Early in this process, just when I needed it, I came upon a quote from the granddaughter of Leo Lionni (Lady Baby and I have read “Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse” many times), which became my guide:
“The most frequent question that children asked my grandfather Leo was, ‘How do you get your ideas?’ He would usually start with a simple idea. Sometimes the idea would be a beginning to a story, some times an ending, other times it might be the main character, or the situation. But however it would start, he would work hard to create the best story possible. And so, to the question ‘How do you get your ideas?’ he would give a simple answer – ‘Hard work.’”
The trick is to know what exactly is the work. I didn’t know. So as a place to begin I made portraits of the principles in “Friends for Frances,” knowing they’d be unlike the real illustrations, but wanting to get to know their fur and their faces, wanting their pictures tipped up by my worktable, keeping me company!