In 1958, Garth Williams, famously the illustrator for Charlotte's Web and the Little House on the Prairie books, wrote and illustrated a charming little tale of two rabbits who frolic together and fall in love. At the end of the book the two rabbits wed in a ceremony attended by their fellow woodland creatures. Innocent enough, right?
Well in the racially charged South, this book became the center of a firestorm because, in the book, one rabbit was white and the other was black. The book was censored and a lawsuit raised to remove the book from the state funded library system. The story revolves around a white librarian, her childhood friend who is a black man and various other lawyers and State legislators who are immersed in sorting out this murky topic.
As I began sketching the art, and admittedly before I read the script, I thought it would be fun to use the rabbits as symbols for the racial tension. Early sketches revolved around the idea of the black and white rabbits and the book that precipitated the argument. Even after I changed the setting to the library shelves, the client felt that the furry rabbit angle gave too much of an impression that this was a children's play so that idea was scrapped.
I still wanted to evoke a feeling racial tension and imply the idea that the story somehow revolved around books, so we switched to the idea of the black character and the white librarian being on opposite sides of the the divide, in this case, a stack of books. The light filtering from the left side illuminates her as she reads and the the other side is symbolically more in shadow.
After this idea was approved, I set to work. I took photos and proceeded to the final drawing and rendering. I think it turned out pretty well considering my deadline was cut about three days short due to a planned excursion with my son. I had to scramble to deliver the art before I left town which included a 2:00 am bedtime one evening. I don't enjoy the late nights and avoid them as much as possible, but sometimes the deadline just has to be met, regardless of the lack of sleep.