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How Naked! Was Created Part 1

Part 1 – Part 2

The author of NAKED! is Michael Ian Black. Here is a picture of Michael:

Photo courtesy of the author

First, Michael had to write the story.

“Like all parents of small children,” says Michael, “I noticed that my kids seemed to enjoy being naked more than clothed. (Adults probably feel this way too, but feel less desire to run around in this state.) I thought it would be fun to show a kid’s exuberance at being unclothed, running around, using his imagination, and just basically being a normal, over-excited, totally butt naked kid.”

Michael writing in his office.

Michael sent his story to his editor at Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, Justin Chanda. Justin is not only an editor but also a publisher at Simon & Schuster Children’s.

Justin made suggestions on how Michael could make his story even better.

Michael worked hard on revisions. Sometimes he consulted his cat for advice:

Photo: Ruthie Black

When Justin and Michael were happy with the manuscript, Justin send it to Debbie. Debbie laughed out loud when she saw the title. Then she read the story and laughed even more.

Then Debbie started scribbling and sketching. On the above, you can see one of Debbie’s first scribbles of how she pictured one of the first scenes. She also started sketching the characters:

After she did a lot of sketching on paper, Debbie started sketching on her computer. She uses Photoshop and an Intuos Wacom Pen Tablet. The drawing tablet comes with a special pen that doesn’t have ink.

You can see Debbie using her tablet and special pen as she draws the Potato from I’M BORED (the last book that she and Michael did together):

When Debbie finished the first round of sketches, she sent them to her art director, Laurent Linn. Here is a picture of Debbie with Laurent:

Laurent used to work at Sesame Street!

Laurent and Justin looked at Debbie’s sketches along with assistant editor, Dani Young. Since Debbie was going to be in New York at the end of the January, they all decided to meet to talk about the sketches.

Some people think that it’s easy to make a picture book because they’re so short. The truth is that a LOT of thought goes into both the story and the illustrations for a good picture book. There are so many ways to tell and illustrate any one story, after all. The challenge is to find the BEST way.

Making a picture book is a lot of hard work but also SO MUCH FUN, as you can tell from the photos above. There is a lot of cutting and pasting and scribbling. Here is an example, with notes and pasted bits from the first spread of Debbie’s sketches:

If you compare this to the final version of the book, you can see that we decided to take the drawing of the “boy running away from his Mom” illustration and move it to the second page. The blue pencil scribbles are by Laurent Linn, and you can see his suggestion of having the little boy running around the page. Here’s what the final spread ended up looking like:

There was lots of doodling, too, as we did some brainstorming. Check out this sketch by Justin Chanda:

Debbie loved Justin’s sketch so much that she made him sign it (see bottom right corner of the drawing). Heh. The art notes were Debbie’s ideas for what she was going to draw on the page.

Here is the final version:

Laurent, Justin, Dani and Debbie all talked about what worked in Debbie’s sketches, what didn’t work, and what could be changed to make the book even better.

Next, Debbie went back to Toronto and worked on the next round of sketches. As she worked on them, she liked to hang sketches from her office ceiling so can more easily see all of them at once. Here is what her ceiling looked like in February 2013:

As you can tell, Debbie has a lot of things in her office!

On the computer monitor, you can see the drawing that Debbie was working on: the last page spread where the mother was kissing the sleeping little boy.