I start work on a story by drawing some initial sketches of the characters I see in my head - this way I have them before me when I write about them. Here are my first sketches for Willa.
I was pretty pleased with these and, as you will see from the finished book, I did not stray too far from my initial ideas. The first sketches are done as doodles on paper which I scan into my computer, clean up and then add a few details to round out the characters. Once the story is written, I move forward with a sketch book dummy. This is created on my Wacom Cintiq using the Painter program to sketch out the entire story, placing the appropriate text as a layer on each page. I also like to add some shading and wash work to create a more developed image before I send the project off to my agent.
Sometimes, there's not a lot of change from the initial sketch to the finished art! Maybe this is because I think about the images so much before I draw them -? But this is not true for every image!
Here's an early sketch of the bear -
I felt it was too intimidating, a little too realistic looking to be really friendly ;) So I changed it to show a more animated expression, a more goofy bear, and this one felt right for the story.