December 3, 2014
Inspired by her childhood toy (stuffed animal), Hickory Hippo was brought to visual life by artist Leanne Hannah. In his first adventure, Hickory encounters a walking, talking snowman, a Marshroom, and Ridley Rabbit. Each character had to be visualized on paper from the imaginations of the creators, which is no small task.
Big characters can be intimidating for the young reader and for little Hickory too. For the snowman. with spindly arms and a missing nose, there is the potential for him to have quite a frightening appearance. It was important to get the balance of his ghostly look and his benign intentions just right.
Hickory is a character Leanne has drawn over the years for herself and family, so she already knew the character very intimately. Capturing his curiosity and cuteness came relatively easy. There is something about him that is gentle and quiet that makes him immediately trustworthy and appear to be a very good listener.
Leanne uses a mix of traditional and digital art to depict Hickory Hippo and his friends. Although she still uses paper and ink when sketching at events, the book itself was illustrated entirely with a Wacom drawing tablet in Manga Studio and Photoshop. She still uses the same process as she would on paper, starting with a rough sketch to get the layout and character poses first. When she is happy with the roughs, she then refines the lineart with digital inks. The coloring is then completed on another layer, beneath the lineart, using gradients and shadows for added effect.
The process took several months to complete. Here is an example of the lineart and finished colors…
A signed copy of the book is available for $15 through the Hickory Hippo online store.