How to Make a Picture Book, part 3d

Image courtesy of Julie Gribble
Image courtesy of Julie Gribble

Character Development/ A Collaborative Process

Developing the Characters for the Bubblegum Princess

   by illustrator Lori Hanson

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Lori Hanson, illustrator of Bubblegum Princess — the other half of the collaboration team with author Julie Gribble. Lori will explain how the illustrations contribute to the development of the characters. Thanks, Lori, for adding your perspective to this series!

And now, here’s Lori —

The eighteen months that went into the development of the Bubblegum Princess were fluid and productive.

Julie Gribble and I communicated primarily by email. We also had several lengthy phone conversations and a meeting in the basement of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to discuss the Princess over sushi. Our interactions always focused on the unfolding of the story via conversation between the images that I drew and Julie’s written words.

The story had energy of its own, as these projects often do. A quote that comes to mind, given by one of my favorite documentary filmmakers, Werner Herzog; “Often ideas are known to show up, like uninvited dinner guests. They seem to arrive and depart at their own will”.

So yes, the creation of The Bubblegum Princess was like this – and still seems to carry this energy. The story and images have a will of their own.

The work between Julie and me – which I like to call the Collaboration Machine – has sweetness to it. Our interaction via the Internet gave it all a bit of spice and mystery. Like most writer/illustrator teams, Julie and I had never met before.

In this framework, the characters had their own time/space continuum in which to grow. This process of collaboration felt superbly sublime!

Here is a peek into how that process went. For me, developing depth in characters requires reiteration. Drawing is a bit like gardening in that you can weed out the elements that hold less meaning, retaining the core elements that crystallize the story.

Below are some images that illustrate the path of their development.

These first corgis, though they were able to fly magically through the air (with the help of bubblegum – of course) . . . looked a little fiercer than the Queen herself.

Fierce Corgis copy

Julie embraced these first corgis . . . and this was despite all of the feedback that they were “too scary for kids”!

These mini monsters stayed with us through the fourth revision (there were six).

One Fierce Corgi copy

Through out the six re-draws we exchanged written bits of text and drawn images. We worked on choreography and wording leading to the ultimate outcome of Katy and Will’s bubblegum-inspired relationship.

In Julie’s emails would also come the occasional irresistible corgis picture or YouTube link. I looked at several of these attachments until suddenly a wave of corgi inspiration came across my drawing table.

The epiphany

Crowds of Corgis copy

 I proceeded to create numerous ink drawings — like the one above of crowds of corgis. These lead to the rebirth of the corgis in their present visage.

Corgis fit to print 3 in color copy

The shape of these little guys is more rounded, as you can see . . . definitely more friendly.

1 corgi red background copy

I love the process of drawing almost as much as the drawing itself. This is true especially if the project takes on such a nice fluidity and has a good result.

Within our Collaboration Machine I realized Julie was patiently communicating her feelings that the corgis needed further development. Aha, I finally got the message and headed back to the drawing table: the pictures and YouTube inspirations that Julie was emailing to me conveyed her thoughts about the corgis without diminishing my creative process – brilliant!

In these final drawings the rounded, less textured shapes of the corgis seemed more appropriate for the story. The jagged lines of the first pups had a fierceness that might better serve a more ominous story line. Shape qualities do express character meaning.

The universal language of image bridges communication between author and illustrator within this creative process – just as the final story and images come across for our readers, when the finished copies reach their loving hearts, eyes and hands.



Illustrator Lori Hanson on character development thru picture book illos @BethStilborn’s blog: Tweet


Previous Posts in the Series:

Part 1, How to Make a Picture Book, Series Intro

Part 2, Choosing your Illustrator/Choosing your Author

Part 3a, Story and Character Development, part 1

Part 3b, Story and Character Development, part 2

Part 3c, Story and Character Development, part 3: A Collaboration


Julie Gribble was the first picture book author accepted into the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Fellows program and has been mentored by Emma Walton Hamilton and Cindy Kane Trumbore. She’s a full-time writer and a member of SCBWI, ChLA, BAFTA-NY Children’s Committee and is founder of KidLit TV,, an online video resource for the kid lit community.

Lori Hanson received her Master of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute and served an apprenticeship under celebrated artist Gregory Gillespie. She’s a member of SCBWI.

Bubblegum Princess, a picture book inspired by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, has received a First Place Royal Dragonfly Children’s Picture Book Award, a nomination for a Cybils Award, and is Story Monster Approved!

NY Media Works:
Lori Hanson’s website:
Bubblegum Princess website:
Bubblegum Princess on Amazon:
Bubblegum Princess in Square Market:



Kidlit TV

Kidlit TV on YouTube

Kidlit TV on Facebook

12 thoughts on “How to Make a Picture Book, part 3d”

  1. This is a perfect example of how collaboration can really work well. Lori and Julie were such a good fit. And, they really inspired each other with many aha moments. Loved this post. Thank you!

    1. Lori is a dear creative person who has the sweetest heart. She’s a joy to work with – so much so, that we’re working on another book together!

    2. Hi Patricia,

      Glad you enjoyed the post.
      Yes, creative possibilities do
      go in directions you would never expect,
      when in collaboration.
      Thanks again, Lori

  2. Please feel free to ask Lori any questions, too. She recorded a video of her illustration process and will share it with you next time!

    1. Appreciate your comments,
      please feel free to ask specific questions
      about the process.
      We also like to know about how your
      collaborations are going too.

  3. Pingback: How to Make a Picture Book, part 3e | By Word of Beth

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