Squiggle Bee is my third picture book published by Raw Mixture Publishing in 2015. The original idea for the book was inspired by a small meadow that my parents planted in their garden which quickly attracted a lot of bees. My 2 year old niece was fascinated by them and I wanted to capture the delight she expressed at these little squiggly creatures whilst also drawing attention to the importance of these wonderful insects who are currently in so much danger of disappearing. The story follows Squiggle Bee, a happy, inquisitive bee who just doesn’t seem to fit in with the other Grumble Bees in her hive. Her sense of adventure and squiggly way of flying often makes her late back home and she is banished from her hive forcing her to embark on a new squiggly adventure as she tries to find her place in the world. The books is a celebration of creativity, of being brave and embracing our uniqueness.
The Line // One of the most important design considerations of the book was how to represent the joyful squiggly path of Squiggle Bee. The first decision I made about the design of the book was that I wanted to make this part of the story very interactive and my response to this was to create a continuous squiggly line that runs across every page, including the front and back covers forming a seamless squiggly loop. The reader is able to trace the line with their finger as it responds to and illustrates the mood and movement of Squiggle Bee and the rhythm of the story and text.
Creative Process // I had an urge to experiment on this project. I wanted to build on the style of my previous books and try to create illustrations with a new level of richness and texture. Much of my previous work has been created from black pen drawings, which I then scan in and vectorise to compose and colour digitally. To some extent, I used similar methods for Squiggle Bee, but I also incorporated other media and techniques into the digital illustrations including cut paper collage i.e. the yellow flowers and mountain scenes, and photography which I used for texture and to create some of the silhouetted meadows. I really enjoyed the experimentation and layering of these different components which enabled me come up with some surprising effects.
'Ruth has excelled herself with the illustrations in this book. There is a new depth of colour and interest that gives a powerful feel of the different places the little bee visits. Like her previous books, the illustrations are still bold and bright, but this time with more depth and interest on each page, a work of art!' Ally from Book Monsters blog
Colour // As with my previous books, I created a restricted colour palette which was generated from the warm bright yellow colour of the bee. I love the use of this orangery yellow against a rich inky blue, so the rest of the blue and grey tones were chosen to compliment this combination giving me enough scope with the addition of white and black to create a series of different and contrasting atmospheres, moods and landscapes.
Texture // In my previous books I used a lot of flat graphic colour, but I wanted to push my illustration style further and try something new with Squiggle Bee to create a richness and texture that I hadn’t achieved before. Through different experimentations, I settled on using a photograph I had taken of a piece of slate within the Tropical House at The National Botanic Gardens of Wales - particularly apt as it sits next to the dedicated Bee Garden and within the Double Walled Garden which has a pollination trail with lots of information on the importance of bees.
The texture provided depth and variety to a limited colour palette and it was important to me to use light and dark contrast throughout the book to help illustrate the changing scenery, character traits and emotions throughout the story.
Characterisation // Illustrating the emotion and character of the bees was a really important part of the storytelling process. Although I wanted to keep the graphic style of the bees quite simple, I also wanted to achieve real expression to show the contrast between the boring grumpy Grumble Bees and the creative and joyful Squiggle Bees. This was partly demonstrated through colour and the shape of the movement lines as previously discussed, but also through the position and facial expressions of the bees. This was probably one of the most challenging parts of illustrating the story, but I am pleased to say that even now, every time I turn the page onto the Grumble Bees it makes me chuckle because they just look so miserable and irritated in contrast to the lively and animated Squiggle Bee.