We’d like to welcome Fiona Woodcock to the blog today who shares with us how the wonderful ‘Hiding Heidi‘ was born.
I’d been working on a series of colourful pattern based paintings and I thought it would be interesting to try and create a children’s book with that same visual approach, but placing a character in a world of colour and pattern.
Quite quickly the concept of a little girl hiding in lots of different fun places took shape. I experimented with materials and did these initial sketches of potential Heidis. I decided that I liked the bold approach of using rubber stamps, combined with stencilled artwork and pencil and ended up with two initial designs of the sofa and sunflowers.
Then a lovely thing happened when I just went about life and lots of things I saw related to the idea and sparked off thoughts, from the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern to old family photographs.
I was excited about the potential of the initial designs, and that gave me the impetus to find an agent and develop the book further. With the help of my agents at Bright I developed the character of Heidi and explored lots of potential ideas. I also wrote pages of back story about who Heidi was and what she liked etc, which helped to spark off more visual and narrative ideas.
At this stage I started thinking about the other characters that would also have a pattern and graphic quality to their clothes. This is a development piece where you can see early versions of Heidi’s little gang of friends from the final book.
So when I was lucky enough to start talking it through with Simon and Schuster there were a few elements to work with and they crucially gave the input that was needed to arrive at the final story. I’d previously been drawing and redrawing lots of different ideas, so by the time I worked on the final story I felt like I really knew the characters.
The images for the book came first, I focussed on communicating visually, so it was more about creating a silent movie and then later deciding what words were needed to add the extra information and tone.
I made the decision to limit the colour palette and introduce more colour at the party section, which is the first time we actually see Heidi NOT hiding!
I think the breakthrough in the development came with the idea of the turning point – when Heidi finally learns it the hard way that the time has come to play other games and embrace new experiences.
I remember hearing that the perfect pop song has a combination of melancholy and euphoria, maybe the same applies to picture books? I tried to convey Heidi’s emotions as she sits and thinks on the blue striped stairs at the end of her party. By complete contrast the space-hopper and rollerskating spreads felt like the perfect way to celebrate Heidi’s liberation from her hiding places.
It’s a book about hiding and fun and I really hope the young reader feels rewarded by spotting Heidi on the page, but as the book develops Heidi learns about herself and how to relate to her friends. It’s quite a hard lesson to learn because we all love doing what we’re good at. She’s learning that her friends have their strengths as well.
Heidi doesn’t completely change, she’ll always be the little girl who loves to hide, but she now knows there’s more to life than just playing hide and seek.