Wednesday, April 11, 2012

From Chicken Scratch to Final by Russ Cox

All images © 2012 Russ Cox | Smiling Otis Studio

Hello everyone! For my post I thought I would share how I developed the idea for a poster contest. Sometimes an idea gets stuck in your head and you need to pursue all avenues to see if it is a good one. This illustration was created for the NESCBWI Conference poster contest. The theme for this year's poster is "A Whole New World". The idea that hit me right away was to use Mother Goose, since she is a standard symbol for children's books and stories, using an iPad which is being used more and more by children to read and interact with stories. 

Originally I wanted to use other iconic characters from children's books. The first sketch shows Mother Goose with Max (Where The Wild Things Are), Pinocchio, and The Three Little Pigs. I liked the idea of them being crowded around the iPad but the overall composition was too busy.

The next idea was a straight on view. I felt it is too direct and lacked a warmth that was needed to tie the "old" and "new" together. You can see the little doodles on the outside of the sketch as I played with composition. At one point, the iPad was very large with the characters staring at it. That composition had too much of a "Big Brother" feel to it.

I went back to Mother Goose as the focal point and had the characters sitting around her and the iPad as if she was reading to them. This was getting better but it lacked the interaction I felt was needed and it needed everyone viewing the device.

Another idea for this concept was if I made Mother Goose a human, riding on a goose with the iPad. Compositionally it was good but then it looked like more of her using a GPS than reading on the device. In the bottom corner, I did a little doodle where she was back to being a goose and facing left. Having her facing left was like she was not ready to move forward but secretly loved the iPad. I moved forward with this idea.

I did a tighter sketch of the idea but added Hickory Dickory, along with the mouse,  to symbolize time and Humpty Dumpty to represent the fragility of embracing digital stories while being true to books and being scared of the new technology.

The above sketches where drawn separately so I could move things around in Photoshop to get the scale and placement to my liking. Instead of clouds in the background that where in the original sketch, I decided to have a book case in the background. This warmed up the tone of the illustration and help strengthen the concept.

Here is the final illustration. I was quite happy with the final and hopes it captures the theme.

Be sure to check back in two weeks for the marvelous Debbie Ohi!

You can view more of my work at:


  1. Love it! Your work is so delightful Russ!

  2. Russ this is FREAKING BRILLIANT! Thanks for reminding me just how much work it takes to make such an incredible illustration. Your work is always so spot on that it seems like you just pull it out of a hat like a magic rabbit! Thanks so much for sharing your process!

  3. Wonderful. I love seeing a concept come together. Just a great piece.