Monday, November 11, 2019

November #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on Bilal Cooks Daal with Author Aisha Saeed & Illustrator Anoosha Syed

Today I'm shining the spotlight on 
Aisha Saeed & Anoosha Syed,
author & illustrator of #cbadspotlight pick Bilal Cooks Daal 
and also illustrated by Anoosha: I Am Perfectly Designed
Bilal Cooks Daal
Six-year-old Bilal introduces his friends to his favorite dish—daal!—in this charming picture book that showcases the value of patience, teamwork, community, and sharing.

Six-year-old Bilal is excited to help his dad make his favorite food of all-time: daal! The slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia requires lots of ingredients and a whole lot of waiting. Bilal wants to introduce his friends to daal. They’ve never tried it! As the day goes on, the daal continues to simmer, and more kids join Bilal and his family, waiting to try the tasty dish. And as time passes, Bilal begins to wonder: Will his friends like it as much as he does?

This debut picture book by Aisha Saeed, with charming illustrations by Anoosha Syed, uses food as a means of bringing a community together to share in each other’s family traditions.

Thank you, Aisha & Anoosha, for joining me for a #cbadspotlight video & guest post today!

First, a video from author Aisha Saeed!

And insights from illustrator Anoosha Syed!

Hello everyone! I’m Anoosha Syed, a Pakistani-Canadian illustrator living in Toronto. I had the chance to illustrate Aisha Saeed’s wonderfully written book Bilal Cooks Daal which came out earlier this May.
When I was approached for this project I jumped at this opportunity because it would be the first time illustrating a book with South Asian characters. 
I never had books with characters that looked like me when I was growing up so it was really exciting to be able to create something with that positive Pakistani representation, with a great message about sharing and being proud of your culture. 

Working on Bilal is pretty similar to how I illustrate other picture books. After receiving the manuscript from Simon & Schuster, we started off with the initial character design for our main character Bilal and his dad, working closely with Aisha to recreate her vision for the characters. 
I sent over a couple of initial design explorations, just figuring out what they could look like and the style of the book. After a bit of adjustments and feedback from the team we ended up with the below design, which I then moved onto with color. I also work as a character designer for animation, so this is always a fun stage for me since this is what I do best!

After settling on the character designs, we moved onto the rough sketch stage. I’m not really a big fan of working small and thumbnailing; I like going head-first into drawing everything! Some books I’ve worked on might have pretty strong direction for what to draw on each page, but the Art Direction team for this project left it pretty open-ended for some artistic freedom. 

For the first spread, I illustrated Bilal and his friends heading home from a day out, with Abu calling out for them to help make daal. Composition and placement is important when illustrating picture books, and knowing how to draw the readers’ eyes in the direction you want them to go. For example, Bilal and his friends are riding toward the right because we read from left to right, and we want the readers’ eyes to lead towards the next page and Abu. Figuring out where the text goes is also important to making sure the artwork and words fit perfectly together. In this case, I used the branches on the tree to wrap around the text on the top left.

Another example of text placement would be on this spread, where the spots on the left punctuate each phrase. It’s also fun to play around with the words in creative ways, like having them wet with water drops like on the left page, or labelling the daal jars on the right. 

After sending over all the roughs to the Art team, they review it and come back with some notes and corrections, and I get to work on the revised sketch stage. You can see here how I’ve refined the rough drawings, and made it cleaner and adjusted from the notes. One change was that in the earlier sketch, Abu was waving at the kids to come over. When writing picture books, you have to be very selective in choosing your words (usually having to write the story in less than 500 words!). So it’s up to the artist to squeeze in as much story and detail as they can into the artwork! Now, Abu is tying on his apron, which leads to the next page and the idea that he’s ready to start cooking! 

After making the changes and getting everything approved, it’s time for the finals! Some people like to start with color tests, but again, I like to dive right in. In terms of color, I also try to be selective and smart about how I lead the readers’ eyes. Here, I made the color red a rare but striking color. I painted most of the background blue, so when you see the red, your eyes are immediately drawn to it because of how it contrasts against the cool color. That’s why Bilal’s bike, helmet, and his house are red, to signify its importance!

Finally, all that’s left is the last approval, and then it’s ready to print! Here are the finals below with the text included.

I hope this in-depth look into my process for Bilal Cooks Daal was an interesting insight into the world of picture book illustration!

Be sure to check out all of the #cbadspotlight choices for this school year!
Visit for more information on #classroombookaday,
a goal to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year, at any grade,
inspired by Donalyn Miller's #bookaday.

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