The #PBdummy sketches are coming along nicely . . . right? As you’re refining your layouts, enlarging from your thumbnails, you might find that the art is suggesting little tangents to explore, secondary plot lines, a background character who suddenly steals a scene, an opportunity to tuck a personal reference into the story. Go for it! This is why YOU are illustrating the book and not someone else.
Listening to an art director speak recently about what an illustrator brings to a picture book project, something finally clicked: it’s not that as illustrators we “get” to add these little personal touches—it’s our obligation to expand and add layers to the story. This same art director told about a famous author who, upon viewing the art for her latest picture book, commented (with delight), “I had no idea I had written that story!”
Just because YOU are the author of this picture book for which you’re now creating the dummy doesn’t mean you are relieved of the duty to enrich the story beyond the written text. An adult will be reading the words—the child will be “reading” the pictures. Give that child something to notice—some special knowledge that comes ONLY from the pictures: a fox peeking sneakily out from behind the henhouse while the chickens are planning a picnic; a mouse scurrying away with the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle; an unmentioned puppy who stays to comfort the main character during a thunderstorm.
Some artists have developed signature “Easter eggs”—tiny objects or characters hidden in each scene. (My daughters loved finding Lowly Worm on every page of a Richard Scarry book.) Other illustrators plan an entire “subversive subtext” to play out in the illustrations . . . or turn a familiar story on its ear (David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs is a prime example).
Join us for #kidlitart at 9 pm Eastern on Thursday, April 14, to discuss how to let your illustrations take your story in a completely new direction.