The Tales Of Old Billy Badger illustrator Mark Hetherington discusses what it was like working on the project
If anyone had
asked me eighteen months ago there is no way I I’d have told them that the main
theme for my 2021 was likely to be badgers!
It all began a
couple of years ago when BA head honcho Mandy told me about ‘’From Badgers to
Nighthawks’, a manuscript she had received from Malcolm J. Ingham recounting
his experiences as a wildlife ranger. Mal had found a lovely Victorian print he
wanted to use for the cover and Mandy asked me to do the cover design, to make
the print work as a cover image.
Little did I
know that Mal was already working on his next project, a book for children
inspired by the real animals – and people – he had been involved with. Mandy
asked me to draw the illustrations for the book in mid-2020 but as ‘The Tales
of Old Billy Badger’ wouldn’t be coming out until Christmas 2021 and I had
other projects to work on it wasn’t until several months later that I was able
to make a start. Even then had to interrupt work on ‘Billy’ several times as
other jobs with shorter deadlines came in.
One unfortunate thing about the timing was that it came during a
time when my drawing style was evolving. Artists’ and illustrators’ can
sometimes change quite a lot over the course of their careers. Sometimes the
change is slow and barely noticeable and at other times, as in this case, it
can occur quite quickly. Because of this the original drawing for the first
chapter wasn’t very satisfactory and I eventually did three versions of the
image and had to change the pose completely for the final version, for
something that suited my new way of working better.
|Sketch for the rejected image for Chapter One
My process, once
technical hitches like stylistic evolution were out of the way, was more or
less the same for all of the images. Mandy had sent me the text for the book
and I read it through, noting scenes or events that would make a good
illustration. I also had to bear in mind certain images Mal wanted to include
in the story. He sent some copies of old prints which asked me to use as the
basis for two or three of the illustrations. The pictures of the otter hunt for
Chapter Four and the otters Casper and Shadow for Chapter Nine, for example,
were based on images sent by Mal.
|An old print sent by Mal which formed the basis for the pictures of Casper and Shadow in Chapter Nine
To begin with I
sent Mandy pencil roughs of the drawings but we have been working together for
a while so she trusts me to just get on with it and after the first couple I
would just send her the completed drawing. This isn’t to say I can just do it
how I like though, if Mandy (or Mal for that matter) didn’t think the result
was up to scratch she told me so and I would do it again. This didn’t happen
often though and the whole process ran remarkably smoothly.
Once all the
drawings were completed, they were scanned and, if necessary, cleaned up in
photoshop. This doesn’t necessarily mean the images were dirty or messy, just
that certain things need to be adjusted at times. For example, I used both
marker pens and Indian ink in the drawings and when scanned some lines or marks
can reflect the light from the scanner slightly differently and appear lighter
or darker than those made using different tools or media. Adjusting them in
Photoshop means you can make the blacks look more uniform and closer to how the
image looks in real life.
|The difference between the 'raw' scan and the cleaned-up version used in the book
After that the
images were all emailed to Mandy who formatted the text and placed the images
where they needed to be. I did the cover design based on a template provided by
the printer which gives guidelines for things such as the barcode placement and
how close to the edge the text can go without accidentally being trimmed when
the covers are printed. The cover was then saved as a pdf and again emailed to
Mandy. Then, for Mal, Mandy (after some publishing wizardry!) and I, came the
task of telling the world about ‘The Tales of Old Billy Badger’!
|Click to get your copy here!