Discover more from cosmic playdate
mirror, mirror on the words…
the story behind the illustrated alphabet project.
If you've been following this newsletter, you may be familiar with Beth, the little uninvited guest that often plants seeds of doubt in my mind. As I delve deeper into the roots behind the negative language I had internalized to describe my perceived shortcomings, it made me reflect on how those words shaped my understanding of myself, which ultimately pushed me down a path to self discovery (and therapy!) that has allowed me to challenge these limiting beliefs.
To counter the influence of Beth's negative words, I undertook a simple exercise: replacing every self-inflicted critique with an alternative adjective that carried a positive spin. This shift in perspective had a profound impact on how I saw myself, instilling me with confidence and a renewed sense of self-love. And it was during this transformative process that the seed of the alphabet project was planted.
Now, as the project has reached its completion, I am thrilled to answer some of the thoughtful questions I have received from some of you regarding the production of this project. Your genuine curiosity and engagement have been both inspiring and humbling. The thought-provoking inquiries you shared have ignited self-reflection and sparked insightful realizations, allowing me to delve deeper into my own motivations and intentions. I am truly grateful for your support and the enriching dialogue we continue to cultivate together. So, without further ado, let's explore the why and the how of it all.
What inspired you to create this illustrated alphabet project, and how did you come up with the idea?
This project sprouted from a deeply personal place, rooted in my own battles with self-doubt, perfectionism, and the weight of societal expectations that have threatened to dim my creative spark throughout my life.
During a transformative therapy session, my therapist posed a question that struck a chord within me: "Would you ever say that to your daughters?" Her words resonated deeply, causing me to reflect on my harsh self-criticism and unrealistic standards. It forced me to question the notion of stifling self-expression and consider the profound impact it can have on any individual, especially my own children.
As I embarked on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, I began to recognize the immense power and significance of celebrating our uniqueness. I wished to equip my daughters with a tool that would not only captivate their attention by its whimsy, but also empower them to wholeheartedly embrace their individuality. Thus, the idea for the illustrated alphabet project began to blossom.
Envisioning each letter of the alphabet accompanied by a succinct yet enchanting animation of a positive adjective, I sought to celebrate qualities that might be erroneously perceived as negative traits by some. In this way, "stubborn" could transform into "determined," "unpredictable" could metamorphose into "spontaneous," and so forth. Children possess an innate ability to see the cup half-full and brimming with possibilities. So, my vision was to create something that would not only fill their cups but also, hopefully, add some additional drops of inspiration.
When I shared the idea for this project with my therapist, her response affirmed that I was on the right path: "Sounds like growth." And I couldn't agree more.
Can you tell us about your creative process? How do you approach illustrating a letter, and what techniques do you use?
The creative process behind the alphabet project was an immersive and collaborative journey that spanned approximately four months, from conception to completion. Initially, the project started as a simple idea for a book pitch to publishers. I had written a list of positive adjectives for my own use and had stuck them next to my computer. From there, the idea gradually transformed into a coherent alphabet, where I populated each letter with the list I had already gathered. However, as I began collaborating with my little brother, Jesús, on animation work, a new vision emerged, and I felt a strong desire to integrate our partnership into this project. Working together and connecting through our art has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the entire process.
During the conception phase, I immersed myself in extensive exploration and iteration, conducting numerous sketching sessions to experiment with a wide range of ideas and visual concepts. A pivotal aspect of this process was honing the color palette and defining the visual style that I would ultimately adopt. As the project entailed creating both typographical elements and accompanying animations for all 26 letters of the alphabet, it was crucial for me to establish a robust aesthetic foundation right from the start. This commitment to thorough exploration and careful consideration allowed me to avoid the risk of losing motivation or encountering regrets due to inadequate exploration in the early stages. With at least 52 unique pieces to bring to life, I knew that investing the necessary time and effort in the initial concept phase would pave the way for a cohesive and visually captivating collection.
This commitment to thorough exploration and careful consideration provided me with the confidence and clarity needed to move forward. It allowed me to invest the necessary time and effort into bringing each letter to life. Throughout the process, conversations with my brother played a crucial role in shaping the project. We discussed what medium would be easiest to animate, which led us to settle on a digital gouache look. The vibrant color palette was carefully selected to include enough neutrals hues and bright tints to allow for unique variations throughout the project, creating a balance between cohesion within the entire body of work and individuality in each piece.
Each letter of the alphabet has a unique illustration in this project. Can you walk us through the inspiration behind some of the letters and their corresponding illustrations?
As I delved into the creative process, I made sure to gather insights from a trusted team of experts. My brother, Jesus, became my go-to guru for animation wizardry, while my husband offered a healthy dose of common sense (much needed at times!). Of course, I couldn't forget the input of fellow creatives who provided encouragement and feedback. But let's not forget the most discerning critic of all: my almost-3-year-old daughter, who held the power of the ultimate stamp of approval.
These valuable insights served as a sounding board, ensuring clarity in the storytelling of the illustrations. My primary goal was to convey the meaning of each word clearly through the accompanying animation, using visuals as a bridge to facilitate understanding for little ones. By embracing these diverse perspectives, the project gained a richness that resonated with both my own vision and the demands required to connect with a young audience. Throughout the process, I held three guiding principles close to my heart: simplicity, whimsy, and joy. Cosmic Emilia, as the protagonist, engages in actions that can only be performed or imagined by a child, infusing the illustrations with a sense of wonder and playfulness.
