Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Same & Different

Author-illustrator Manjula Padmanabhan on the process of creating 'Same & Different', a Tulika title due for launch soon. Details in a bit.

Update: You can now buy the book from the Tulika site

There are two parts to drawing a book: the first part is thinking about it and the second part is drawing it. The first part usually takes a couple of seconds and the second part takes several months!

The idea for Same & Different occurred to me at the time I was working on I am Different! But I was also interested in a new kind of drawing – instead of using paper and paints, the way I did with the first book, my plan for the new one was to draw directly on my computer. 

All drawings require some kind of equipment. For drawing on the computer, the best thing to use is a drawing tablet. It looks like a flat pad, about the size of magazine (but square) and is connected to the computer – in my case, a tiny little laptop called a Netbook. The pad has a cordless attachment called a stylus, that looks and works a lot like a pen. Unlike a pen, though, it can only create drawings inside the computer, not on paper or canvas. So I draw using the pad and look at  the results on my computer's monitor. Using this gadget and also the amazing software programme called Adobe Photoshop, I was able to draw the creatures and backgrounds you see in the book.

Some people tell me, when I say that I drew this book using my computer, "Oh! We far prefer drawings made by hand …" But these are made by hand – not by my feet, or mouth, or eyebrows! All the animals started off as black and white squiggles made by me, which I would gradually shape into heads and tails and eyes and noses, add colour, flipped back and forth and up and down until I had exactly what I wanted. Creating the backgrounds was a lot of fun too.  
I wrote all the verses in one afternoon several months ago* – but of course, as with all books, the first attempts went through several changes before they were completed and ready for printing. My editors at Tulika were very patient and also very helpful as I tried to polish up the rhymes so that they would make sense while at the same time being comfortable to say out loud. I also had to change some of the animals I had originally wanted to use because when it came to drawing them, they didn't suit the puzzle so well. The squirrels, for instance, were a last minute choice after I decided that langur monkeys were just too fidgety to suit a picture in which they were all supposed to look the same or very similar.  
But the very best thing about the book was that the whole thing took about six weeks. Which is absolutely AMAAAAAZING. And what is even more amaaaaazing, the printed book was out about one week after that! From my first drawings in a purely electronic form, inside my computer, all those little animals spilled out, via the printing press, onto paper, onto pages which were then collected and bound as a book, and finally, OUT: to bookshops, to homes and into the hands of readers. Two months, from nothing to something! 
Magic, that's what I call it.

(* There's a funny story here! I had gone to the Tulika office in Chennai – it's a really friendly, happy place, just like the books they produce! – and was just about to leave when someone handed me a 'muruku'. I of course immediately popped it into my mouth and … began to choke. Quite suddenly I simply could not take in a single breath – it was just like in the cartoons, I felt my eyes begin to bulge, my throat felt like it was made of wood – and everyone looking on in horror as Sandhya and Deeya thumped me on my back … until … finally, after what felt like a week but was actually only about 10 seconds, the tiny little crumb that had got caught was dislodged. Phew! I went home, still feeling a little shaky and choke-y and immediately spent the rest of the afternoon writing the verses!)

- Manjula Padmanabhan