“Hagga’s Last Vattiegirl” was my first picture book illustration project. It was also my most rewarding and my most challenging. Read on to see my work process from shaky beginning to glorious end.
How I Got (and Almost Lost) “Hagga”
Gentle people, I’m not about to sugar coat things. The pressure to succeed froze me in my seat and almost cost me the entire project. But I powered through to the end. It also helped a great deal that the client had the patience of Job. In the end, the finished pieces exceeded the client’s expectations (Thank GOD!) and I had portfolio-worthy work to share. “Hagga’s Last Vattiegirl” was basic training, pretty much. Tackling it was what forged me into a true professional illustrator, not my degree. I had to earn my place through real world experience, through stumbling and growth – and stumble and grow I did.
“Hagga’s Last Vattiegirl” – A Summary
a Caribbean-based modern fairy tale with Afro-Caribbean characters
an angry ogress and a benevolent sorceress, and
a small often-dismissed character on a wild and wondrous heroine’s journey.
Only girls live at Castle Osun. On the way home from school, one of the girls, Zona, is stolen away from the group and forced into the bush. The girls are frantic and don’t know where to turn. What will happen to Zona?
Amidst the confusion. the nature-bound Daphne sets off on a mission to find the missing girl and bring her back to Castle Osun. Just in time, the good witch Minona appears, and warns of the evil ogress Hagga who abducts girls and will turn Zona into a faceless & handless Vattiegirl. Hagga must be stopped!
In a race against Hagga’s posse of wayward boys and the terrifying spectre of Hagga herself, Daphne must first overcome many obstacles in her path. As she learns the veiled tasks and magical chants from Minona, can Daphne save Zona and herself before it’s too late…and they are both lost forever?
super rough drawings, or
scribbling while drunk on cough syrup
It’s rare that I get a piece right when my pencil touches paper, or my stylus touches tablet. I haven’t been that self-confident in my every pencil scratch since I was a very young child. ‘Hagga’ was no exception. From character designs to scene layouts, everything was in flux. Not even my final drawings were safe. Many went through minute to major changes before they felt right to me.
For instance, I had pictured Ala the Den Mother as a slender woman and Minona the Witch as full-figured. However, the client wanted the body types reversed.
Hagga the Ogress also underwent serious cosmetic changes between sketch and final drawing. For one thing, she looked more like a Lord of The Rings trilogy extra than a Caribbean monster. I also drew her far too bony.
Our Little Heroine
Daphne was one of the trickiest characters to design. One, she was the main character and very important to the story so I couldn’t afford to muck her up. Two, she was the smallest girl in spite of her age and was human-passing with latent magic abilities. Inspired by her ‘nature magic’ qualities, I first gave Daphne a pixie-like appearance. I must have pulled inspiration from ‘Herself the Elf’, because I drew Daphne far too thin. I mean, look, she was a Bobblehead! In the end, Daphne emerged as a small and cute child who’d be relatable to readers. Plus, her final design would be faster and easier to draw in a many-paged picture book.
Other Characters & School Uniforms
And this is where I’ll leave you for now. I’ll pick up from where I left off next week in Part Two, showing you how I tackled and completed “Hagga”. Until then, tell me in the comments below what you thought about Part One, or if you just have some questions that you’d like to ask.
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