Thursday, October 27, 2011

Keith Robinson on Childrens Books

Keith Robinson recently gave a talk at a literature event, on a subject he knows much about; creating childrens books and the challenge of telling a story in 500 words/32 pages. And on how pictures have to do more than just repeat the text, but to compliment it and add meaning. Following is an extract from his talk:

Because picture books are for children, there’s a temptation to think of them as simple and therefore easy to do. But telling a good story in about 12 spreads and 500 words is a challenging business. A picture book is really a long story told short and as such it’s not simple, but it does need to be economical.

Economy of storytelling is achieved by the interplay of words and pictures. There are three crucial elements to a picture book: The text, the illustrations and crucially the connection between the two. It is this relationship that conveys much of the meaning and it’s important to understand that the words and pictures should compliment each other, presenting different narrative elements, not simply repeating each other’s content.

For example, you don’t need to write ‘It was raining so Mary put on her wellies and raincoat.’ All of that can be shown in a picture. But if underneath that picture you write, ‘Mary was excited’  then in three words you’ve conveyed a great deal about Mary’s attitude to the rain and by implication, what kind of little girly she is: adventurous, outdoorsy, not afraid of a bit of rain. Neither the words nor the pictures alone would have told you this.

But visual storytelling needn’t be limited to filling in the narrative gaps left by the text. Pictures can work in more sophisticated ways as well. There may be a subtext, conveyed entirely visually. An illustration can give the reader a different point of view from the character and can tell us something that the character doesn’t know.

For example, in Simon Bartram’s ‘Man on the Moon’ there’s a running joke that Bob (the Man on the Moon), doesn’t believe in aliens, but we can see them hidden in every picture.

The other special quality of picture books is that they’re made up of sequential images. As one picture follows the next, each page-turn becomes a ‘reveal’ – a moment of expectation or dramatic tension.

In my story, ‘Penny and the Pirates’ the buried treasure doesn’t quite turn out as expected. Here’s the spread where the treasure is discovered.

And here’s the page-turn.

HergĂ© said that once he worked out a Tintin story, the hardest part was arranging the panels so that each page ended with a cliffhanger. There’s a great video of HergĂ© explaining his process here.

The illustrations also effect the pace and rhythm of the story. This can be done by varying the size, colour palette and composition of the images, both in relationship to each other and in the context of the book as a whole. An exciting action scene might use full-bleed illustrations, with bold composition and bright colours. Quieter moments might require a more muted palette and white space around the pictures.  

Maurice Sendak’s classic ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ uses visual pacing to great effect. The book can be read on one level as the story of a little boy having a tantrum. Max’s journey to the land of the Wild Things and his ‘Wild Rumpus’ with them, can be seen as a metaphor for his growing rage. The size of the images reinforces this. They begin fairly small on one page and get bigger on each subsequent page, first filling a single spread, then growing across the double spread, until we reach the Wild Rumpus at the centre of the book, where the words have disappeared entirely and the rumpus is played out across three double page spreads, full of visual energy.

There are many ways to play with words and pictures. Here are a few more examples from my ‘Penny the Postie’ books.

The text can be part of the image. In this example, turning the text into a sound effect was more economical than describing what happened when the dragon burped.
Speech bubbles are a great way of giving a character a unique voice. Here, the hand-drawn script becomes visual shorthand for a pirate accent.

Comic strip panels can show time passing or compress a sequence of actions.

Here the reader has to turn the book through ninety degrees, which coupled with the sequential illustration, emphasises the fall.

Children’s books are often about simple things but that does not mean that they are simple. Reading sequential images and understanding the relationship between words and pictures is a complex skill that children acquire before they can read for themselves. The challenge of making a picture book is to unlock the special magic that happens when text and image work together.

Target - On The Dot

Nadia Flower's beauty of an illustration is now live in the first issue of Target Style Files online magazine. Edited by Nina Garcia, Nadia's image makes for an eye catching cover. See it here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ian Murray's Scrapbook

Influenced by 1950's design, retro aficionado illustrator Ian Murray has been creating Scrapbooks for the last 28 years. Ian Murray's Scrapbook.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Repeat Patterns

Hannah Davies has been commissioned to demonstrate how to create your own repeat pattern and transfer it on to fabric and ceramic for the recent Computer Arts Projects issue 155.  Photoshop and a scanner being the necessary tools!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Family Mosaic

Over the summer Christopher Corr put his talents to creating this Family Mosaic Annual Accounts brochure. Just out in print,  this is a glorious celebration of Chris's colour, style and composition. He says of the job "FM are a London & South East housing association, very progressive and go-ahead. I like them."

