Behind the design: Lieveheershondje

Published on 22 March 2021 at 14:32

The contest

In 2016 I participated in the picture book competition Key Colors of publisher Clavis. In total there were 100 entries from different countries. After several selection rounds, my picture book Lieveheershondje was in the last 7. For the results we went to Hasselt, the head office of Clavis. I've never had the desire to stand in the spotlight, so I anxiously waited for the winner to be announced. I didn't win the race, somewhat relieved because the whole PR tralala passed me by. But I was also a bit disappointed, because my dream of publishing a children's book did not come true. Until… it was announced that the other 6 books (including Lieveheershondje) would also be published (woohoo!).


The idea

Just under two months before the deadline, I came across the 'Key Colours' competition by chance. I had no idea for a picture book at the time... My inspiration came when my little dog Pixel pulled a bite to claim attention. The idea was born: a tiny dog ​​that wants attention so badly that it starts asking for attention in the wrong way: by biting.


The sketches

This is the first teeny tiny sketch I made after the idea was born.

The first character sketches. Initially, the insects would all become a person on their own, but this became too much. Attention had to go to Lieveheershondje.

To make sure that Lieveheershondje was the same size/small everywhere, my reference (in terms of size) was a ladybug (Lieveheershondje is Dutch for Ladybugdog).

After I had some idea of ​​what Lieveheershondje and the other characters would look like, I started imagining the storyline in a storyboard. These are very quick scribbles, which only need to be clear to me ;)

Many sketches were eventually used almost 1 on 1 in the book.

The technique

For this picture book I used a scratchboard-like technique. But I also briefly considered working in watercolor (see a test illustration below).

For the scratchboard technique I was inspired by illustrators Fleur van der Weel and Floor Rieder. You paint a layer of black paint on a glass plate. When the paint is dry, scratch your illustration out of the paint with a scraper. Then I scanned in the glass plates and made the composition on the computer. I also colored the shapes digitally. I used overprinting, so that overlapping colors mixed with each other.

The composition

I have made a lot of use of perspective to make the big/small relationship between Lieveheershondje and the rest of the world more clear.

Below is the first proposal for the cover of Lieveheershondje. However, the publisher thought it would be better to use an image from the inside as the cover.

Deleted scenes

Some ideas were lost in the process. Here are a few illustrations that ultimately did not make it into the book.

The hero of this story: Pixel.

Interested in this book? Lieveheershondje is available on