It all started with a simple doodle I made in 2018 while I was on the phone at work.
After I hung up the phone, it struck me that the doodle reminded me a lot of our, dog, Molly Paws. I scanned the sketch when I got home and put it in my keep folder for future reference.
I’ve been drawing dogs on and off pretty much my whole life. My first work of fiction was the homemade comic, Goalyo, that started my dog Woody that I created exactly one issue of when I was about nine years old.
I started drawing superheroes a bit later in life, but even then, I was copying dog images from the newspaper to make art for the walls of my parent’s house. So it’s not usual that I would have doodled a dog, much less one that resembled one of my wife and I’s current dogs.
Shortly after my wife and I met, Molly made herself “my dog”. She makes sure to be in the same room with me wherever I’m at in the house and she listens to me really well. She also has a habit of talking. She will distinctly call out “Pa-Pa” and “I love you.” when she is trying to get her evening after dinner treat from me. And only me. She does not do this with my wife.
Sometimes when I go on a pizza run or get gas for the car, I will take Molly with me and I’ve always called them a “Papa Paws” adventure.
This doodle I did sparked the idea: why not write and illustrate the everyday adventures of Papa & Paws? I have a very long list of story ideas, with new ones popping up every day as our dogs do something funny or interesting.
Since I have never written nor illustrated a children’s book before, I had a lot to learn so I knew from the start that I wanted to use vector based workflow for as much of the work as I could.
A few years ago I moved to Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo, and Affinity Publisher for my at home graphic design software. I love that Designer has a lot of natural looking vector brushes that I can use (paid and free) and I found a couple of sets that looked like they would do what I wanted to achieve the look I was going for: that 1950s-esque hand drawn colorful illustration.
So off to work I went, digitally tracing photos I had taken of Molly Paws to get a feel for how it would be to draw her. After a few attempts, I stared free handing the illustrations and reducing the lines to something simpler.
Until one day I drew this…
I LOVED it. To me, it really captures Molly Paws. I showed it to my wife and she LOVED it too. I sample colors from photos we had of Molly to develop a color palette and then I went to work on trying out the right combination of textures and colors.
Until one day I made this…
Once I had a few key poses captured, I needed to decide which of the very long list of story ideas to start with. What other characters would be in this book?
The advice I’ve always heard is, “write what you know.” So I decided that my first book would be about the evening ritual Molly and I do as she tries to get me to give her her treat. It would be easy to translate and it does have a great lesson about patience for kids.
So there it was: I had my star, I knew the plot and the rest of the cast. Then it was time to really get down to the business of making the pages of the book.
All the while, I was immersing myself in how to publish an illustrated children’s book in this day and age. I knew the traditional publishing is not for me. I had considered hybrid publishing (where you and the publisher “go halvsies” so to speak), but even then I wanted full control of the book. So
I choose to self publish with a place called Ingram Spark. They are the major book distributor in the United States. So little ol’ me can have my book available to not only Amazon, but also my local indie book store, in both print and digital formats. There will still be a monetary investment, but I fell like this the best route for me to take at this time so I’m not spending all my money on this first book.
I’ve learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of book publishing. It’s a bit overwhelming at first. My head is still kinda spinning. And I’m just now starting to find my way to the direction to take and how to best market my book that works for me. It’s been one heck of a journey so far and I can’t see where it takes me next!
Nicholas J. Nawroth is Papa Paws. He’s a digital artist and graphic designer who lives in Ohio with Mama Paws and their doggies. He wrote and illustrated his first comic book at about age nine featuring his dog, Woody. And he has been drawing dogs ever since. Papa and Mama love to snuggle up on the couch and watch movies with their doggies to unwind after an eventful day.