As part of the Let’s Make Picture Books group, I developed this new picture book cover portfolio piece. Fergus the Friendly Fu Dog is fictional story about a fu dog and his human friend Maddie. Fu dogs, also known as guardian lions, are a Chinese symbol of protection – primarily seen in front of temples or places of importance. They are always seen in pairs – a male and female – and usually stone sculptures. Studying a little bit of their background helped me develop the relationships between characters and how I wanted to color and texture Fergus.

Picture book cover sketches, color roughs and character development

I started creating rough thumbnails for my cover. Thinking about the appeal a cover would have on the bookstore shelves drove me to these 2 cover ideas. Both of them show the scale of Fergus compared to his human and can immediately communicate the magical nature of the character. While one choice focused primarily on the 2 characters, the other introduced a little of the setting of the characters – that they are in “the real world” on the girl’s neighborhood street. Once I had chosen the sketches, I moved on to color roughs to work out how I might best apply the color.

Children's book illustration sketch

Refined sketches

After I had chosen some thumbnails to develop and worked through the color roughs, I was still undecided on which to proceed with. I ended up refining my sketches for both ideas – thinking that might help with the choice to move forward.

Character development

Going into the character development process, I knew I wanted to try and make Fergus appear to be made from stone. He also needed to appear less intimidating than actual fu dog statues so I chose a soft color palette. I then wanted to make sure his golden ornate collar and accent pieces stood out against the rock texture.

I also spent time during this process thinking about his friend. Since fu dogs are traditionally seen in pairs of male and female, I wanted to give him a little girl to befriend.

Final Picture Book Cover

After experimenting with texture ideas for both the stone and gold, I finally chose a sketch to finish off and came up with a technique to apply to the final artwork. I added divots, cracks and weathering to Fergus to make it appear as if he’s very old and mythical. Finally, I added some hand lettered text for the title. While I felt like the text could be more ornate to match his decorative collar, I decided to make it more legible for young children who would be reading this book.

Picture Book Cover
A children’s picture book cover with a friendly fu dog and his human.