Picture Books & Motherhood with Illustrator Allison Black

Allison Black is the American designer and illustrator behind Hip-Hip. After collaborating with her on a collection of wonderfully bold and playful greeting cards featuring many a smiley mammal, she was always going to be our first choice to illustrate Papier’s first personalised children’s book All The Things I Wish For You.

Here she describes what it was like to work on the book while pregnant with her first baby and, flipping the idea of the book, all the things she wishes for her own mother.

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alt textA young Allison with her mum

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Art always came naturally to me. I have two siblings that are several years older, so I typically couldn't keep up with them but when it came to drawing I could actually hold my own! My mom picked up on my interest and she enrolled me in some classes that I really enjoyed. Eventually she found a local artist who taught group classes for kids in her home studio. I went to her class every week from fourth grade until I graduated high school. Her name is Pam Ford and she basically taught me how to draw! It wasn't until I applied to colleges that I realised the specific field that I should go into was illustration. I just knew I liked to draw things that had a story or a purpose.

All The Things I Wish For You was the second book I illustrated so I had figured out some parts of the process but I was still learning a lot too. When the Papier team approached me, I let them know that I was expecting a kid right around the time they were hoping to have the project completed but they were nice enough to work around that so we charged ahead! I drew several children to show the general style (especially since I typically draw animals, not kids) and then we went back and forth making adjustments to their age, outfits, etc.

” I always want to make exceptional art that I'm proud of but I also wanted to make something that I would be excited to share with him.”

Once the manuscript was ready, the Papier team pulled together some initial art direction based on my portfolio pieces which helped me get started on sketches. We wanted each spread to be a beautiful piece of art, so I made sure to include a lot of fun details, leave room for personalization and create a colorful world for the reader to be a part of. When sketching, I only worked with one character but as I moved into final art I had to consider all the different variations. It was an interesting challenge drawing all the characters in each scene, especially on the last page where the cover of the book matches the kid on the cover art.

alt textAn early sketch of the character in All The Things I Wish For You When I was doing initial development of the children in the book, I drew one boy with brown hair on a rock about to catch a frog and that was how I pictured my son would look as a little kid. (But he surprised us!) The boy that I did all my sketches with was actually based on my friend's son, Oliver. He is one of the cutest kids I've ever seen and he's always doing something fun and adventurous with his family. Since I didn't know my son at the time, I tried to infuse the characters in the book with his wonderful spirit!

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alt textAllison's son Quinn The book was mostly done when I gave birth to my son, Quinn. I had my first pass at final artwork handed off but I still had some minor updates to make and I had to add the variation of characters after he arrived. Being pregnant with Quinn while working on the book both gave me a sense of urgency to wrap things up and gave me a little extra motivation to make every page great. I always want to make exceptional art that I'm proud of but I also wanted to make something that I would be excited to share with him, so there was a little more pressure to get it right.

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Quinn really responds to the colorful pages. He gets most excited for the magician and space spreads but I feel most connected to the mountain spread. My husband and I love traveling and exploring the world so I'm excited to share those experiences with Quinn as he continues to grow and take in more and more.

Being a mom is an amazing and unique experience but it's also a really tough job! I feel like I should tell every mom I see that she's doing great and to keep it up because it can be pretty exhausting and there's a lot of pressure to only share the wonderful parts of being a mom. Every day is a unique challenge but it's worth it in the end!

I hope my mom knows how much I appreciate all that she's done for me… and all she continues to do for me! I know I can call her when I'm not sure what to do, when I'm frustrated by something, when I'm feeling down or even if I just want to chat about nothing. She always celebrates my successes and she's always in my corner. She's my favorite person to talk to and I wish for her continued good health and for years and years of adventures and memories ahead!

Send a little one in your life off on their own personalised adventure with All The Things I Wish For You.