Character Sketches: Discovering an Identity

Harper Peeking

I’m just finishing up a sketch dummy for a manuscript I’ve written called, “Harper’s Gathering Storm.” I began writing the story around 2011, while we were living in a sub-urban, forested neighborhood near Hamburg, Germany. We didn’t own a car but walked everywhere we went, which is pretty common there. My two oldest daughters were just barely preschoolers then and still riding in the double-stroller, but we often took leisurely walks along the cobblestone paths and visited the many parks and playgrounds hidden here and there among the woods and moors.

My daughters were (and still are!) big “collectors.” Every day they would come home with something new in their pockets. So I began to write about a little boy named Jasper who liked to gather things into his pockets–I think I must have chosen a little boy character because my husband and I were pondering the possibility of adding a third child to our family. I loved the name Jasper and planned to use it for our son if we ever had one.

Jasper Sketch

jasper peeking

Fast-forward a few years and we are living in the U.S. again. We did indeed add a third child to our family–another girl, born in October of 2013. Once she was about six months old, I decided to revisit my story and began to storyboard and┬ámake character sketches. After receiving a professional critique, I realized I needed to do some major revisions and get serious about honing my craft if I really wanted to become an author-illustrator! And drawing from life was something I knew I should be doing.

So, “Jasper,” a boy character, became “Harper,” a girl character.


harper sketch

Really, the change was a no-brainer since I am mama to three little girls!!! Write what you know, right? This change was crucial to the success of my illustrations since I have three little “models” running around here all of the time. Instead of sketching from pictures, I could sketch from real-life. Duh. Why didn’t I think of this in the first place?!

I have fallen in love with my character, Harper. She is like one of my daughters. Her personality is very similar to my middle girl, but really, she is a combination of all three. I love her and can’t wait to share her with the world someday soon!

Harper and Shields in Sun