This is the story of the artist behind the beautiful and carefully crafted watercolor illustrations that brings the Madrona Heroes series to life.
So when I started conceiving of these books, I knew all along we would need an amazing illustrator. In fact, I was hoping to dump most of the work of these books on said illustrator as the books were originally going to be graphic novels. But soon I realized that that might even be harder to write than a novel, so I stuck with a straight up book. But I still knew that they needed adorable and beautiful illustrations throughout.
I scoured the internet, and one artist kept rising to the top of the list — Caroline Hadilaksono. Caroline’s art was gently beautiful and filled with life and detail. Even more importantly, I wanted to find some sort of shrink-ray and be transported into each little world Caroline created with her watercolors. That to me is the magic of illustration and the visual arts when it comes to storytelling. I am endlessly fascinated by images that make me want to enter their universe.
And I didn’t have to look far for an example of her work. Because hanging in my son’s room was one of Caroline’s Harry Potter travel posters that had stormed the internet a year before my search. That’s right, I found Caroline twice!
The only problem I had was that I had only written the first chapter of the first book of the series, and I had no real confidence that I would be able to finish the next 24. I worried Caroline would share my lack of confidence. But surprisingly, she didn’t. I shared the outline of the book with her and the first chapter and she was interested. From that moment on, Caroline became one of the main reasons I needed to write. I had convinced an incredible illustrator to collaborate with me on these books, and I didn’t want to humiliate myself in front of her by not delivering on my end of the bargain. So I wrote, and Caroline drew.
We learned to work together over time. The more chapters Caroline drew, the more comfortable she got with the characters, and the more I drew from her images as I wrote the text. And then when Caroline got to the cover, I just about lost my mind. It was so beautiful, so inviting. It so perfectly captured the world that was being created and brought it to life. And as I’d hoped, it made me want to jump into that universe. I’m guessing Caroline’s incredible illustrations do the same for you.
Now that we’ve finished our second book together, I’m even more excited. We’re both sharper in our respective illustration of these characters that we’ve grown to love. We grow as they do, and hopefully it shows in the finished books.
Go see all of Caroline’s work on her website. I get lost among her drawings every time I go. You should too.