by Gail Schoonmaker
Illustrator, Do You Want a Friend? and The Big Picture Story Bible
The creation of the artwork for Do You Want a Friend? began when I received Noel's manuscript along with her notes for specific pages and for the artwork in general.
I was delighted to read her desire to see families of various ethnicities, as this reflects not only God's kingdom, but the environment in which my husband and I have chosen to live and raise our own children. In fact, our kids are the only ones in their [public school] classes with white skin, and they see nothing unusual in these illustrations!
I was equally pleased to see Noel's desire to include drawings of people with various disabilities. My own son Andy is severely autistic, and my beloved nephew has Down Syndrome. God has used the the joys and challenges of parenting Andy to, among many things, enlarge my heart for His covenant children whom society would marginalize. It has been a privilege to be part of a picture book that celebrates the reflection of God's image in so many ways.
That said, the biggest delight is the focus of the book: Jesus as our best friend in every way, and ultimately as our Saviour.
I spent some time jotting down ideas for illustrations, creating a cast of recurring characters, and sketching possibilities. Ideas were easy and comfortable, as I was fortunate enough to experience God's grace in a home where my parents constantly acknowledged, thanked, praised, consulted, and asked forgiveness of the Lord. His friendship has been demonstrated to me in every way, so I didn't have to wonder what Noel's words might mean.
When I had a rough sketch completed for every page (such as the one above), Noel took a look and provided feedback. When these ideas were incorporated and the resulting drawings were approved, I began to paint. I work on four watercolor paintings at a time, which allows each newly painted section to dry before I return to it.
The entire process took several enjoyable months.