Emmi Smid, author of Luna’s Red Hat, walks us through her creative process as she developed Luna’s character: from her name and her look, to her dress and her special hat.
The name Luna
The name Luna is not a coincidence. Luna is Latin for moon. Symbolically, the name Luna stands for transition, renewal and balance, among other things. I thought it a suitable and hopeful name for a young girl who is coming to terms with the loss of her mother.
The Moon is also a place most ordinary people can’t reach. What goes on up there is incomprehensible to us. At some point in the story, we see Luna’s Mum depicted on the Moon, trapped in her own world and out of reach. People who have dealt with a suicidal loved one will be able to empathise with this.
Luna as a Rabbit
While I was developing Luna, I played with the idea of using an animal for the main character, as you can see in the sketches below, but eventually decided against this idea. Suicide is a fathomless notion, whether you are a child or an adult. In this specific case, I felt that it was very important to show children (and their family) that they are not the only ones going through this. Therefore, I wanted to illustrate a representation of an ordinary family.
Luna as a girl
Ever since that I made that decision, Luna’s look went through quite a few changes – from using different materials, which gave her a different feel as a character, to different heights; from tall and gangling to the petite but feisty 6-year-old she is now.
Luna in 3D
I also made a 3D version of Luna, so I could play with light sources and shadows, and use photos I took of her as a reference for my illustrations.
Luna’s dress, with its checked pattern, stayed the same throughout the process. It was inspired by a dress my Aunt Judith used to wear when she was around that age. The dress has appeared in several of my fine art pieces throughout the years, as you can see below, and finally found its destiny in this book.
Luna’s Red Hat
Ironically, the thing I struggled drawing most was Luna’s red hat! It was either too small, too floppy, too big, too bonnet-y, too red, or not red enough, and even looked like a fire brigade hat or a UFO. You name it, I’ve drawn it, over and over again.