The Making of Karla’s Little German Joke Book

Posted on: Dec 21, 2016

Followers of this blog (or my many social media accounts!) will have read about Karla’s Little German Joke Book, the illustrated tribute to my late mother and fundraising project for The Shakespeare Hospice.

Without wanting to sound like a cravat-wearing luvvie eulogizing about their ‘process’, I’d like to show you how the book came into being.

Stage One – Drawing with an actual pen IRL

I must admit, when I was approached by Mum’s friend Derek about illustrating his puns for the book, I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task! Derek is a fan of The Far Side comics, and had that kind of cartoon style in mind for the book. Looking at the blank pages of the sketchbook, I felt a huge wave of self-doubt - I hadn’t done this kind of drawing since I was a kid. The first few sketches took ages and I felt really rusty, but this wore off by the time I'd finished 30 of them!



Stage Two – Tidying up

I was much more confident about this stage – taking the sketches into Adobe Illustrator. I use this program on a daily basis and it’s second nature to me. I decided to trace my sketches with the pen tool to get a nice, clean line and played around with different brush styles to find one with just the right amount of ‘roughness’.



Stage Three – InDesign

Now I had all 30 illustrations in a vector format, it was time to put the book together using InDesign. Derek and I had agreed that the book should be pocket-sized (i.e. A6) but aside from that I had carte blanche for the layout. As the book had very little copy, I chose a nice chunky font (Gill Sans Ultra Bold) to number each pun, and Impact for the pun titles. Derek and I put together a few words of introduction, I added a photo of Mum and a bit of blurb about the hospice, then it was ready to send to print!



As well as testing my drawing skills, this project gave me the opportunity to make some ‘work in progress’ videos, something I’ve wanted to do for ages. I used SnagIt to capture videos of my PC desktop when I wanted to record my process in Illustrator and InDesign, and my mobile phone to record me sketching.

I used Da Vinci Resolve to edit the footage (even a quick sketch took a while to do, so speeding up the footage was a necessity!) and add music (thanks to my other half for encouraging me to do this, it makes such a difference to the ‘watchability’ of even a short video, and I had loads of fun choosing the tunes).  Resolve is used by professional filmmakers, but incredibly is free to download. It's a pretty complex and powerful program, but it was definitely worth taking the time to get a handle on the basics (huge shout out to Becky Thornton for talking me through all the options).

I’m so glad I ignored the doubting voice in my head that said ‘you can’t do this’ as I’m so pleased with how the book turned out.

Huge thanks to everyone that’s bought it so far: every penny of the proceeds is going to The Shakespeare Hospice to support the amazing work they do. If you would like to buy a copy you can do so here.


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