Writer and illustrator, Bryan Kitch, put his professional skills to work on a personal project inspired by his daughter’s love of animals. Taking in a complete tour of the alphabet via the animal kingdom, his beautifully illustrated children’s book, A is for Anteater, made the perfect birthday gift, and its whimsical captions have made it a firm family favorite. We caught up with him to learn more about how he brought his idea to life.
1. What was the inspiration behind A is for Anteater?
The inspiration behind the book was my daughter’s interest in animals from a very early age—we decided to spring for a family membership to the San Francisco Zoo, and it has already more than paid for itself. Also, one of her favorite things to do is ‘draw on paper,’ and she often requests that I draw a particular animal—combining it with the ABCs seemed like a natural next step!
2. Why did you choose to self-publish?
I wanted to give her a real book for her second birthday—something that felt professional and held up next to her other animal books. I had used Blurb in the past for work, to do layouts and premium print projects in a marketing role, so I was comfortable with the system and confident that it would print up very nicely.
3. Tell us about the process of designing A is for Anteater. How did you decide on the layout, color scheme, and typography? Which tools did you use?
All of the drawings came together very quickly—I sat down one morning at the kitchen table and did nearly all of them at once in a small notebook. But then, there was the matter of getting them into a digital format, and deciding on colors, fonts, etc.
The first step was to scan and carefully pull each drawing into a new file using Photoshop—it was there that I added the colors to each letter as well. Initially, I thought I would use my own handwriting or script font, but then, laying it out in BookWright, I felt that the contrast between the fluid, organic drawings and a modern, sans-serif font had a nice rhythm to it. After that, I’ve always loved warm yellow and gold, so I added the endpapers in that color.
4. Did you encounter any unexpected challenges when creating your book? If so, how did you overcome them?
I would say the most challenging part of it was figuring out how to remove the drawings from their original context in the notebook and preserve their natural feel in a new context. I think something that helped achieve that was leaving the color of the paper inside the animal drawings (a nice cream-white), which gives them a certain added softness which they may have lost with only outlines.
5. What do you think makes the best kind of children’s book? What can writers and illustrators do to make excellent children’s books?
It’s hard to say exactly what qualities add up to this, but I think the best children’s books are the ones that parents and kids come back to again and again. Usually, it means there’s some combination of beautiful illustrations, an interesting twist, or a good sense of humor.
6. What role does print play in a digital world? What do you think the future is for books for creatives, child readers, etc?
Print plays an increasingly important role in a digital world, in my view. Given the abundance of digital content, print elevates the material by its very nature—you can’t replace the feel of a beautifully produced book or magazine. Also, I think from a child’s perspective, it’s more important than ever to have books around—we are so inundated with screens nowadays, and books allow much more room for imagination and our creative mind to invent new pathways. In my view, I think it’s important to make time for that before engaging too heavily with technology—digital media is great, and it’s certainly not going anywhere, but it’s not a replacement for the printed word or image.
7. Between photography, illustration, and design, what’s your favorite medium to work in? Do you ever mix mediums?
I love all of them, but for me, my work in photography usually serves the needs of my artwork—I take pictures to remember certain scenes or compositions that I’d like to draw or paint. I love design as well because it’s very freeing to have total control over how your work will be displayed and viewed by an audience.
8. How did you get started as a writer and illustrator?
My grandfather, Donald Teague, was an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post for many years in the first half of the 20th century. I grew up going to his house for nearly every holiday, visiting his studio, and even getting to ‘collaborate’ on some sketches with markers on the living room floor. Ever since then I’ve loved the idea of figuring out how to follow in his footsteps somehow—hopefully this is the first step!
9. Where do you look for creative inspiration?
It might sound trite, but the world around me. I have always felt more like myself when I’m drawing from life. Watching my daughter grow and learn, and soak up her surroundings is a constant reminder to not take anything for granted, and to always try to learn as much as possible—seeing the world through her eyes is a constant inspiration. My grandfather’s work, as well as my dad’s writing, have both inspired and motivated me as well. I also think that digital media can be great in this regard—Instagram, in particular, is actually a good place to look for artistic inspiration. There are so many talented painters, illustrators, graphic designers, and even writers on that platform.
10. What books or other resources have been essential to you? Do you have any tips for other people seeking creative guidance or motivation?
One book stands out for me as far as being a creative in today’s world, and that is The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield. It’s sort of an artist’s manifesto—short chapters that hone in on challenges that many artists face, as well as solutions or suggestions for how to overcome those challenges. Also, a close friend recently gave me a copy of Find Your Artistic Voice, by Lisa Congdon, which I’m getting into now.
11. Any new projects in the pipeline? What would you love to work on next?
I’m currently working on another animal-based book, which is also tied to San Francisco. My family and I enjoy visiting the Presidio here in San Francisco, and my daughter is always the first to pick out all the animals there. This one will have a narrative, and I’m sketching out the storyboards now. I’m hoping to be able to complete a draft before the holidays—so, wish me luck! You can check out Bryan’s latest projects on Instagram.
Do you have an idea in mind for a children’s book? Download BookWright and get started on your project today.