To celebrate the new paperback edition of the wonderful picture book Eva and the Perfect Rain, author and illustrator Tatyana Feeney tells us all about her writing and illustrating process.
When I became interested in making picture books, I really was thinking about the illustrations and making beautiful art to go with a story.
But after working on some character design projects in art college, I started to think about stories to go with my drawings, or stories about the characters that started to evolve as I was drawing them.
What was different about Eva and the Perfect Rain, is it was the first story I wrote that began with the words.
When I first moved to Ireland, I was amazed and intrigued by all of the words that are used to talk about rain. The words and phrases that I heard made me think of different textures, colours and ways of showing weather. ‘Soft day’, ‘sunshower’, ‘pelting’, ‘lashing’, ‘bucketing’, they are all so descriptive and I realised I wanted to make a book that would show what those words look like to me.
This is how Eva’s story started.
Then I wanted to think about what children like to do in the rain. One of my favourite picture books growing up is a story about a boy playing in the snow, The Snowy Day byEzra Jack Keats. I did think a lot about the quietness and simplicity of that story when I was working on Eva. And I hope I gave the same feel to my book. I wanted to show the simple things that children enjoy when they are outside in the rain; jumping in puddles, looking at how the sky changes and how the colours around them change and, most importantly for this story, walking in the rain with an umbrella.
When I am working on the artwork for a book, I begin with pencil drawings. These are usually fairly simple. I do want to make sure the characters look right, but a lot of the other elements are placeholders for the final illustrations.
You can see that in my sketch Eva looks very similar to the final illustration, but the detail that comes into the final artwork is hard to indicate in a pencil drawing.
I create my final artwork as handmade monoprints that I assemble digitally.
The printing process produces lovely vivid colours and can be used to create lots of different textures. I never know exactly how the printed illustrations will turn out, if the textures will come out the way I plan them or if the colours are going to be exactly what I am looking for. So there is always a bit of trial and error involved, but for me that is what is so interesting and exciting about using monoprint. The ‘happy accidents’ often produce the nicest artwork.
When I was creating the character of Eva, I knew I wanted her to be a little girl with curly ponytails. I had to put some thought into what she would wear though. There was going to be a lot of blue with the rain, and I knew I wanted her to have a pink umbrella, so I wanted her to wear something that would work with the fixed colour palette.
I also knew I wanted her to have on fairy wings while she was inside.
She ended up wearing red-striped PJs (and, of course, her wings) in the first illustrations, when she is in her house, and a blue coat with red wellies when she is out in the rain.
When the story was finished, I wanted to have some way of showing all of the words that I had collected about rain in the course of developing the book. I decided that showing them on the endpapers would be a way to allow readers to see what I had found, and maybe create a discussion about other words for rain that they might know.
Although the book is finished, I still love learning new words about rain and thinking about how they could be illustrated.
Tatyana Feeney, June 2021
Eva and the Perfect Rain is available to order from your local bookshop or here.