This is the blog home of #kidlitart, a live Twitter chat Thursdays at 9:00 pm Eastern, for children's book illustrators, picture book authors, author/illustrators and friends. Check back weekly to read transcripts, comment on previous chats and suggest topics for upcoming chats.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moving right along . . .

Continuing with the full-size sketch phase of our #PBdummy schedule, we're focusing on perspective this week.

Perspective, for an illustrator, is like those 7th grade science lessons--if you can manage to remember what you learned way back then, you can amaze your friends at parties: "Yes, the Coriolus effect does determine the rotation of adjacent isobars on a weather map!"

Unlike the Coriolus effect, however, perspective plays an essential part in your layout. Even if you decide to deliberately abandon logical perspective for effect, you must have a thorough knowledge of how it works, or your subjects may appear not to be grounded properly, the anatomy of your figures will be off (foreshortening, anyone?) and your layouts will, literally, lack depth.

The good news is that there are lots of resources and inexpensive aids available. My favorite desktop reference is a slim paperback I picked up at my local art supply store, appropriately (and exhaustively) titled, Perspective: An essential guide featuring basic principles, advanced techniques, and practical applications, by William F. Powell (one of the Walter Foster Artist's Library Series). Books on animation and comics, such as the ones by the often-mentioned Scott McCloud, are also excellent resources. And some artists swear by perspective templates, sketching sheets with grids and sightlines laid in. (I've lost the link--so if anyone knows how to get their hands on some of these, kindly leave a message in the comments section.)

A quick trip to Amazon yields the following titles:

Creative Perspective for Artists and Illustrators, by Ernest W. Watson

Perspective Drawing Handbook (Dover Art Instruction), by Joseph D'Amelio

Perspective Made Easy, by Ernest R. Norling

Join us Thursday, March 31, at 9 pm Eastern, for a #kidlitart chat on the problems and perils of persnickety perspective.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Transcript: 3/24/11

TOPIC: What are your composition conundrums? Share tips and tricks.

#kidlitart 3-24-11

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Full size sketches - Week Three - Composition

We have our characters down, the text has been written and edited and if you are at all like me, rewritten and revised again as you’ve begun the pencil sketches for your picture book dummy.

Last week during #kidlitart we talked about backgrounds and environment.

This week we delve into composition.

Picture book pages are not just simple paintings, but have to take into account such elements as text, bleeds and gutters, and page turns. Basic rules for good composition that work for a fine art piece or a photograph, also apply to book illustration, but the illustrator needs to incorporate the above items.

For an oldie but goodie list of links on composition go to http://www.animationarchive.org/2006/11/education-fundamentals-of-composition.html which has 20 in depth lessons on page illustration fundamentals. The first lesson makes a comment that art should be completely logical.

That makes a lot of sense when combining text and image. Even though each part may showcase a different idea, the disparate parts need to mesh and make sense to the reader. Are your illustrations logical? Could a non-reading child turn the pages and follow the story? Will the story still make sense when mom or dad reads it?

When illustrating a picture book, the artist is orchestrating a play. Characters enter and exit, there are scene changes and lighting effects. It doesn’t matter how stylized or realistic your art style, the page layout has to have some field of depth to make sense to the audience.

Composition, when done well, can enhance the affect of the story. Is the character feeling small and afraid? Illustrate from a bird’s eye view with sharp edges and dark corners.

For an excellent book on this concept, a must have for any serious picture book illustrator is Molly Bang’s Picture This: How Pictures Work. The book breaks storytelling composition down to its raw and essential form.

Another excellent book is Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books by Uri Shulevitz.

Try this one for inspiration Illustrating Children's Picture Books: Tutorials, Case Studies, Know-How, Inspiration by Steve Withrow

More composition links which are helpful:

There are a myriad of good articles on composition. Remember to keep in mind the specific needs of a picture book image. Text, gutter and bleeds are all part of the image. Remember, as an illustrator, you are a visual storyteller. Is your spread telling a story, or is it just a pretty picture. If there is no story, you need to push the envelope. Your illustrations can add so much to the text, make sure you’re using all the tools at your disposal to capture the intimate details the printed words leave out.

