Right now I'm working away, illustrating  the American Girl "Girl of the Year" books for 2013. I can't tell you anything about them, but I can show you the Girl of the Year books I did for 2011 - Aloha Kanani!  and Good Job Kanani! I was far too frantic last year to really enjoy the books coming out all over the USA - but now that things have calmed down, I've picked the locks on the shackles that chained me to my drawing table and plunged my smoking pencils into a bucket of cold water, I can actually look back and get excited in retrospect! The books were about Kanani, who lives in Hawaii, which meant I got to work with delectable tropical colours and seacapes galore.

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 I painted all the pictures on the computer - that might sound weird, but I use a program called Corel Painter that really works a lot like paint, and I have a special digital tablet and pen that works a bit like a canvas and paintbrush. 

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Sometimes people seem to think that computers can just sort of magic up a picture for you, but it's actually as much work as painting with real paints - just less messy, and if I make a mistake there's always the CTRL-Z button! Wish I had one of those in real life... 

Want to see one of the pictures in progress? Here's a little animation I made of the different stages that Kanani's face went through for the cover of the first book. You can tell that painting on the computer isn't much different to painting in the real world - it still starts off UGLY! Then I gradually add layers till it doesn't look so shabby:

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And here's the final painting: 

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 I learned a lot about painting realistically, about composing complicated scenes with lots of characters, and about how to use lighting for dramatic effect. It was quite a challenge, as you can see from these pictures - there's a lot going on in them, huh?!

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If you'd like to see more, Kanani has her own page on the American Girl website, with lots of games and activities...

The Kanani books were written by the lovely Lisa Yee,

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with the assistance of her small yellow accomplice Peepy.

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 That's one of my paintings of Kanani up there in the shop window, larger than life-size Lisa... and Peepy is showing you the Kanani dolls and outfits that filled American Girl stores last year.  

 Here are some of the displays in the American Girl stores - all photos courtesy of Lisa, who sent them to me and said I could blog them. (Thanks, Lisa!)

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