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Monday, 20 February 2017

Making Pigeon P.I.

Since my second picture book Pigeon P.I. is published in but two weeks, I thought I'd put together a little how-it-was-made.

Pigeon P.I. started life as a flash of inspiration.  I was working on ideas for my second book and I already had a pretty good one.  I wasn't sure if it was THE idea but I liked it.  With about a week to go before my meeting at Andersen Press I had an idea I was far more excited about: I was going to write a film noir picture book and call it Pigeon P.I.  It sounds so simple when you say it out loud but ideas are like that, they're exciting and instant.  It takes a lot of work to make them into something more.

Is it a mystery?  The words 'private investigator' should've been my first clue.

I started to draw using Humphrey Bogart as inspiration for Murray, my pigeon (apologies to Mr. Bogart)

The first Murray.  Sadly, 'you filthy corn husk' didn't make it in.

Faye Dunaway from 'Bonnie and Clyde' helped inspire my canary Vee.  Apologies to Ms. Dunaway but I wanted someone who looked great in hats and there's no denying that she does.

First sketch of Vee

One of many test drawings of Vee

A few more tests.  My art director Beccy and I spent a long time working on what made Vee look young and appealing.  We shortened her hair flick and really focused on her shape.   She was definitely the hardest character to get right.  

The final Vee

I didn't have a story yet but I had most of the characters and a world I wanted to build.  Most importantly I had an idea I was passionate about.  It was THE idea.  Here's some of the sketches I prepared for my meeting.

I make a lot of notes.

This neon colour test didn't make it in but I still like it.

 I was watching Chinatown at this point.

From the final book.

A little joke about a spin-off series

Take a peek under the dust jacket to meet Penguin P.I.
First sketch of the police, who nearly didn't make it when my first draft came in at 50 pages

Sadly the night watch don't feature.  They're biding their time.

 Luckily, the good folks at Andersen Press liked this idea too and we spent our meeting discussing character motivations and all things noir.  With all sorts of wisdom imparted, off I went to sit with my sketchbook to see if these characters really had a story to tell.  It's funny to look back and see how many stages a book goes through when you write it.

This pie-as-an-escape plan is one of my favourite drawings that never went anywhere

It's also amazing to see how much sticks.  One of my very first drawings has remained the whole way through as my first page, with pretty much the same first line.

Only I could think a pile of abandoned newspaper is a 'filing system'

Murray and his filing system

I'm pretty excited about the way this book turned out, it's very different to Life Is Magic but I think they've got some things in common, namely an excess of hand-lettering and background characters.

A note to myself

What I wanted to create was a satisfying mystery in picture book form, to pay homage to the detective books I've loved all my life but to make sure that I was writing it for a picture book audience, that this was a satisfying world and story in itself and not just a parody of something I loved.  I hope I've managed to do that.

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