At the launch of the third title in our Visual Philosophy for Children series, Whatever You Want (an invitation to wonder and ponder about freedom), Wonder Ponder illustrator, designer and co-author Daniela Martagón told the audience about the creative process from her point of view. She focused on the fascinating search for the right tone.
Here is what Daniela shared:
The first idea was very different from the final result. This first approach was based on the concept of cages and confinement in different variations as a means of exploring degrees and possibilities of freedom,
This 'first dummy' was shown to a group of children of different ages (5 to 12) in the form of an exhibition during a series of workshops. And it worked very well. It contained powerful scenes that led to very interesting reactions and dialogues but after working with the scenes, we felt that as a whole the concept was rather fatalistic and oppressive. We felt we needed an approach that would allow room for freer or more liberating examples.
The second attempt was tied to the working title we had for the box in English: Freedom in a Box. We loved the title and we also liked the possibility of finding freedom in confinement represented by the image, but we could not find a way of translating it into Spanish that sounded good. The literal translation "La libertad en caja" created an involuntary pun with "en caja" (in a box) and "encaja" (to fit in) that did not make us happy. We didn't want to have titles in Spanish and English that were too dissimilar from a conceptual point of view, so we looked for another title.
After finding one we were happy with in both languages (Whatever You Want / Lo que tú quieras), we continued to experiment with the idea of freedom in confinement, again playing with cages. But here we found again and again, that the meaning of the title and the meaning of the image clashed. It just wasn't working. We were starting to feel imprisoned by our own cage idea.
We removed the cage and tried with a gag and rope. But it still wasn't clear. Some people even pointed to possible innuendos we had never even thought of (really!).
And then came a second phase, where I veered to the other extreme: life with no supervision or rules of any kind. Children playing with fire.
A power-intoxicated baby. Driving, smoking.
But we didn't like the moralistic tone of it, whereby if children are given freedom, they don't know how to handle it. That was not the route we wanted to follow either. I decided to keep the baby, but I swapped the unchecked will for desire. I tried with the idea of a genie.
It wasn't bad, we like it. We were almost there... But we felt the cover elicited only the desire aspect of freedom, when inside, the book was about so much more. Still not quite convincing.
And then I drew this girl in full, ecstatic explosion of freedom.
Free! We liked the celebratory feel of it.
I continued to try it out, until I hit upon the idea of a loudspeaker.
Here, not only is she in full ectasy of freedom, but she is also asking us readers to join her. We felt we had reached the end of our fascinating journey from fatalism to celebration. This was it!
A few changes, a bit of colour. and voilà!
All the illustrations from this post by Daniela Martagón.