I was thrilled when editor Neal Porter sent Scott Menchin's picture book text What Are You Waiting For? to me. Written as a vague conversation between two unnamed (and undescribed) characters, Scott left a great deal to the illustrator which is a wonderful thing. Aside from the What of the title, I had free reign to come up with characters and business for each page and each question.
I decided to make the characters animals. At first they were sweater-wearing bears...
But, although I love drawing bears, I thought that maybe there were too many bears in picture books and I should try something new. So... badger and bunny.
Turns out, lots of illustrators were also thinking about badgers and their books also came out this year. Badgers in the zeitgeist, I suppose.
Finding the visual story to go along with Scott's dialogue was the key. I decided to play each question against the two characters noticing something along their walk. In that way, the waiting became an opportunity to observe their surroundings, to be present in the moment (even though the badger is mostly impatient for the arrival of the What).
This is the image that came to me for the "Is it old?" question and subsequently led to the rambling and observing visual story:
Here are some more sketches:
For the final art, I decided to work as simply as possible to reflect the tone of the book. I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils and pastels on Strathmore Toned Tan paper. I used a similar technique years ago for Alice Schertle's Very Hairy Bear. It was wonderful to work this way again. Pure and simple drawing. It was a pleasure.
Here are some finals:
I was hoping for a simple, quiet approach to the cover but it was not to be. Here's my initial cover concept:
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? was a great experience and one of my favorite of my own books. I hope you check it out.
Here's what Kirkus Review had to say:
"...The book’s well-thought-out design combines double-page spreads, spot, and bordered illustrations. The final illustration, very small and surrounded by the toned white space of the page, metaphorically hints at possibilities to be discovered beyond borders.
A quiet, thoughtfully designed picture book with a strong message."