Following the path of his stepfather, Soman started illustrating for books right out of college. “It made perfect sense for me,” he says. “I love telling stories and I love taking someone’s story and making pictures of it.” After he took a five-year break to start a family, Ladybug Girl was the first project Soman worked on. (Full disclosure: Jacky Davis is the production director at Luminary Publishing.) “It was collective,” says Soman. “So much so that I don’t even know whose sentence is whose.” The book tells the story of a young girl who discovers she is not too small to have fun. After her older brother tells her she is too little to play with him, she takes off on a pictorial adventure with her dog, Bingo. Soman and Davis recently wrote a sequel to their bestseller, Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy (Penguin has it scheduled for a 2009 release), which is about friendship and features a character based on their younger son, Sam.
Doing all the illustrations for the book, Soman took on a very different style of art than he was used to. He makes and teaches life painting in watercolor at the School of Visual Arts in New York and at The Art Students League. “Making a book is more about the process of exploration,” he says. “You go through so many stages of planning, creating, and refining, to create that final image. Painting life and landscapes is more about the moment. I rarely go back to a painting.” For previous books he had done realistic watercolor illustrations, cartoon styles, and collages, but never the pen-and-ink watercolors featured in Ladybug Girl.
Soman’s sketches and paintings will be on display at the Mill Street Loft, where he is also an artist-educator. Not just finished pictures from the book, the exhibit also displays original art with character studies and sketches. “I wanted it to be educational,” says Soman. “It’s the evolution of how a picture comes into being.”
“Sketches and Paintings from Ladybug Girl” will be on display June 21 through July 10 with an opening reception June 21 from 2 to 5pm at the Mill Street Loft in Poughkeepsie. (845) 471-7477; www.millstreetloft.org.