behind the scenes at issue #161

How to illustrate a magazine article, in this case: an article titled “Handsome in Pink,” written by a dad, Matthew Rushford, about his little boy’s love of the color pink.

1. Hire Ben Hatke.

Email Ben, whom you know from a previous job he did for Mothering, briefly describing the story, budget, and deadline. Ask whether he’s available. Send the story and an excerpt describing the scene which you think might make a good opener:

I stood with my two-year-old son, gazing at the wall of shoes at Payless Shoes. In our immediate range of vision were easily 300 pairs of shoes, all more or less John’s size, and in every conceivable style. Sneakers, slippers, hiking shoes . . . “Oh! These, Papa!” my son gasped, seeming to be literally pulled toward one particular pair, fourth row from the top, far to one side. I walked over to find him reaching for the first_thumb-w-nomost beautiful pair of white and pink slip-on pumps you could ever see on the feet of a 35- pound toddler. They were just about the pinkest, floweriest, girliest pair of shoes in the store. . .

2. Get an email back from Ben, saying he’s available and interested and attaching a rough sketch (1):

I just sent you a scribbly thumbnail showing my first inclination. Pretty simple and literal . . .


3. spread-w-noWrite Ben back, saying you

need more room for the text of the story.

And send him a PDF showing the space available across the top half of the opening spread (2). Tell him the illustration is looking good, but:

My initial thought is that the shoes need to be “over the top” in their sparkling pink amazingness.



second_thumb-w-no4. Get email from Ben with a revised thumbnail (3).

Notice that it is really close to what you want. Except for the shoes. They still don’t feel quite right. Not girlie enough. Or. . . what?

5. Realize that the problem might be that the text says ‘pumps’ but the shoes in the rough sketch look more like booties. Point this out to Ben.

6. Receive email from Ben:

Great.  I’ll get on this then, and I’ll be sure to make the shoes proper pumps. Stay tuned!

pencils-w-no7. Get another email from Ben with pencils (sketch done in pencil, before color is added) (4).

Attached are the pencils for the Handsome in Pink illo. The scan is pretty bad because the pencils are so light, but I thought you’d want to check it for any glaring problems.  Otherwise I’ll start in on inks in the morning.


8. Look closely at the latest sketch and realize that even though the text says “pumps,” and even though you asked for pumps, toddler girls’ shoes aren’t really pumps.

Here’s where you also think that Ben may not have had occasion to be in the know about Toddler Girl Shoe Fashion. Send him a veritable pink plethora of girlie toddler shoe imagery you find online (5).shoes-w-no

I think I steered you wrong with PUMPS.  I should’ve done this initially, but I just now went looking online at toddler girls’ shoes, and of course there’s no heel. . . . And I know the writer said “slip-ons” but most toddler girls’ shoes have straps (even when they slip on). So here are some images I pulled from a couple of shoe sites, just to sorta give you the range. (I’m including the sandally ones here because of their decorative accents!)

None of these are exactly right, since none of them are over the top enough. . . But I would aim for a lower heel and a more open front with a strap. And then whatever flowers, gemstones, bows, butterflies, shiny things you want to decorate with

9. Receive confirmation from Ben that he gets what you’re talking about—and understands why you sent him all those shoes.

Thanks.  I’m glad I sent you the pencils! . . . I’m going to use that first pink pair of shoes, the large image, as a model but they’ll hopefully be more over the top

10. Receive final illustration from Ben, drop it into the InDesign layout and . . . voilà!




And with that, I have to say I love getting to work with patient, creative, talented people like Ben.

(In addition to the whimsical illustration, it’s a fun story. Be sure to check it out.)


P.S. You can see more of Ben’s work at his very engaging blog, here.




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2 thoughts on “behind the scenes at issue #161”

  1. Thanks, Jake. “Evolve” is a good word for what happens. Sometimes much more smoothly than others!

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