What James Said

Written by Liz Rosenberg • Roaring Brook Press, 2015.

A young artist and her best friend have to sort out a real misunderstanding.


Making watercolors

I normally paint in oil. But since it was important to show some of the girl's artwork in the book, I needed to use a medium that kids use. I wasn't about to work in finger paints, so I chose watercolor. It was a real learning curve. With an oil painting, a mistake can be painted over, rubbed off, or sanded away. With watercolor, you get one shot at it. The upside is that it's much faster. And not as messy.

Because this was such an intimate story about two friends, many of the peripheral characters are shown as insubstantial drawings, as if the girl herself had created, or rather uncreated the people around her. 

Scroll down for early sketches from the book.   Click on any image to enlarge it. 

I'm Mad at James • Watercolor and ball point pen

He Gave Me Chips • Watercolor and ball point pen

I Am Ignoring Him • Watercolor and ball point pen. Note how the other kids are drawn as if the girl had made them. I did this because being in the middle of a fight is so isolating. Especially for kids. The art for the other kids was done separately, and later ghosted over the scene digitally.

What's Wrong? • Watercolor and ball point pen. Note how the cubby is faded, compared to the characters. I did that digitally, after the watercolor art was done, to keep the emphasis on the relationship. Of course I should shave just gotten it right the first time, but sometimes it's hard to see the big picture when your face is five inches from the page.

I'm Not Sure He Knows We Are in a Fight • Watercolor and ball point pen. This title is a line from the book, and my favorite one. To me it sums up miscommunication, especially between boys and girls!

Embarrassed • Watercolor and ball point pen

Misery • Watercolor and ball point pen. The splashes were done separately, much smaller, and then enlarged digitally.

Friends Again • Watercolor and ball point pen


Studies for the girl. Note how not cute she is! Cute takes time, for me. Especially when I am struggling to learn a new medium.

Sketch for I'm Not Sure He Knows We Are in a Fight. Again, she is not in any way adorable.

An early sketch for He Gave Me Chips. Yeah, this girl has already had a rough life! Yikes!

The pen drawing for Friends Again, before adding watercolor. I used PH Dr. Martin's dyes, because they are transparent, and don't obscure the ink.

Early sketch for I Am Ignoring Him.

Another ink drawing before color was added. I originally proposed making book only in ink drawings, except for the girl's own watercolors.