Charlotte Cheetham, Master of Disaster
by Barbara Ware Holmes
Illustrated by John Himmelman
Harper & Row
Dedication (from Holmes - I didn't get one):
For Sarah Anne Holmes
I learned early on that in freelancing, if you are asked if you can illustrate something, you say yes. You always say yes. Then, if you have to, you figure out how to do it.
In the 80's, illustrators brought their portfolio to the offices of art directors. It consisted of about a dozen samples of art representing the genre you were going for. Sitting across from an art director as she (was usually a she) pored over your work was agonizing. They were, to a person, polite, and often helpful, but still, your work was being judged by people in the position to hire you. Most of the top tier children's book publishers in my region were in Manhattan, NY, and you'd set aside a day to hit as many (by appointment, of course) as you could. My plan had always been to start with the top, big-name publishers and work down from there.
One such trip got me through the doors and into the venerable house of Harper & Row. I was contracted to do black and white spot drawings, with a few full-page illustrations, and a color cover for a new series written by Barbara Ware Holmes.
"Can you draw little girls?" I was asked.
"But of course!" I answered.
This was a scary one, though.
John Himmelman's Stories' Stories
This is one of the full page illustrations. I liked her face in this one. Mr. Sutphen looks a little like Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street, I think. It was fun filling the old timey drugstore with various sundries, some, like pickle soda, a bit bizarre. I was given quite a lot of freedom.
Depicted here - Charlotte's tale of taming a wild cat (her cat Pippi). The drawings were always "double-lined". I'd draw the one set of lines and then a second over them, somewhat loosely. I felt it gave it a more spontaneous look.
I never met, nor spoke with the author. That's often the case with children's books. Every creative decision goes through the editor (words) and art director (illustrations). Now more and more of the decisions are guided by the marketing department.
It would always start with character sketches (still does). I filled pages of my sketchbook looking for Charlotte, as she was described by the author. It was up to me to choose what to illustrate, but most of the pictures would have this young heroine in it. You can see a little "found ya!" next to the sketch I thought came closest to her.
So here's Charlotte at lunch with her friend, Annie. Charlotte was a bit of a teller of tall tales, which only Annie seemed to appreciate.
The line drawings were made with my favorite 4x0 Rapidograph pen filled with black waterproof India ink. I used this sized nib for most of my books for many years.
Oh, and this happened! Why, the audacity! Years later, they got a different artist to redo the cover. The illustrations I did for the inside of the book were kept.
Why the double audacity! They then replaced the cover that replaced my cover with yet a different cover!
I'll admit. Those covers are better than mine... especially for that age group.