September 26, 2010

At the beginning of the year, I joing the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I’ve gone to many events since joining and have been afforded the opportunity to collect some very useful feedback on a project I’ve been working on called “A Dinosaur Christmas.” One thing I’ve learned about children’s book text is that the trend is for less and less of it. 1000 words used to be acceptable, then it went down to 700 and now 500 is considered standard. It has been a chore for me to keep cutting down the text as the story was originally much more complicated. But I am still trying to play by the rules and don’t believe I’m compromising my vision in doing so.

My process for the pictures was to sketch them out in pencil on 14″ x 17″ paper then ink them using pens of varying line thickness, scan them in and color them on photoshop. My style has been to amp up the detail in the linework. A note I’ve received this year is that the linework is so detailed that it competes with the color in some of the pictures. My thinking is that children’s books are read over and over again and want to give the viewer stuff to look at in subsequent reads. But still, I don’t always disagree and have been striving to making things simpler.

I don’t mind re-doing illustrations – even ones I’ve spent considerable time on. In fact, I think it often results in even stronger illustrations since you’ve actually worked out problems rather than just theorized them.

I honestly try and take notes in stride and improve my work from them. I’m willing to do this because I ask opinions from people I respect. While I’m going to march on and try and make “A Dinosaur Christmas” happen one way or another, the notes on both text and pictures formulated an idea for another project.

I felt a valid way to work around the 500 word limit is to attempt a picture book with no words. I’ve always been impressed with purely visual storytelling in books like Tuesday, Free Fall and Flotsom by David Weisner. I also quite liked the wordless “A Boy a Dog and a Frog” series by Mercer Mayer.

As far as the “too detailed” and “competes with the color” notes, I thought it would be exciting to try a book with no color. Just line. My goal is to strategically (and hopefully “artfully”) incorporate pure white space in the images in order to allow the viewer to enjoy the detail and not be overwhelmed by it. Theoretically, this should play to my strengths.

Another experiment I’m conducting with this project is to construct parts of the world the story takes place in with the 3-D program, Maya. Again, we’ll just have to see if I can pull it off.



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