As for the animation component, my talented brother, Jesus has this to add:
It all starts with the illustration. I was very fortunate to work with Aniella, who's incredible art helped inform how everything should look in motion.
To facilitate the animation process, I requested that Aniella divide the various elements of each illustration into separate Photoshop layers. This allowed me to have more control and flexibility in manipulating each component individually.
Once the layers were organized, I approached the animation like a puppeteer, positioning the characters in the scene and moving them every other frame to create smooth motion. Additionally, I incorporated frame-by-frame animations for certain elements like water splashes or smoke effects, adding extra depth and detail to the overall look.
How did you stay the course and stayed motived to keep going in such a long project?
After finalizing the design of the initial two letters, I found myself fueled with motivation to continue and honor the essence of those original pieces. The desire to see the entire alphabet come to life and the curiosity of what it would look like as a whole drove me forward. Admittedly, Beth and her persistent doubts made their appearances from time to time, but their voices grew fainter as I witnessed your engagement with the content and saw your appreciation for the work. Your support and shared enthusiasm provided the encouragement I needed to stay the course and maintain my motivation throughout this lengthy project.
How long did it take to finish each piece?
As I previously mentioned, the preparation work was the most time-consuming part of the project. When I started sharing the project, I already had around one week's worth of finished pieces ready. However, midway through, I fell ill with a cold and lost the lead I had. Despite the setback, I pushed forward and managed to complete two pieces per day, including the animation element. It was a challenging and somewhat stressful process, but also incredibly rewarding to see each piece come to life.
Regarding the animation element, my brother shares some insight:
Throughout the process, I had to be mindful of the time constraints. While some letters required a bit more time, with a maximum of about two days, I had to find ways to streamline certain aspects of my workflow to ensure we met the overall deadline. It was a delicate balancing act, but the determination to bring this project to fruition kept me focused, committed, and motivated to deliver the best work possible within the given timeframe.
What do you hope children and parents will take away from this project, and how do you think it can benefit young children?
I've come across the notion that the way we talk to our little ones shapes the inner dialogues. And that's precisely why this project holds such significance. It's meant to ignite inspiration in both children and parents alike, sprinkling their lives with positive messages that champion self-acceptance, self-love, and the sheer joy of embracing one's unique individuality.
By openly delving into the beauty of imperfections, we lay the groundwork for a lifetime where kids naturally become masters of speaking kindly to themselves from an early age.
This project establishes a sacred space for profound conversations between parents and their little ones, delving into the realms of feelings, characteristics, and values that shape their growing understanding of the world. It serves as a beautiful springboard for discussions on self-esteem, empathy, and the profound significance of kindness and acceptance, both towards oneself and others.
Can you share any tips for parents or educators on how to encourage children's creativity and self-expression through art?
Just like adults, children thrive in an environment that embraces their creativity, offering them a safe space, freedom, and encouragement to express themselves. These tips can help create a nurturing atmosphere for anyone seeking to cultivate a creative haven:
Create an atmosphere of warmth and inclusivity, where children feel empowered to express themselves without fear of judgment. Let them know that their ideas hold value and are worthy of respect. Encourage them to explore their curiosity and embark on artistic adventures, fearlessly experimenting with different materials and techniques. Celebrate their willingness to take risks, as these often lead to the most exciting and unexpected discoveries. Throughout my own artistic journey, I have discovered that embracing risks has been the catalyst for my most fulfilling creations.
Shift the focus from the final outcome to the process of creating. Encourage children to explore and experiment without expectations. Help them understand that the true value lies in the experience of trying something new, rather than solely on achieving a "perfect" or "correct" end result. Remind them that in art, there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn, grow, and start afresh.
Celebrate their artwork and engage in meaningful conversations. Show genuine interest in their creations by displaying and showcasing their work with pride. Encourage them to share their artistic journey and ask thought-provoking questions about their inspiration, techniques, and intentions.
Ultimately, by creating an environment that embraces and nurtures children's creativity, we empower them to explore their artistic potential, develop their skills, and cultivate a lifelong love for self-expression.
Finally, what's next for the illustrated alphabet project? Do you have any plans for future iterations or expansions of the project?
It is my dream to transform this project into an immersive exhibition, a space where this work can come alive and be experienced and discussed in person. I also envision creating art prints, stationary, flashcards, magnets an allow you all to bring these pieces into your homes. And above all, I am genuinely hopeful about the potential of turning this project into a board book, reaching a wider audience and sharing the magic it holds. While I may be half-joking about needing an agent or publisher, deep down, I'm also quite serious. If you happen to know someone who can help make this dream a reality, well, that would truly be something, wouldn't it?
One last thing…
If you read this far… Thank you! I hope this behind-the-scenes deep dive has given you a glimpse into my motivations and creative process. Your ideas and feedback hold immense value as I believe in the power of collaboration and community. Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments or by replying to this email. Exciting updates and surprises await on the journey ahead for the illustrated alphabet project. Stay tuned!