Behind The Scene. Watch the birth of a handmade book by Tanja Russita

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Today I have a fascinating behind-the-scene story for you! Tanja Russita is an illustrator. She is showing here how she has created a custom made book for two kids. She illustrated the process of making the book too! Here is her story:


Hi, I am Tanja Russita and I illustrate books for kids.

Sometimes I make books that people like to give as a gift. Sometimes you cannot take a picture of things that happen in your life. A book of drawings is a great resolution to that! A book like this could be about a long life together or a story of how 2 people met (and given to your parents for their golden jubilee), or it could be a book for a child about his life in his mommy's tummy and his birth. 

Today I will show you how I was painting a book about a boy named Kesha and his sister Lesya. His parents wanted to give it to him and his sister Lesya for Christmas.

Kesha's parents sent me all the texts, so I did not need to do any writing, just illustrating. I loved that idea right away! They came up with a ton of "silly" kids' rhymes, that probably every family creates for their babies. We used to have a few of them for our baby too! For example, we had a song "Hey, baby, you are too close to the edge" that we were singing while holding baby who crawled too close to the edge of our sofa and tried to fall down.

So, Kesha's mom sent me that book idea in May of 2013. They were not in a rush and I had all the time I wanted. It took me 13 months to think it over... Until one hot day of the 19th of July, 2014 when I was cooking a breakfast in our weekend cabin and my husband and kids were playing outside... I suddenly made up my mind that I needed to illustrate that book right now!

Then I was busy for the next half a day... we had our breakfast... then my youngest son needed to go have a nap, and he was fighting that...  Finally everybody left and I could sit by my computer and look at the kids' pictures. I needed to make Kesha and Lesya recognizable in the book's illustrations. 

Of course, social network tried to distract me! An hour and a half later I realized that my free time was about to expire. I took my watercolor album and a pencil and 30 minutes later I had 20 pages of sketches ready, plus a picture for the book cover. Some of them I have even traced with a pen. 

Soon after that my family was back for dinner. Then baby finally fell asleep. I took my album and went outside to join my husband and the older daughter.  

It was good that I took my pen, paint brush, watercolors and a cup of water with me! I leaned against my husband, talked to him and listened the stories about my daughter's summer school while continued working on the book. I finished tracing the sketch lines with a pen. Than I started coloring pictures with the watercolors. My son kept sleeping and that helped! 

Here are a couple of pictures of what I completed at that time: 

Just in time before my baby needed to get up! Plus I completed my daughter's portrait that she decided to color herself. The portrait disappeared and I did not know where it was until I saw it on a wall at our friends' place. It was framed too!  

Back to my story... Finished pictures needed to get dry, so I placed them on grass all over our backyard and went to wake up my son. Many things happened while he was slowly waking up. We had some tea, then we had some friends over who dropped by and the pictures got dry. I collected them in a pile with the last one (that was still wet) on the top and brought home. 

We invited our friends to join us and went to the sea. Here is a picture that shows our relaxed Baltic summer:

This is me getting out of the sea.
We were swimming and laying on the sand. Then came home and made barbecue, talking in the backyard while feeding mosquito, lol

By the time we finished it was almost midnight. The kids were tired and instantly fell asleep. So as our friends who stayed for sleep over! My husband and I went to the kitchen for more tea and talk. I was finishing my drawings by tracing the watercolor lines with a pen (this is my signature style). This part of work is the least creative but the most labor intensive. I completed seven drawings out of eleven. 

Then my wrist started to hurt (a usual problem for me!) and unfortunately I had to stop, even though I was not sleepy yet. I had to finish tree drawings the next day.. 

Here are three more drawings from the book I would like to show you:

I scanned and sent them to the customer. They liked everything and did not request any changes. Then it took us three month to decided if we should go with createspace, lulu or blurb, or maybe make our own one of a kind book with the original drawings. They went for the one of a kind book.

I bought a used book for upcycling and glued all the drawings in it. There were more pages than the drawings there so I included a couple of white pages in it for the kids to add their own pictures! The book was finished and I sent it to my customer. 

Now Kesha and Lesya can read a book about themselves!

And they can draw in it:

If you like the idea and wish to have a book like this, please feel free to contact me! As you see it does not take me long to create it and the price is quite affordable with an hourly rate. I might take some time for thinking over, but that does not cost extra ;) Please, contact me through my web-site.

Tanja's web-site:
Books in English and Russian that Tanja sells on Amazon:
Eight books in Russian:

Beautiful nature

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