Water All Around Me

November 13, 2017


Contributed by Sara Infante, Illustrator


Cantata Learning was the first client that I have met through the representation of Bright Agency. I was thrilled with the opportunity to collaborate with a publisher based on a place so far away from home and working for a new public was a challenge that I was very happy to meet and overcome.


I was sought out as a potential illustrator for the Water All Around Us series due to a piece from my portfolio that had a marked graphic voice. You can see this style across the books – it is simple and straightforward and uses the non-printed white surface of the page as a pivotal color within the chosen palette. Although achieved by an overall digital technique it is inspired by screen printing.



I began this project in the way that I begin every book: by making a storyboard. It is an essential step to my work process and I love everything about it, from the endless notes (in English and Portuguese, it gets all mixed up and ends up kind of crazy!) to the funny little characters. It always amazes me to see how such tiny drawings can contain so many ideas and details.



When I’m happy with the direction the storyboard is taking I move to print-size sketches. That is the time when I really focus on composition and questions like: Where should I place this object in order to get maximum dramatic effect? How can I stretch this character’s legs in order to make the reader feel that he is running with exertion?


This time during the sketch-making phase I also had in mind one other thing: the musical aspect of the project (something that was new to me since I had never illustrated an audio book before!). I was told that the music style was inspired on Bluegrass sounds and instruments. Since this specific music is foreign to me and my own roots, I wanted to really dive into it and treat this inspiration with great respect. I started to listen a lot to bluegrass songs while I was working on the books and tried to imprint a sense of folk nostalgia to the images by developing spontaneous scenes characterized by family relationships and easiness.



After the sketches’ approval I moved on to the final illustrations. The majority of the painting work was digital with the exception of some details which were previously hand-drawn with soft pencils and then colored on digital medium. What most stands out regarding the painting is the limited yet colorful palette that was used – you can only find four colors throughout the four books. The chromatic chord begins with a cerulean blue in reference to the big hero of these series and is followed by a strong vermilion that makes us think of children’s energy and creativity. To balance these two bright colors with light and shadow we have the natural white tone of the paper and a dark brown hue.



It was a great joy to receive a copy of these four books. The nature of the publishing world is such that it only allows the illustrator to see the finished product with the images he created many months after the illustration process took place – after so much time it is impossible for me to look at my own work and don’t see many things that I would do differently and hopefully better nowadays. Nevertheless these books are filled with pictures that bring me much pride.


I would like to finish by thanking Cantata Learning for this opportunity and share that these books hold a very special place in my heart given that their execution coincided with the premature birth and early months of life of my first child (that baby was cradled many times at the sound of bluegrass songs, I can assure you!). A special thank you to two gentleman: my agent James Burns at Bright who got me this lovely project and Tim Palin who was a valuable art director always happy to answer any question that I might had and always ready to help me improve my illustration work.