Before I started to design my squirrel who is the main character, I decided to research into how the squirrel has been perceived and drawn in other children’s books. To my surprise there is quite a range, more than I thought there would be. Here are a few of the designs…
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler who also created the beautiful drawings in The Gruffalo created by Julia Donaldson. A very similar style yet these colours are stronger than the ones in The Gruffalo. A squirrel was created for the book The Highway Rat created again by Julia Donaldson. When looking at this design I automatically recognised it as a red squirrel purely by the colour and that it is an actual squirrel because of the thin yet bushy tail and the buck teeth but other than that I wouldn’t have known it was a squirrel. Making it more human like with the clothes and the stance it tries to relate to the working man. However, I am not keen on this style of drawing of the squirrel as I feel like it doesn’t have enough qualities and and characteristics of a traditional squirrel. I’m not saying that it is a bad drawing as it’s a new take on the animal but it’s just not my cup of tea.
A squirrel jumping in the air with excitement was illustrated by David Parkins and is the main character in the book Tick Tock created by Eileen Brown. This has a more playful sense to it with marks around the body showing movement and the expression on his face is happiness. Again, it is a red squirrel as these may be seen more as a nicer, friendlier character compared to the ‘dull’ grey squirrel. This squirrel has more characteristics and features of a typical squirrel for example the large long feet, the hairy body and the buck teeth. It has more of a personality I feel compared to the previous squirrel drawing.
The following illustrations of a squirrel are completely different and closer to the real animal. Above is the work of Sarah Fox-Davies who illustrated these characters for the book Moles Sunrise created by Jeanne Willis. Again another red squirrel who seems friendly with the slight smile on it’s face. It’s body shape is more realistic with the curved back parallel to the bushy tail, there are tufts of hair on the end of it’s ears which red squirrels are renowned for compared to the grey squirrel which has none and the paws that are shaped like well… a squirrels hand . It’s on all fours which the squirrel tends to do when looking for food on the ground or generally just standing. There are slight mark making on the coat of the squirrel suggesting the movement and flow of the animal.
This is the only illustration that uses grey squirrels as the main characters even though they aren’t completely grey. Mark making is heavily used here to define the different layers and textures between the characters, background scenes and other various objects. Different weight of strokes define what type of hair the animals have and the flow of the lines whether they are wavy or straight show the movement of the scene. The body is fairly close to the real animal but there are some areas that have been manipulated to show some character in the face for example the eyes are quite large and shows a clear pupil and whites of eyes which squirrels don’t tend to have.
So there you have it, a short but sweet overview of the various ways squirrels can be drawn and perceived. There are many illustrations out there that are weird and wonderful or precise and realistic but all I can take from this is what I like about certain aspects of the drawings and apply this to my own work. For example I want my character to be quite realistic but still have some personality and expression in the face and body language, I don’t want it to be cartoony but I don’t want it to be boring. A fine balance must be made. Also, I think after created the Jay illustrations with the lines creating the illusion of feathers, I feel I need to carry on this style throughout with all the characters including the squirrel. This means I will have to crack out the pastel pencils again and start drawing the individual hairs of the squirrels… easy… right?!
Browne, E., 1993. Tick Tock. London: Walker Books Limited.
Donaldson, J., Scheffer, A., 2011, The Highway Rat. London: Alison Green Books.
Donaldson, J., Scheffer, A., 2001, The Gruffalo. London: Macmillan Children’s Books.
Saunders, D & J, 1995. The Big Storm. London: Frances Lincoln Limited.
Willis, J., 2011. Moles Sunrise. London: Walker Books Limited.