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 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.

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