Yahhooo, Dogs in Cars is here! Count to 100 through the many breeds of dogs from French bulldogs to Great Danes, as they wreak havoc upon the streets in their recognisable locomotives! In this hilariously illustrated introduction to the world of dogs and cars, Emmanuelle Walker and Felix Massie pay homage to these glorious animals and their moving machines.
To celebrate its release, we caught up with illustrator / animation director extraordinaire, Emmanuelle Walker to talk about collaborating with Felix on this cool canine car compendium, illustration, animation and more…!
1)What came first – the words or pictures? How did you and Felix collaborate on the project?
What came first was a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet including a list of A to Z breeds, and car brands – because yes, the number of dogs corresponds to the number of each alphabet letter, which also corresponds to the name of the dog breed and the car brand! A=1 – Alpha Romeo/Afghan hound, B=2 – Bentley/Beagles, C=3 Citroen/Corgis, D=4 – Delorean/Dalmatians, etc.
I then gave that list to Felix as a base for the text, and it evolved from there. He picked the breed and the brand that he thought served the story the best. He added to the dog and car list too if he thought there was an even better option.
He did a first draft, and that’s really when I started working. Over time some of the rhymes slightly changed, but the idea stayed the same.
2) Which is your favourite spread from the book and why?
The dog I had the most fun drawing was probably the Old English sheepdogs, because I love drawing hairy things, could you count all the hair on that spread?
I like all the book spreads, but the special one is probably number 10, where I drew my dad in his blue Jeep and myself as a child with our 10 Jack Russells (even though we never had a single Jack Russell!).
3) Do you have a dog? If so what kind and what are they called? If not… what kind of dog would you most like to have?
No I don’t, unfortunately. My favorite dog in the world is probably the whippet because of all the crazy positions they can make thanks to their long limbs. If I had a garden big enough (or if I had a garden at all) I would have one.
4) Could you tell us a little bit about your illustration process?
I usually do some sketch research first. There were so many different and sometimes similar breeds, so I had to find a way to simplify them and understand the shapes.
To have a better general overview of what the book was going to look like, I did some super quick thumbnails of the spreads.
Then I prepared a template document in Photoshop because I wanted all the cars to be proportional to each other when you flip the book pages. So the small cars are tiny on the page, versus the trucks for example. Once I had the template I picked the illustration I wanted to do the most on that day. I started with the 13 Maltese.
I then roughed the car first, then the dogs and background with a thin black line. Once I was happy with the rough I made a colour-test layer to decide what the colours were going to be. Sometimes it’s a quick process, sometimes it’s harder to find something that pleases me. At this stage it’s only refining that’s left but that’s the longest and most tedious part!
Once I was happy with the colours I started selecting the different zones of the illustration with the freehand lasso tool. Basically, every colour is a different layer so I can easily change things if I need to.
And for the rest of the pages, I balanced everything depending on the number of dogs on the page. So if I had to draw a lot of dogs for one page, I would then pick one with less dogs, and so forth.
5) You work now as an animation director, what do you enjoy most and what are the challenges involved with making a children’s book outside of your day job?
I can’t really pick a favourite between directing, animating, and illustrating, I need the three to feel balanced. Animation is great, and bringing characters to life is extremely satisfying, but it can be very tiring to draw the same drawing over and over, (and then retracing/cleaning up everything afterwards). Illustration is great, you can take all the time you want to create one single image but it doesn’t move! And finally directing means that you often get to work on bigger projects, with a team to help you, but it can be stressful and the clients are not all always easy to manage. Luckily I work with great producers who take care of them most of the time.
Because I don’t have a regular schedule or regular clients, my days are always different. I have some super busy months where I stay at the studio until midnight, and other times, I can go weeks/months without working. The main challenge I’d say is not to get too stressed in the down times and try to travel a bit to work on personal projects (that will often bring you more work), find some inspiration elsewhere for other projects, and disconnect for a while.
Thank you so much Emmanuelle! Drive away with a copy of Dogs in Cars now!