This month sees the release of Alex T Smith’s new book Ella, it starts…

Once upon a time, there was a ladybird called Ella.

The story actually started in Alex’s mind a few years ago on a romantic trip to Paris. He told the story to his editor at Scholastic and she loved it, so we signed contracts back in January 2008 to work on the picture book together. But it takes a long time for the process to happen and Alex worked through 9 draft versions of the text before everyone was happy with it. Drawing the character of Ella wasn’t easy either, he went through several design stages before she felt just right.

At first she had a little pillbox hat and heart shaped antennae

Then she was scribbly

Then she was painterly …. Then she changed shape

Then Alex got on with designing the whole book and started work on the roughs, this stage takes quite a long time and relies on the help of the designer, Emily who layed out the text on the pages for him.

The first three spreads first roughs

And after that stage, with comments collated, onto the exciting part – the colour artworks. Alex works digitally, firstly drawing and painting, scanning those into photoshop and adding texture, pattern and colour to create his storybook worlds. This one was hard, it’s set in Paris from a bugs eye point of view, so scale might be a problem.

Alex likes to do a sample colour spread to see how the colours will come together, and he chooses his palette.

Colour Rough First Artwork and Final Artwork

But sometimes things change right at the end.

The End Stage 1 & 2

Happily ever after

We like a nice romantic ending, our little ladybird Ella finds true love with Pierre, the famous artist spider. A Cinderella story with a difference, this would make a great Valentine’s gift and is available on Amazon to buy as a hardback or paperback, or from your local bookshop, where you’ll get a smile too.