There are so many different aspects and feelings involved in final farewells, so in Practicing Goodbye I wanted to tell the story of two experiences: one where there was no chance to say goodbye, and one where it was possible to say a proper farewell.
If separation is inevitable but there’s no chance to say goodbye, even though over time we reframe our emotions and get used to the changes in our lives until eventually we just hope that the other party is doing well, it can still weigh heavily on our hearts if we were the one left behind.
This is a story about a person and a dog called Bibi who are separated then reunited, as well as all the various feelings they experience along the way. Why do we feel such regret and how does it fade with time? And if you’re lucky enough to be given a second chance to meet again and say a proper goodbye, you can turn that regret into a journey and move forward with your life.
Often when I’ve got an idea and I’m creating a new story for it, I’ll be immersed enough in it that I’ll have a eureka moment with the characters where I suddenly realize something. In this story’s case, I had a few scattered thoughts while I was writing and illustrating, but when everything came together I realized that the first time the characters separate would feel like a practice run. After they’re reunited, if they had the chance to say a proper goodbye before separating again, it would still feel like a heavy blow but that cathartic moment when the rain clears to reveal a blue sky would come a little bit earlier.
Practicing Goodbye is a story based on a real experience. The second section is different from the other parts of the book with its own tones and color palate to represent how I imagine Bibi’s life was during the time he was lost. When Bibi crosses the physical centerline of the book, he reaches a parallel world where he stays until a voice calls out to him, and he has to cross the line back to his previous owner’s world (where the book continues into the third section). I portrayed it this way because I wanted to give Bibi some initiative in the decision to leave rather than just depicting him as lost. For all we know, it’s a possibility that’s out there.
The idea that “disappearing is its own kind of existence” was something that I came to realize over the course of illustrating this book. I planned to use basic pencil sketches to illustrate the story because I thought there was a certain purity to it, like they were the handwritten notes of someone who’d actually been through this experience. Erasers are useful for removing mistakes and redrawing lines, but this story helped me realize that an eraser can also be like a white brush that varies the depth of pencil drawings depending on how tightly you grasp it. As a result, on the book cover we can see Bibi disappearing in a way that makes his existence even more prominent.
Just as the protagonist is lucky to have a second chance to say goodbye to Bibi, I also feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to tell this story about a “proper goodbye”.