When I was a design student, I often reveled in the sketch making more than the actual making of the final design. Out of that experience came a love of seeing process. I like understanding how a final solution was found, because I’m a firm believer that nothing comes out right the first time with anything new. I wish I could see into other artists process like this. Not just final products.

Now you can see how this illustration started and how it landed.


  1. Initial sketch. Tama has escaped the Three, lured by the shiny Great Sea. My first idea was to show the sea, with Tama wandering out. I didn’t quite like it, but I wasn’t sure why yet. I moved on to other illustrations in the book.
  2. First revision. When I came back I had other ideas. I made one update to the original composition. The Three don’t want Tama to leave, so I put their heads in the frame to show their expressions. I got to the point of inking before I finally convinced myself that this still wasn’t working. The composition wasn’t very interesting, for starters. I went back to the layout and noticed I could rotate it to vertical. That already felt better.
  3. Vertical. Here I could show the sky more, and get all of the Three in. I chose to center around Tama, and given this perspective, he as really tiny because he was further away than the Three. But showing the sea didn’t feel right. My patience and ability to render the water was one factor, but it went beyond that. The core concept of showing the sea wasn’t right. So while I could probably have figured out a way to render the grandeur of the water, it felt like I was missing the point.
  4. Turning it around. Flipping it felt better. This allowed Tama to be in the foreground so you could see his expression, and get the sense that he’s being chased by the Three.
  5. More details. I worked out some of the expressions of the Three. Added more tangles because I felt it added to the sense of urgency. I finished laying down the base inking when I realized something was off. It looked too much like the original introduction to the Three. That other illustration served the purpose of showing The Three as massive and foreboding. This drawing, on the other hand needed not simply show the same scene, but show a progress in in the narrative.
  6. Final. What ultimately worked is that this version tells all the right parts of the story. At this moment, it’s not about The Three, it’s about Tama, some is the foreground and focal point. His expression needed to be telling and unsettling, but he’s not the one that’s scared. And there didn’t need to be so many tangles — that’s what made it too similar to original. So I lowered the perspective and made the background less complicated. Keeping the expresssions of the Three retained the idea that they were after him. Conversely Tama looks like he’s hypnotized and almost happy, alleviating any real sense of dread. The final tells the appropriate moment in the story, is much better laid out and interesting. And I wouldn’t have gotten here without the other ideas.

Now I just need to add some of the sand hopping and jumping…readers won’t know what is up with that at first, but I’m okay with that — it will generate a sense of mystery for the next few pages.