The story for DOUG took me quite a while. Sometimes I get an idea and set it down very quickly, but Doug Unplugged took almost 2 years, which is a long time for me!
I knew I wanted to create a character and a story about UNPLUGGING from computers and digital devices. I also wanted to include something about how we learn and play by using our senses. In case you didn't know, I love robots, so right from the start, I just knew the character would be a robot.
I think I created at least 4 or 5 entirely different (but also entirely convoluted) book dummies before I became so frustrated I left it alone for a while.
After a month or two, I took a look at everything I did and decided to strip the character and story down to its essentials and that's when it all came together. As I drew him, I realized that Doug may have been a robot, but in essence, was a curious little boy. That was the key to his character.
Once I had a handle on who he was and his modus operandi, I then began to formulate a story that would best serve his character.
I also had a lot of fun figuring out his cool robotic features.
In the original story, Doug's parents were a human husband and wife team of software designers, but I changed them to robots.
Every morning they hook him up to a computer so he can download his lessons, but today Doug decides to UNPLUG in order to get the other half of the information.
He uses his senses to learn and experience the world, information he couldn't get from his downloads.
So our little hero explores the city and learns all sorts of things he could've only learned by interacting. He may be able to see or read about things on his computer, but it's a far more profound if he experiences it all for himself.
Once I worked with my editor and art director to refine the basic story, text and visual approach, it was time to start the illustrations.
I had a very specific look in mind for this book. I wanted simple shapes, bold colors and clean black lines, so I decided to create the art digitally.
Yes, I know it sounds a bit odd to create digital art for a book about unplugging from digital devices, but I think it entirely makes sense. I actually drew by hand black ink and brush line drawings on vellum, then scanned them. I opened them in Photoshop, manipulated them and applied the color, so the art was half traditional, half digital- a balance between the virtual and real worlds.
And this is the message of the book.