Ânia Marcos
Ânia Marcos

Stopping Too Soon Or Exploring Forever? :: Creating a Picture Book From Scratch (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a series where I share the struggles, failures, and victories that I’ve encountered since I started working on my currently ongoing Picture Book project.

In part 1 of this series, I talk about how I found the message for my book. In part 2, I share how failure brought me closer to success when trying to find a story for my theme. Today in part 3, I dive into the struggle I encountered once I started exploring my character designs:

How Do You Know When To Stop Exploring And Commit?

It’s easy to get lost in the exploration process – it’s so fun! It’s hard to avoid stopping too soon, but also to commit to an idea and keep developing the book. Fortunately, I found something that works for me:

I gave myself deadlines and made as many explorations as I possibly could within the time I had.

…but where to start?

Who Are Your Characters?

Rough explorations for my characters.

It seems obvious when I write about it, but my first challenge was figuring out who my characters were. I know I’m writing about the relationship between two sisters and how magic binds them together, but that information alone isn’t enough to get to know them and bring them alive.

…it’s kind of the difference between talking about a close friend and a neighbor you see every now and then. I can tell you what my friend does when she’s bored, what food she’s allergic to and what makes her laugh.

On the other hand, all  I know about the gentleman that lives next door is that he has two dogs and loves his mustache.

In other words, if I want my design choices to reflect the character’s personalities, I couldn’t start figuring out what they looked like before understanding who they were.

And so I spent two full days writing about the two sisters: How old are they? What kind of movies do they enjoy? How is their relationship to each other? Favorite color? Animal? What are they afraid of?

Not only I learned a lot about my girls, I discovered that the protagonist was not the older sister, as I had first intended, but the younger one (whaaaaaa…?).

That realization alone gave a whole new rhythm and energy to the story! \o/

How Does Who They Are Influence What They Look Like?

This part was extremely fun. I gave myself one week to explore. After the week was over, I had to choose a design.

There are a trillion ways to go about the exploration process. It’s very personal. Some people create silhouettes, others work with paper cuts or collages.

I personally like to grab an ink pen and make small doodles.

By keeping my explorations small, I avoid noodling and focus on the main shapes. Later, when I’m happy with the overall image, I start exaggerating the proportions until the drawings look… well. Terrible.

Only by going too far in the exploration process I can figure out where to draw the line (pun not intended!).

By giving myself deadlines, I gained and kept a momentum that allowed me to make a ton of explorations and had several breakthroughs in the process!

Some of my character explorations. Also, that’s Chibi. She loves the camera.

What’s Your Exploration Process Like?

What materials and methods best work with your workflow? I’m always thrilled to discover new possibilities, so I’d love to hear from you! 😀

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!


PS: Next week I’m sharing a secret method I came up with to give even more life to my characters. Spoiler: it involves my own childhood pictures!

PPS: I love to geek out and talk about my process and this kind of stuff! This was the hardest post to write so far because I just couldn’t keep it short. If you have any questions, ideas, or simply would like to geek out alongside me, please drop me a comment below or email me at aniamarcos@gmail.com! ♥


  1. Natalia - 4 years ago

    I also have a lot of trouble with the creative process… If I don’t give myself a deadline, I’ll never stop tinkering with the designs. I like to explore with ink, it feels “cleaner” and smoother than pencils, and I think a lot about texture. Somehow, I want people to “feel” what I draw. Only after I’ve explored enough with traditional media, I’ll go into digital.

    • aniamarcos - 4 years ago

      Hi, Natalia!

      I love what you said – “I want people to feel what I draw.” I can relate to that so much! Did you find ink as your workflow right away or was that a process for you? And do you aplpy it with brushes, or other random materials?

      I also prefer traditional media for my explorations <3 No control-Z, hahaha!

      Thank you so much for sharing your process!! 😀

  2. Britny - 4 years ago

    I’M HERE FOR THE PARTAYYY! Also, I love this! I have struggled with character design so SO much and for so long. It took me a little while to realize that drawing characters was never my favorite thing to do (ahem…except maybe for horse characters). I love to write about them and geek out when other people have the talent to draw them. ^_^

    But the other part, the one about how to know when exploration is too much exploration and when to stop. I still have trouble with that. I did a ton of thumbnails one time… and then never took it further. It’s like when it’s time to decide, I fizzle out. Or get scared about my decision.

    This isn’t just in art making… it’s in life too. My hubby learned to wait five minutes after I’ve made a decision because I changed my mind so often.

    <3 you Ania!

    • aniamarcos - 4 years ago

      WOOOO, BRITNYYYY!!!! <3 Thank you so much 😀

      It's great that you realized that your thing is to write about your characters instead of drawing them - huge breakthrough! Collaborations are a great way to strengthen our strengths indeed 🙂

      I wonder what's stopping you from making decisions, Britny. Maybe it's something that can be worked on? One thing I try sometimes is to just reduce my choices to two with an elimination process and then flip a coin...

      #TwoFaceCoinFlip xD

      ...seriously though, it's really helpful. Haha!

  3. Elly - 4 years ago


    This is such a good post, and such a GREAT reminder to keep organized with deadlines! I think that’s my main problem: When I don’t give myself deadlines I procrastinate and become intimidated to do the hard work: which is sitting down and actually thinking about these details and asking the right questions of character development! I am for SURE coming back to your post when i start doing some character designing, which will be very soon!

    Thank you for writing this, I appreciate you and the work you do!

  4. aniamarcos - 4 years ago

    Thank you, Elly! You’re so kind T_T <3 <3

    Please let me know your thoughts and any questions you have when you start your process, I'd LOVE to hear about it 😀


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *