My Illustrated Book Marriage Proposal

After over 5 years together, I proposed to my girlfriend Chantal on New Year’s day, 2010. It was a long time coming, and a long time in the making. The hardest part about proposing to her wasn’t making the decision that I wanted to marry her, it was coming up with a way to do it! I wanted to do something creative and also have something  we can look back on to remember how it happened.

Collier's Cyclopedia, circa 1883

I had a lot of different ideas but in the end I decided to write and illustrate a magical little  story for her that revolved around a story of the ring. So of course I had to find the ring first, and I found an incredible 100 year old brass ring with an art nouveau design carved into a piece of red coral, a great ring to write a story about. I make it sound simple, but I searched for the perfect ring for about 8 months.

A Coral Arrangement

I wrote a few drafts of the story and come up with the title  A Coral Arrangement.  After I sketched out which images would go with which pages I illustrated 22 drawings to go with the story. I worked secretly over about 2 weeks to get the book done before heading to Ottawa for New Year’s Eve. I had decided I wanted to propose in the New Year and get 2010 off to a great start.

It’s tricky to work on a project like this when you work side by side with someone all day long (our drafting tables are right next to each other).  Thankfully even if she did sneak a peak or catch a glance she didn’t know exactly what I was working on and I pretended it was a Christmas present I was making for her.

Red Coral

Finding coral on the beach

A glossy ibis promises a great gift

Foxes appear on the beach

Caribou also come to the beach

Sunken treasure

A ring is hidden inside a book within a turtle shell

The brass ring is made from sunken ships

The last page reveals a flap

Instead of binding a book myself I found a beautiful old book called Collier’s Cyclopedia of Social and Commercial Information. The book was perfect. It was printed in 1883 and was filled with amazing illustrations. I scanned my illustrations and designed the layout in InDesign before printing the pages and gluing them into the Collier’s book. I felt terrible doing this to such an incredible book but it was really the perfect book for the job.

For the final touch to the book I decided to cut a hole inside to hide the ring. When the story ends there is one final illustration with a fold up flap that opens to reveal the ring hidden inside (that’s my cue to propose). I cut down about an inch into the book after gluing the pages together with an acrylic painting medium. It worked perfectly and from the side you’d never know there was a ring hidden inside.

The coral ring revealed within the book

On January 1st of this year after taking the dog for a snowy walk I presented Chantal with the book. As she read through the story and looked at my drawings I tried to guess if she knew how it was going to end. She flipped through slowly and I prepared my words when she got to the final page with the flap. I wish I could remember exactly what she said when she saw the ring and I proposed but I all I can remember is a very happy face and an excited reaction, and that her answer was something similar to “yes.”

Needless to say, for those of you who know us, we’ll be getting our invitations printed with Papillon Press.

46 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>