Kellogg's Special K Promotion

Miminne has been busy with eight consecutive editorial ads for Kellogg's. The illustrations were created for SI STYLE magazine in Switzerland, working with Art Director Barbara Pastore. Miminne had to create a character called Keira for the Kellogg's promotional page in the magazine; a girl in her early 20's, who loves Fashion, Beauty, everything hot and new! Miminne says "When I first did sketches, I put a red bow on her head, representing a mirrored K shape, as in Kellogg's. The client was very happy with the idea, so we decided to have the bow in every issue, where possible. We also had her in different settings every month, in shoe shop, in park, in St.Tropez, in Paris, and at home. She was a happy and fun character to draw. I hope the readers enjoyed her presence, too."

Rathke's Groceries

Kathryn Rathke's fluid drawings for a Seattle based Grocery store are drawn with her elegant line. Commissioned to celebrate their 40th anniversary, the illustrations were used all over, from T-shirts to truck wraps. Kathryn says "They wanted to represent their freshest local goods: salmon (the Pacific Northwest takes a LOT of pride in salmon, it's the predominant symbol for our region, beyond Starbucks and Microsoft!), fresh baked breads, and our local Rainier strawberries."

Andrew Hutchinson's Scrapbook

Countryside & Wildlife illustrator Andrew Hutchinson on drawing inspiration from the wealth of nature around him. Portrait by Amy age 4.  Andrew Hutchinson's Scrapbook.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nina Say Cheese

 Victoria Ball’s very cute illustrations for photographer Vanessa Lewis are now live on NinaSayCheese. Victoria has created some wonderful animal characters very suitable for the photographer's genre of work; she creates quirky, ethereal sets in which to photograph her child subjects. Victoria says “It was a fresh challenge for me to produce illustrations for use on a website. For this job, I worked in lots of separate layers so that there was the potential for elements to be animated further down the line. It was great to see it all come together with Vanessa's gorgeous photos.” And the photos are pretty amazing.  Have a look.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Raid 71 and Steve Jobs

We are thrilled to be representing Raid 71 (aka Chris Thornley), an artist with a wealth of design experience behind him, whom after a typography degree has chosen to take the illustrative path. Both experimental and playful, exhibiting worldwide and with a number of awards under his belt, Raid 71 has worked for Levi, Mercury Records, Lego and many more high profile clients. 

His more recent fame came with the death of Steve Jobs, and an image Chris created back in May this year. He says "an editorial I did sometime ago has been involved in an International news story relating to the death of Steve Jobs; (I'm) getting a ton of requests for newspapers to talk about it." It turns out a student in Hong Kong created an almost identical 'tribute logo', which has been 'creating a buzz in cyberspace'. The student admits his is not the original but neither a rip off. Read more here from Reuters and also from Macworld.

Soft Flora

This very sunny image from Steinar Lund has been produced for a Norwegian food company. The illustration is now being used as packaging for Soft Flora margarine, and appears on their website. Steinar says "The landscape was a composite of many photographs with various degrees of manipulation. The flower was based on a photograph, but extensively manipulated to create the right shape, then totally painted over digitally to give an airbrushed look." The commission was via DesignHouse in Norway for Norwegian Food producer Mills.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Sister's Wedding

Created for his sister's wedding, this animation from Nick Murray Willis is an emotional, fun and happy celebration of her life and loves, leading to the marriage and for the future. Brilliant! Watch it now.

Guardian Guide

Chris King embraced the opportunity to illustrate the cover for the Guardian Guide last month, featuring Ryan Gosling. It's an illustration he is quite proud of and a striking one too. Chris says "It initially started as a piece about his new film 'Drive' but became more about the actor and his life rather than just focusing on the film (hence the dog/Hollywood star in the “Grand Theft Auto” inspired backdrop). Thanks to Stephen Jenkins (art Director at the Guide) who steered the ship."

Illustration Now! 4

We are delighted Kelly Smith is featured in the latest Illustration compendium from Taschen. Illustration Now! 4 shows some of Kelly’s beautiful fashion drawings and is amongst other talent such as Alice Wellinger and Michael Wandelmaier. 
"A fascinating mix of established master draftsmen and neophytes, working in a wide range of techniques, Illustration Now! Vol. 4 features 150 illustrators from 30 countries, including information about their career paths and lists of selected exhibitions. Also included are two introductory essays by specialists Steven Heller and Bruno Porto on current trends in the field, with a cover featuring the work of Gabriel Moreno."