Emma Graham's watercolours are full of exuberant animal characters. In the second of a two-part feature, she discusses how to achieve continuity of characters.

Continuity of characters: now this is one of those things that bugs me if it is wrong in my work and others too.

My studio isn’t huge, it is just a small conservatory, and space for spreading work out is limited. So when working on book spreads and characters I have a space above my drawing board to hang sketches and character sheets. Okay, so it is just a bit of ribbon with small bulldog clips, but it is there just in front of where I am working, I can hang lots of pieces and file through them to display the current character. We should know our character so well by the time we get to final artwork, but for me it is a great checking tool.

One piece of ribbon can make a big difference to your work. 

Also I make check lists for each character, especially when there are many in a book. This is something I refer to when all artwork is finished and tick it off as I check each character on each spread.

Character check lists do most of the work for you! 

It may even be an idea to have several images drawn up ready to add colour at the same time and then approach the work as a production line. For me colour mixing isn’t an issue as I find it second nature, but this approach can be useful sometimes. If a character repeats on several pages, you will save time and ensure continuity by mixing up a big quantity of the same colour and painting the repeating elements in one go. I sometimes work like this but I prefer one image at a time.

At the end of a project, I spread all work out on the studio floor, side by side, to have a good visual check. I do this to make sure that the images flow from spread to spread as well as using it as a vital point to check the continuity. (Usually banning the studio cat first, but luckily he was sound asleep this time!)
Important check no. 1: is cat asleep and out of the way? 
And, yes, in the past I have got to a final image in a book, looked at one of the characters and thought ‘something isn’t right’. Only when going back with ‘fresh eyes’ the next day did I realise I had left his scarf off! (Thankfully easily rectified!)

Emma Graham was a Hook finalist at the 2016 SCBWI BI conference and The Stratford Literary Festival picture book competition. Her first illustrated book, Symphony Hollow, written by Jessica Reino and published by Spork, has just been released in November 2017.
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