A Project for a Greater Cause
Roger Gardocki, my father, was an educator with 21 years of experience. He taught Language Arts and writing at the collegiate and high school levels. After retiring in 2019, Roger was excited to finally have the time to pursue his passion for writing children’s books. He had been working on and perfecting the story of Magic Bubbles for several years. Magic Bubbles is a story about two siblings that find out that someone very important to them will no longer be in their lives. Their grandmother takes them to the zoo, where they get advice from various talking animals about techniques to help them resolve their overwhelming grief. When they get home, their grandma tells them to blow the sadness inside of them into soap bubbles which she provides for them. Magically, after some unsteady starts, the process helps them to alleviate their sadness. Roger was very passionate about telling this story because he experienced it firsthand and knew that it would be helpful to children and parents dealing with difficult situations of loss or grief.
In 2020, everything changed; the Covid-19 pandemic consumed the world. Coronavirus is an infectious respiratory disease that was spread through close contact with an infected person. During 2020 and the few years to follow, everything was uncertain. It was a very difficult time for everyone, hospitals were full, there were many deaths, and people were ordered to stay at home for their own safety. Roger knew it was more important than ever to get Magic Bubbles published to help people through these tough and depressing times.
My father has always been a very enthusiastic supporter of my art career as well as a fan of my art. He has purchased several pieces of my work to decorate his current home. Once the story was written, it was important for Roger to collaborate with me, his daughter, as the illustrator for the book. This was our first time creating a children’s picture book and it was a large project for both of us. I wanted to create illustrations that would highlight and complement the story of Magic Bubbles. First, we brainstormed about how the three main characters should look. There were many conversations, sketches, revisions, and renditions of the characters before perfecting them. I spent a great deal of time ensuring that the external representation of the characters truly embodied their internal values from the story. The finalized characters influenced the illustration style of the entire book.
Creating a Balance Across Each Page
When I began creating the illustrations for each page, I ran into a specific challenge; there was a very high word count on some of the pages. Not every page had this problem and we were able to work together on a few of the pages to consolidate the words. However, on pages that did have a high word count and could not be changed, I had to create a balance between the illustrations and the words. I used hierarchy to create breaks in the text so that it wasn’t just a brick wall of text. Using composition, I would map out where I wanted the text to go first, then I would create the illustrations around the text area in Affinity Designer. Once the image was completed, I would import it into InDesign to add the text. I would often have to go back into the image and reposition characters or items in the background to better accommodate the text. I also had to keep in mind the safety area of the pages to make sure nothing important would be cut off during printing. In addition to the author, I spent a great deal of time collaborating back and forth with the printer to ensure things like format ratios, cover wrap specs, ISBN placement, and file types were consistent with the printer’s requirements.
My father and I never intended to sell millions of copies of our book; so what does success look like for us? Magic Bubbles was a success because together we created a children’s book which was a special and rewarding family project for us, we self-published our children’s book towards the end of 2020, and we were able to share our book Magic Bubbles with family and friends. The book is currently listed and has sold copies on amazon.com, bookshop.org and is also available internationally. In addition, I also sold copies at artist events around Albuquerque, such as ABQ Artwalk and the Rail Yards Market. I have received wonderful feedback from parents who purchased our book remarking that their children love having Magic Bubbles read to them. It was a truly incredible experience collaborating with my father and a publishing company to illustrate and publish a children’s picture book!