Our Journey

We’ve come a long ways from when I first put pencil to paper and sketched out the very first draft of the “The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail.”  Here are some pictures from that journey:

A collection of sketches I did as part of the original storyboard for the book

Once I had gone through several drafts of the story and tested it out with my guinea pigs (i.e., my son and daughter) to great success (my daughter loved being the inspiration for it), I decided this was worth pursuing more seriously.  So my wife stepped in and put her vast social media skills to use to find me Taahira Halim, an up-and-coming artist, who really helped step up the game:

With Taahira on board, the illustrations got a lot better! 😉 These are some of Taahira’s initial character sketches for Noor.

It took several rounds of sketches before we got to the “right” look for Noor.  She is a confident, competitive girl, and that needed to come through.  At the same, she has her moments of self-doubt (like we all do) so we needed to sprinkle that in as well.


We got to a look for Baba very quickly.  I had a pretty clear idea in my head what I wanted Baba to look like, and Taahira hit it right out the park:

We hit on a look for Baba after only a handful of sketches. The one all the way on the right is the “final Baba.”

Baba is a serious but loving father, and he is very actively involved in Noor’s jiu-jitsu training.  His time with Noor, however, isn’t limited to just jiu-jitsu; he also helps her with her homework and puts her to bed at night.


For some reason, we had the most insanely difficult time figuring out the ponytail’s look.  Taahira and I got into some pretty deep, existential discussions trying to sort this one out!

Some very early sketches of the ponytail by Taahira

We finally got to a look we liked in the pencil sketches, but moving to color threw things off again!  After many, many, MANY iterations, we finally got to a look that we liked: playful, fun, and “emotionally connected” with Noor.

The many faces of Noor Karim and her ponytail
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