I recently had the opportunity to do an assignment for an illustration workshop run by Random House art director, Maria Middleton, at the Houston SCBWI regional conference. The focus was on character development and the subject was to do our version of The Wizard of Oz. I chose to do a middle grade book cover with Dorothy as Dorothea, a Mexican-American tween living in Kansas. The inspiration came from my many Latina students in my graphic design classes who love drawing Manga, listen to K-pop, are tom-boyish, whip smart, and embrace their heritage. I drew from that heritage to create Dorothea’s companions and the setting for this modern day OZ.
Character studies of Dorotea done in color pencil. I envision her as being a BMX rider and Kansas City Royals fan. She ended up with the two ponytails, instead of a short skater hairstyle, as a reference to Judy Garland’s iconic Dorothy.
Originally, I planned on the Tin Man being an armored conquistadore, but when I showed these sketches to Latina illustrator friends of mine, they said that even though the conquistadores are part of Mexico’s history, they aren’t embraced by the people. So I had to think of a more fitting ally for Dorotea. Introducing, El Hombre de Estano, the luchador!