Wednesday, June 3, 2009

So thats how illustrating is done...

Another school visit today. Remuera Primary in the midst of their bookweek. I like bookweeks. I was impressed by the trouble the school and especially the librarian had gone to, to organise stimulating and exciting events for the students. The'd had a books-to-movie night the previous evening for the children, with any accompanying parents able to attend a talk for grownups. Brian Lovelock had visited earlier in the week and an artist friend of mine Sally Blyth had been along too. Today it was my turn and I was doing the talks together with the illustrator for The Were-Nana, Sarah Anderson. It was a treat for me to hear her side of the story. When I write I don't really envisage the pictures for each page. Someone asked me about this during my tour to Westport and I confess I muddled my answer. Probably because I don't imagine the visual images but I do have an idea in my head of how things look. These might sound like the same things but for me they aren't. My style of visual representation is an odd mixture of picture and description, words and images mingled and untangle-able. A result perhaps of the fact that I can't draw well enough to illustrate my words, so any image I have has to be helped by a verbal description.

On completion of a picture book story I send it off to the publisher and if they decide to publish, they arrange an illustrator. There is a large element of trust in doing this but I believe the publisher is as keen as I am for the book to succeed so they will be working hard to source the right images. With my two picture books so far I have not been disappointed - in fact quite the opposite. But to a certain extent the illustration side of the books production has happened magically and I have had little idea of the process involved in the illustrators work. With my first pb, Clever Moo, I was lucky enough to see the illustrator Malcolm Evans in action, doing free hand drawings of the main character Margaret - I even have one framed on my wall. I assumed that the process for the book's illustrations was just an extrapolation of this. So listening to Sarah today, describing (with power point presentation) how she took my story and created the pictures was wonderful for me. I loved hearing how she started by exploring the emotions of each page and then searched for the right look for each character by finding the right human representative to base her drawings on. Seeing how she planned her illustrations for the whole book with appropriate changes of colour palette and light and dark. Following the process of starting each frame with a rough concept and then adding detail through background, emotion and action. It was all fascinating. It will be interesting to see if this knowledge has any affect on the way I visually imagine my stories in the future.

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