Join us at #kidlitart on Thursday, March 24, 9 pm Eastern DAYLIGHT time, to discuss problems and solutions for creating pleasing composition.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Transcript: 3/17/11

TOPIC: How do you make your backgrounds shine?

Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 3-17-11

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Full-size sketches, week 2

So, how are the full-size sketches for your picture book dummy coming?

As you deal start dealing seriously with composition and layout, one of your first concerns, and one that you may not have considered before now, will be to place your main character(s) within an environment.

Many of us, I suspect, treat background as an afterthought, but it should (as my esteemed colleague Wendy keeps reminding me) be given the same status as your secondary characters. After all, the backgound has a pretty large role to play in your story. It establishes setting (obviously), and also mood. Your backgrounds help focus attention where you need it to be within a scene; they "ground" your characters within a specific time and place, help define the action of a sequence--and, no small feat, carry a lot of the detail that you therefore will not have to include in the text. This is critical for a picture book.

So let's give backgrounds and setting a little love.

Join us at #kidlitart on Thursday, March 17, 9 pm Eastern DAYLIGHT time, to discuss problems and solutions for conquering backgrounds.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Transcript: 3/10/10; Guest Dani Jones

TOPIC: Welcome tonight's special guest, illustrator @DaniDraws!

The following is an excerpted version of the chat in Q&A format (minus digressions into ice cream and Oreos). Questions/comments from chat participants are in bold; Dani's responses are in italics.

Hi, Dani! So happy to have you here to kick off eight weeks of sketching!
Ok, #kidlitart is on! I'm open to questions and discussion about picture books, illustration, or whatever. For those who don't know me: http://danidraws.com

Can you tell us a bit about the mediums you use? I love your style.
Almost all my illo work you see is digital in Photoshop.

Wow, do you make most of your own brushes in photoshop?
I make or download them. Then customize with textures.

You sketch traditionally, though, right? Then . . . what--scan in?
I sketch both traditional and digital.

I'm curious if you have any tips as to what an illustrator who wants to do #kidlitart should put in their portfolio?
Kids, animals, multiple scenes with action showing a series of moments.

Re: Series of moments and storytelling ~ Would this be akin to sequential art? Or in one illustration?
Multiple illustrations showing same characters. Yes, sequential art.

What would you suggest to some1 who is interestd in comic format BUT doesn't use the computer?
Comics don't need to be done on the computer. Use what your comfortable with. But still educate yourself about technology. You'll still need it.

What kind of projects are you focusing on this year? Comics? Picture books? Something new?
I spent a lot of last year working on comics. I'm trying to get back to picture books.

How is your own PB dummy coming?
I've been stuck doing other work (taxes, ugh), but I'm gearing to work more. I've gotten characters down for my #PBDummy. I'm heading into refined sketches.

Do you bother with thumbnails, or go straight to full-size sketches?
Oh, thumbnails are a must for me. With full-size sketches, I get too worked up about details.

Are you finding that the work on comics is helping your picture book process?
Before comics, I never wrote a lot before. It's helped me get started. Picture books are tough for beg. writers. Not that comics are NOT tough, but you know. ;)

Did you ever work anywhere on staff as an illustrator?
Nope, I started freelance illustration right out of school.

What are your thoughts on the children's publishing industry right now. esp with the economy, etc?
Economy is tough, but now is the time to be innovative. Esp. with new tech and opportunities cropping up. There's always room for high quality art and stories.

I've seen you draw streaming. Do you use reference? b/c it looks like the sketches are coming right from your brain.
Those quick sketches on Ustream pretty much are just my brain. A lot of that is me just playing around.

Is there a market for traditional work being that it's slower process & have you used anything other than computer?
Yes, I think traditional mediums are very important to going digital. There's room for any medium as long as the work is good.

Would having too much of a subject theme in your portfolio be a hindrance?
As long as you don't have a problem getting work in that subject for the rest of your life. If you want to draw picture books, then your portfolio should have . . . picture books. Go ahead and illustrate a whole story. Don't just show off pictures. There's so many out there with drawing skill. A lot less can illustrate an entire story. Show that.

What was your big break into children's illustration? Comics?
My "break" was a picture book called Elfis. I didn't start comics until last year.

Do you publish the comics or are they through a publisher?
My comics so far are self-published. I still consider myself very "new" to the comic scene.

