How ‘Lionel The Lion’ was developed from a random sketch between phone calls, into a published poetry book.
By Author, Angelina Henry.
Writing and self publishing my own illustrations into a children’s book has been a richly rewarding experience for me. It feels great to try a new medium, and express my perspective in a way even my daughter’s generation can gather a valuable lesson from.
Today I want to share with you the story of how “Lionel the Lion” was created, + 4 things to think about when writing and Illustrating your first picture poetry book.
I’ll start off first by mentioning that for most of my adult life, I’ve worked selling various products and services over the phone. As you can probably imagine in this kind of job, it’s can at times become slow and boring in between calls. Sketching and drawing, is one way I coped with being connected to a desk waiting, and talking on the phone all day. I’d mostly use that idle time; to plan new paintings.
ART SUPPLY DESERT
Its not so easy to find art supply stores where i live in Queens NY. So I’ve been limited but my top items for a bored at work sketch kit are 8×11 grid paper, mechanical pencil, black fineliner pen and colored pencils I picked up from my local pharmacy.
Planning to use a 4 pack of Canvas’ I had at home that were 16”x20”, I shrunk my plan down to 8cm x 10cm. Which is roughly 25% the size of my canvas. At that scale, I could plan 4 pieces per page. In each quadrant of the grid paper, I drew an animal. A Lion, an Octopus, an Elephant and a Fish.
For a while I experimented with many fun designs using the grid constraints, but in different styles. Then I went back to elaborate on the vivid animal characters I had drawn, inked and colored. I named each of the 4 characters, Lionel The Lion, Frida the Fish, Octavia the Octopus and Elliot the Elephant.
Lionel the Lion already had a story written —and so, his portrait would be the first piece I would paint full size. During publishing I would use the painting as cover of the book.
The writing process
I wanted to personify his character and give him a humanlike personality and perspective. The goal was to make him relatable, while also highlighting facts, natural behaviors and habitat of the animal species.
I considered the style of writing I could use to tell his story. In the end I chose poetry, as I was already interested in songwriting at the time. I chose an instrumental from youtube the song was recorded before it had illustrations. You can listen to a clip of the lionel anthem here. Songwriting/Poetry offered more creative licence and agency for delivery, of great message.
LIONEL THE LION
Lionel wants to be recognised for his gifts and not fade into the background behind his shyness.
What do they want?
He wants to sit unbothered in the tall grass. But He also wants to graduate, and become a mature Independent Lion.
Why don’t they have what they want?
He is failing his opportunity to graduate, because he was avoiding getting on stage to deliver his roar.
What do they do to get it? Do they succeed?
He overcomes his shyness and performs on stage, to show his vocal ability. He was rewarded with respect from his peers.
How does the character change once they have what they want?
He learns, he much prefers to be acknowledged and rewarded for his gifts —more than he is comfortable with staying socially invisible and “safe”.
‘Lionel is a Lion’ lives in the African Savannah. Very soon he will be a 3 years old lion. Becoming 3 years old (in lion years) means Lionel will soon leave to start his own Pride. He must perform rites of passage (Roaring classes) in order to graduate and become independent.
The writing process
I wrote the poetry using music. Using a trap music instrumental informed the style and constraints to the flow, cadence, patterns and length of the work.
Once I had my complete poem. I created an Illustration to match each stanza of the poem.
I highly recommend authorship to all creatives with a story to tell. It is a completely unique experience to create a world in written form.
4 tips for writing and illustrating your own books:
- Buy a dedicated sketchbook and a ruled notebook, as well as pencils and pen.
- Find time to sketch, draw or simply write out rough ideas for characters.
- Choose one of your ideas, then brainstorm to further elaborate and describe them, their motivations and world.
- If you’re writing poetry, consider writing to music instrumentals.
Thank you for being a valued reader, here at hirethecity.com. If you are interested in reading my latest title, Lionel the Lion, click here. To get started writing/illustrating click here to browse our virtual art store for supplies.