Carla Hoffenberg’s Little Shark Lulu is Sleeping – Q&A
We wanted to dive in deep with children’s picture book illustrator Carla Hoffenberg and learn more about her behind the scenes journey with Little Shark Lulu is Sleeping… here is what she shared.
Q: Since this was your debut children’s book how did you find this experience and were there any new or surprising challenges to overcome?
A: I loved the experience of making on Little Shark Lulu is Sleeping. It was great working with David, Josie, and Charlotte. It was a real collaborative process, which made it all so enjoyable. We had regular catch ups and I loved hearing their feedback and suggestions. I also really loved drawing sea creatures and doing research — watching clips of sea animals, looking at images of remarkable marine life and snorkelling.
The illustrations took a few months and it really felt like a test of endurance! I had to be disciplined with my time and make sure that I progressed within the schedule to meet my deadline. In addition, there were so many scenes and characters and I had to be consistent with my style and quality.
Q: Which page or spread in Little Shark Lulu is Sleeping are you most proud of and why?
A: I am most proud of the ‘Octopus Spread’. I feel like it demonstrates the most storytelling and I came up with a side story for this spread. (Crab thinks that Octopus has invited him for a romantic dinner. He doesn’t realise that he is dinner.) I also particularly love drawing sunsets and this spread gave me the opportunity to do that. I introduced a shimmering, sparkling, sequenced dress, which was really fun to draw.
Q: As animals have been an occurring theme in your body of work; for this project, what was your favourite animal to illustrate?
A: Firstly, I loved drawing Lulu and her parents. I was excited to not portray a shark stereotype, but rather portray them as a friendly, endearing species. There is so much to love about sharks, and I wanted that to shine through in my illustrations.
The ‘Mini Mantis Shrimp’ was a close second. I don’t normally think of crustaceans as attractive, but this spread changed my mind. This animal is colourful and charismatic, and I learnt the lesson that, if you really look, you can find beauty in anything.
Q: Can you elaborate on your design process for this story and the tools that you used?
A: The most important part of the process was the initial, sketching phase. This really helped me to get to know the animals and get a sense for how to represent them. I did countless sketches of each creature that appears in the book to get familiar with their anatomy and how they move. This allowed me to consider how to show them doing different actions, with varied expressions.
After this phase, I was able to place my characters in thumbnails and think about the storytelling aspects as well as composition. The next step was formalising the illustrations and creating line drawings. This is generally the most painstaking for me as it requires a lot of concentration and “precision”.
Once everyone was happy with the line drawings, I moved on to what I consider the most fun part – adding colour to the spreads. This is the stage where I add life, details, elements of joy storytelling and some Easter eggs.
I used the app procreate for the illustrations. I find it easy to use and it allows me to maximise my drawing time. I stole every free minute that I could to illustrate this book – sometimes even the 10 minutes that I had in the car while waiting to pick up my kids. Also, there’s no set up or clean up time!
Q: How did the artistic decision to have the sea creatures dressed in colourful outfits develop and is there meaning behind it?
A: The first spread I did was the Sperm Whales wearing PJs (even before the thumbnails). The suggestion to have them wearing PJs came from the authors. I fell in love with the idea of the animals wearing clothes, and it immediately conjured up images in my head. It was so much fun putting clothes on the whales that I just had to do it for all of them. I find that putting clothes on animals really helps them become more relatable to kids, and it was fun for me to add clothes and accessories to enhance their personalities. Also, it would’ve been a little bit inconsistent, if only the Sperm Whales were clothed.
At one of my recent school visits, one of the kids said, “They have to be wearing clothes, because you wouldn’t want them to be naked in a kid’s book.”
Sketches of Shark Lulu
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