Do you ever feel the need to tame your sense of humor w/your comics?
Not really. My sense of humor isn't that wild to begin with.

How did you get your first job?
I made an appointment and went and showed them my portfolio. I'm not sure how often that happens anymore.

How many art directors did you do that with before you got hired?
2 or 3. I was VERY lucky. And besides the book, I didn't get a lot of other work for another year or two.

How do you find the time to do everything? Are you very disciplined throughout the day?
Hahahahahahahahahahaha! I'm the WORST procrastinator. But seriously, if something needs doing, I do it. I don't miss deadlines. I might procrastinate, but I get it done. I learn to work fast. And I learn to concentrate when I really need to.

I never procrastinate on paying deadlines, but I'm terrible with my own projects.
Another thing artists need to learn - personal projects are JUST AS important as the paying ones. They drive your future work. I juggle my personal comics, book dummies, websites, etc., but I do my hardest to keep them on the same level as my client work. Work on your personal stuff every day, even if it is only for an hour or a few minutes. Get something done. Move forward.

Yes and personal projects usually give you clues as to what you are passionate about.
Yes! Exactly.

If you could give advice to a 19 yr old you what would you say?
Experiment as much as possible with your art. Go to school. Take advice. Work your butt off.If you're not getting a lot of work, don't waste time. Make your own projects and illustrations. ADs like to see you can produce.

Everyone please give @DaniDraws a big round of applause for being in the hot seat tonight.
Thanks for the invite. :)
Thanks to all who chatted at #kidlitart! I had fun.

Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 3-10-10

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Special Guest Dani Jones!

Please be on hand at tonight's #kidlitart chat to welcome special guest, illustrator Dani Jones (@DaniDraws)!

Many of you know Dani from her tutorials, live webcasts, or her popular webcomics: Frosty the Gourdman and My Sister the Freak. Dani has also illustrated books published by Price Stern Sloan and Raven Tree Press.

We're so happy to have Dani with us to kick off Step 5 of the #PBdummy challenge. Join us at 9 pm EST (TONIGHT, March 10), and have your questions ready!

Step 5!

We've arrived at tight pencils: creating (traditionally or digitally) the full-size sketches you'll use as templates for your finished art. We're devoting the biggest chunk of time in the #PBdummy schedule to this stage (eight weeks), because this is where you'll work out all your layout and composition issues, and because these will be the drawings that comprise your dummy--and sell the project.

No pressure!

By now you should be thoroughly familiar with your characters and have a sense of the flow and what needs to go on each spread. You may not have given much thought to the settings, yet. And you'll need to start grappling with the mechanics of the layout: text placement, margins, gutters and bleeds, oh, my!

So there's lots to cover, lots of drawing and second-guessing and general agonizing ahead. But lots of fun, too. You might find it helpful to browse your collection of favorite picture books, to remind yourself of the amazingly diverse art and design solutions used by successful illustrators.

Here are some other sources of inspiration:

Illustrating Children's Books: Creating Pictures for Publication, by Martin Salisbury

The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books: From creating characters to developing stories, a step-by-step guide to making magical picture books, by Desdemona McCannon, Sue Thornton and Yadzia Williams

Illustrating Children's Picture Books: Tutorials, Case Studies, Know-How, Inspiration, by Steve Withrow and Lesley Breen Withrow

Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration, by Dilys Evans

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art, compiled by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

And three from the immortal Will Eisner:

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative

Comics and Sequential Art

Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative

Join us at #kidlitart Thursday, March 10, at 9 pm Eastern for a chat on refining your layouts: what are your biggest issues?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thumbnail storyboards, week 2

We're giving thumbnail storyboards another week because things change.

This is where you begin to see how the pictures and text will interact; where you see just how each spread propels the reader visually. When you look at all the spreads together (and by spreads, we mean two facing pages, which may or may not contain a single, full-bleed image), you should notice a rhythm that suits the text: close-up and choppy to build excitement, maybe . . . or pulled back a bit, with smoother transitions for a calmer feel.

You should also notice passages where there's not much happening--no real need for a change of scene . . . or passages where too much is crowded into one scene. You will probably be able to delete text, allowing the pictures to carry more of the story.

Things change!

Join us at #kidlitart Thursday, March 3, at 9 pm EST, to share how your storyboards are changing your story.