The Fourth Question

I am publishing some separate pages to show three of my very favorite story books that I have had the pleasure of illustrating. I have written a series of posts to go with each of these stories to fill in details of the research and process, methods and medium I worked with.
Book #1  The Fourth Question 
This Chinese folktale storybook is number one of my top ten favorite illustration projects. I spent nine months working on it and put my entire personal self into the art. It was published by Childrens Press in Chicago, a wonderful company which got bought out and closed down by other mega companies in other cities. Now I don't know what happened to it and my books are out of print, and hard to find unless I search used booksellers on Amazon. My original art created with Prismacolor pencils on high quality rag board are lost to me. The company kept them, and I have no idea where to ask now. 

I love this story of the young man who sets off on a journey to ask for help for himself and his aged mother. Along the way he meets others who also ask him to help them. He agrees to ask their questions first and when he does so, he loses the chance to get his own question answered. He travels back the way he came, gives back the wisdom to others and in return, his own needs are answered.

This was a dream illustration job for me, I grew up in the Philippines and had recently travelled through China. I created all the Asian details from my own experience, relying on my memory, imagination and photos I had taken. 
More detail about the Fourth Question

Here is the circle where I describe a conversation between the young man and his poor aged mother as she urges him to seek help by asking a question of the wisest man in the kingdom.

Here is a spread showing the palace of the wisest man in the kingdom, this is where the young man must gain entry to ask his questions. I used my own photos from my trip to China for this. I had seen the Forbidden City in Beijing and it is full of marble lions and dragons. Also there is the famous Nine Dragon Wall made of glazed ceramic tile where I got my idea for the bright blue and gold dragon that is a main character in this story.

The wisest man in the kingdom is styled after a painting of a Chinese Emperor. I forget now which dynasty, but this emperor looked so genial and wise in his real portrait.

As we end the story the young man has to travel all the way back the way he came, disappointed that he could not get the answer to his own question, but helping all the others that he promised, the dragon, the man with nine cats, and the woman with a beautiful but handicapped daughter. The dragon gives him a magic healing pearl, the man with cats gives him gold, and the beautiful daughter regains her voice and marries him. 

Here I tell the part about when the beautiful girl sees the young man and they fall in love. Notice the rabbits in the corner, they symbolize happy marriage and, of course fertility.

And now the last page, a spread with all the elements of a happy ending. The aged mother is enjoying prosperity with her grandchildren, the young man has a beautiful wife, they live in the same little house but it is fixed up nicely, and all is well, even the family pig has babies.
In this circle,the young man is sitting on a rock beside a huge river that he cannot cross. I put a tortoise next to him, it is symbol in Chinese art of wisdom and divining the future.
I enjoyed adding details to the art that were a result of my research into Chinese art history and the symbolic meanings of animals in art.