In 2019, my close friend Sophie shared how she always wanted to write a book; nonetheless, the idea of writing a novel in second year of high school seemed quite daunting. Instead, she chose to create a children’s book and asked me if I wanted to illustrate it. Flash info: I answered with a huge “YES !!! ” and Livia’s day in Rome (or LDIR) was born.
Since elementary school, I have always had a passion for art, whether in class, at home, or for commissions, competitions, etc. However, while I had previous experience creating digital works and illustrations, I had never done anything quite on this scale. Sophie likes to call LDIR the “lovechild” between our two passions: language and art. Armed with Sophie’s knowledge and education in Latin and my research into Roman culture, we have spent almost two years making this book a reality for young readers. It was worth it!
A little background on LDIR: the story centers on a young girl named Livia who grows up in ancient Rome. He follows her through a “typical” day in his life: attending school, visiting the market, doing household chores and reflecting on the adventures of a Roman girl. The book is intended to be educational thanks to the use of historical and Latin references. We also wanted to empower girls by giving them the idea that they can be themselves and don’t need to be subjected to gender stereotypes. LDIR, in addition, aims to entertain child readers and their parents.
To make sure that the format of the book meets the expectations of today’s children, I sorted through a stack of classics from my childhood that I kept in the attic of my house, including that of William Joyce. Snowie roli, my all time favorite! I studied each book, noted the commonalities and applied that knowledge to form an artistic theme that would shape the final work. It would include a cartoonish but detailed design for the story; the words have been formatted in a “looped” font with a white bubble background; and the color scheme mixed pastel and muted tones. While I wasn’t initially sure how this artistic pattern would translate into the final product, I was really happy with how the colors amplified the characteristics of the illustrations.
The artistic process involved taking standard printer paper and drawing a sketch for each of the 34 pages. The pages were then photographed and opened in Adobe Sketch on an iPad. I used basic tools to describe the drawing which included the geometric features that make the images look sharper. The images were then imported into Adobe Fresco where it was time for color! I added color and created layers to add additional design features including jewelry, clothing and hair shading, and texture. After confirming that everything was correct for each page (which took many attempts), I imported the writing in custom balloons and imported everything into Adobe Illustrator. This is where the end product came together with final adjustments to text position, fonts, special highlights for Latin words, and the addition of page numbers.
We used Ingram-Spark’s self-publishing services, and while I can attest to the quality of their editing program, there was still a HUGE learning curve. After I started with the book files in Illustrator (which is great for digital books), I learned that InDesign would provide a much better appearance for the hardback format. After finalizing a release date, hardcover / digital formats, and suggested retail price, The feast of Livia in Rome released on February 1, 2021 and has since been available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and limited brick and mortar bookstores in Charleston, SC (and hopefully soon to Davidson)!
The experience of posting this story is my favorite art endeavor and learning challenge to date! Looking to the future, Sophie and I are collaborating on our next book which once again brings together the love of history and art. We intend to create a series on young girls in historical contexts around the world. A preview for Davidson readers: Look out for “Her Day in History” books at a bookstore near you!
Evie Mulhern (she / she) is a double major in Computer Science and Art Studio from Alexandria, Virginia. She can be reached for comment at [email protected]