Find Your Grit with Christina Brown | Get to Know our Blue Manatee Press Illustrator!

You might know Christina Brown’s name from illustrating our board book SHARE This Book, written by Dr. John Hutton, about the importance of sharing stories with children as soon as possible after birth!

Christina is back with our upcoming board book Gritty Kitty, (on sale September 3rd, but pre-orders now available!) also written by Dr. John Hutton, to help children find their own inner strength! Get to know the illustrator here and how she came up with the design behind the book!

Who is Christina Brown?

 
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Christina grew up making routine trips to the library. “I remember choosing books based off the illustrations instead of the title,” she says. “As I got older my tastes changed, but I was still drawn to the imagery inside books.”

She remembers reading a colorful description of Smaug the dragon in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and turning the page to see an illustration of what she’s just imagined. “It made such an impact on me that I began to transform descriptions of characters and scenes in my own sketchbook.”

Creating Gritty Kitty!

Christina approached Gritty from the perspective of a preschooler or kindergartner, not wanting Gritty to behave as a real cat would, but more like a child.

“We decided Gritty would be a little orange anthropomorphic kitten living in his own human-like world,” she says. “His behavior would mimic that of a young, learning child.”

Through character design conversations and knowing the direction of the text, Christina came up with a clan of kindergarten characters (below).

Gritty Kitty (second from right) and his friends!

Gritty Kitty (second from right) and his friends!

Gritty quickly became the main character, and his friends like those we have in real life who help us through the bad days! “We went over storyboards of them interacting,” she says. “Gritty trips and falls in the very first spread but his pals help him to laugh it off.”

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“I hope kids can see themselves in Gritty. I hope that I have made him enough of a relatable character so that kids can feel okay about making mistakes and see that it’s worth giving things a second try.” - Christina Brown

Her Process!

Below is Christina’s step-by-step process, from approved sketch to final product!

I work digitally on my tablet and sketch everything start to finish in Photoshop. The team at the press and Christina go over the story many times, she receives a copy of the text and gets to work on sketches and storyboards. “These sketches are usually messy and not very detailed because they change so often,” she says. “We went through at least 3 different versions for the spreads before settling on final sketches.”

I work digitally on my tablet and sketch everything start to finish in Photoshop. The team at the press and Christina go over the story many times, she receives a copy of the text and gets to work on sketches and storyboards. “These sketches are usually messy and not very detailed because they change so often,” she says. “We went through at least 3 different versions for the spreads before settling on final sketches.”

After the spreads are approved, Christina begins by refining the sketch into clean line work.

After the spreads are approved, Christina begins by refining the sketch into clean line work.

Then she adds in her tone, or lights and darks to see how she can make the character pop with value.

Then she adds in her tone, or lights and darks to see how she can make the character pop with value.

“After that I play with color and make an overlay of hues,” she says.

“After that I play with color and make an overlay of hues,” she says.

“I then spend the remaining time painting and adding in little details, being sure not to miss a whisker or leave a tomato out of place. After the painting is done, I adjust my colors and call it a day!”

“I then spend the remaining time painting and adding in little details, being sure not to miss a whisker or leave a tomato out of place. After the painting is done, I adjust my colors and call it a day!”

Advice For Young Artists!

Christina says if you feel passionately about becoming an illustrator, then to go for it! But know that it will require hard work! “Model your art heroes, and don’t be afraid to learn from art better than yours,” she says. “Become a better artist at school or online, with places like SVSlearn.com and schoolism.com. And finally, enjoy creating your art. If you’re not, you’re doing it wrong!”

 
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What experience helped you find your inner strength growing up? Tell us in the comments below, and make sure to follow us on instagram @bluemanateepress for your for your daily dose of books, art and inspiration!