Blog Tour: Marie-Louise Gay

This post originally appeared on 3 March 2011 in Marie-Louise Gay’s blog.

Today, welcomes author and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay who shares the process for turning her Stella and Sam books (Groundwood) into a television show. Enjoy!

I have been asked quite often how Stella and Sam became TV stars. What was my role in their transformation? How did I participate in this transformation? Am I happy with the results?

It certainly wasn’t done overnight!

The first thing to do when creating a TV series (apart from finding money to finance it) is to write what is known as the “bible.” This bible is a precise compilation and description of the characters, their personalities, their qualities and faults. It is also a description of the world they will live in, the type of adventures they will have. The writers as well as the animators will consult this bible. I very much wanted to be involved in the creation of the bible since it sets the tone for the whole series. And I did collaborate extensively on it. At a certain point and after much debate, it was decided that we also needed new characters that were not in the original books. I then created Felix, Ivy, Owen and Pattycake and we wrote them into the bible.

Here are the color sketches I did of them:

But how do you translate very detailed pencil, watercolor and collage illustrations that lie quietly on the page, waiting to be read and poured over and over again by small children, to another platform where computer images are created to move and talk and dance and play — all this without betraying the original concept?

I guess the answer to that is to find artists who will respect the original work. Mercury Filmworks created the computer images of the characters, the landscapes, the colors, the movements and the visual identity of the show. They stayed as close as possible to the art in my books. For example, they scanned some of my watercolor washes and incorporated them into the computer images. The same was true for the handmade Japanese paper I used for collage and texture in my illustrations: they were scanned and used as tree or bark textures, tablecloths, carpets, wallpaper or even Sam’s iconic pith helmet. But Mercury also had to create the backgrounds: the landscapes and houses and interiors, part of which did not exist in my books. Again, I was called upon to approve these images.

Read more …

This material may not be used without the express written consent of Marie-Louise Gay.
Author photo © Gilbert Duclos

More online resources about Marie-Louise Gay:

Learn to pronounce Marie-Louise Gay’s name. Listen now


Listen to Marie-Louise Gay introduce and speak about her art process for Stella, Star of the Sea (Groundwood, 1999). Listen now


See all of’s online resources about Marie-Louise Gay and her books.

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