In this new story, Ally and her friends must contend with a rather bossy girl named Maddie who insists Ally and company play monsters with her. As with Ally's dino-persona, I illustrate Maddie's imaginary monster persona using a crayon line around her image-in this case, green .
While still writing the book-long before my first sketch-I pictured Maddie's imaginary monster looking like one of the Wild Things in Maurice Sendak's classic, Where the Wild Things Are.
As a self-taught illustrator, my formal training consisted of buying a lot of books and staring at the illustrations until I unlocked their secrets. Included in that collection was a used copy of The Art of Maurice Sendak. I read that book over and over again, finding the chapter on Where the Wild Things Are particularly insightful. Among other things, it contains a pop-out copy of the original book dummy, titled, Where the Wild Horses Are. Sendak only changed it to "wild things" after he realized he couldn't draw horses (thank God!).
As I began my preliminary sketches for the second Ally-saurus adventure, I decided to stick with my original idea of Maddie's imaginary monster echoing Sendak's Wild Things as a silent homage to the children's book legend. After dozens of sketches I finally hit on a combination of Wild Thing characteristics that seemed to suit Maddie perfectly.
Like many of the Wild Things, Maddie's imaginary monster would have horns. It would also have long hair like the duck-footed Wild Thing, the fur, feet, and paws of the bear/gnome Wild Thing, with a tail as long as the striped Wild Thing but shaped like the bull-faced Wild Thing. To top it all off, Maddie's imaginary monster would have a crown-like Max's!
In studying The Art of Maurice Sendak, I also learned that Sendak gradually expanded the size of the illustrations in Where the Wild Things Are to symbolize Max's deeper absorption into his own imagination. The illustrations then reverse course, gradually growing smaller as Max begins to miss his home. This symbolizes the fading of Max's imaginary world as he returns to the real one.
As part of my homage to Sendak, I worked this technique into Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster, once again through Maddie. As her bossy behavior continues unchecked, I illustrate Maddie's growing self-absorption by expanding her imaginary monster world, including bubbling pools of ooze, haunted trees, and slugs. At the same time, I greatly increase the size of her crown and horns.
Then, when Ally-saurus finally finds her voice and stands up for her friends (and herself), Maddie's imaginary monster world quickly shrinks, as do her crown and horns.
Both the look of Maddie's monster persona, as well as the technique of manipulating the size of her crown, etc. worked perfectly for the story. Had they not, my silent tribute to Mr. Sendak would have had to wait for another book. This isn't the first time I have honored someone who has influenced my work. I'll talk about that in an upcoming post.