond the art, because it never crossed my mind until they pointed that out! But it is better to be safe that sued. So we discarded one and we went into a line up, as in the “Bachelor”. Having never seen the show I was kind of lost about this concept, and it was rejected (great! because I hated it).
Then David gave me the prompt “worse date ever!” and I knew where to go from there! :) So once I sent the last concept we just needed to refine it a little bit more and be done with that one panel!
Fortunately all the other panels were much easier to come up with and we were literally producing one full illustration every 1 or 2 days. It was extremely intense! But there is nothing like getting to the end of a project and be happy with it, and have your client happy with it!🙂
You can see some of the images I made for them in the gallery. Now off to work on Rapunzel! It should be a lot of fun since that is a tale packed with drama!